CTK 2013 – WPIAL Double-A Century Conference Preview

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013 | 11:35 AM


2012 was another strong year for a pair of Class AA powers and South Fayette and Seton-LaSalle finished one-two in the conference and had some playoff success with the Rebels going to the Quarterfinals and the Lions to the Semifinals. But they were not the story last fall in the Century Conference.

In his 4th year at South Allegheny, former Duquesne High School football coach Pat Monroe did what few people thought he could, he turned the Gladiators into a contender.

The moribund program turned it around in the fall of 2012 as South Allegheny finished third in the conference and was 7-2 in the regular season before bowing out in Round One of the WPIAL playoffs.

Will there be more magic in Glassport this fall or is it somebody else’s turn to wear the glass slipper and go from nothing to something else in the Century Conference here in 2013?

Here is a look at the Century Conference:

BURGETTSTOWN BLUE DEVILS:

After playing all of their home games on a Saturday afternoon because of stadium light issues in 2011, Burgettstown was back to playing under the lights on Friday night last fall. However the Blue Devils were left in the dark as they finished in the basement of the conference with an overall mark of 0-9.

Now in his second season at Burgettstown, Terry Havelka hopes to shed some light on the situation and help the Blue Devils improve and compete over the course of the next two months.

The Blue Devils are young with only four seniors on the roster, but they do return five starters on each side of the ball, including sophomore quarterback Robert Dupain, who threw for over 200 yards and a touchdown in limited action as a freshman.  Two top targets include senior tight end Shane Stover and sophomore wide receiver Jacob Shipley. The running attack will be led by a pair of newcomers in senior Stephen Kotouch and Jake McKee as they battle to get a brunt of the work on the ground early on.

Juniors Jim and Joe Reedy will anchor the linebacker core as the defense will rely on other fresh faces such as Sophomore linebacker Brad Hucik, junior defensive back Dylan Dhans and Cordell Conley.

KEYSTONE OAKS GOLDEN EAGLES:

After making the playoffs five straight years from 2006 through 2010, Keystone Oaks spent its second straight postseason home as spectators and licking their wounds after a disappointing 8th place finish and 2-7 overall record.

However the natural learning curve of a new coach for his players and vice-versa is over as former Burgettstown coach Matt Taylor prepares for his second season at the helm of the Golden Eagles with the confidence the team will be better out of the shoot this season.

While there are holes to fill at running back and receiver, the Golden Eagles will rely on quarterback Kobe Phillippi, who hit on 83 of 153 passes last year for over 1,000 yards passing and 12 touchdowns. KO’s leading rusher last year, Dale Klobuchir is gone, but second leading rusher Jimmy Canello looks to lead the run game with some help from John Beveridge while Braydon Griffiths will try to match his big play ability flashed last season when he averaged over 24 yards a catch on his six receptions.

Keystone Oaks does have some beef up front that will help on both sides of the ball in Declan Hartnett, Chris Grecek, Joey Kazalas and Keynon Griffiths.

McGUFFEY HIGHLANDERS:

The time is right for Ed Dalton at McGuffey. Now in his second season as head coach of the Highlanders after coming over from Trinity, Dalton has nine starters back on offense and seven on defense from a team that finished at .500 overall with a 5-5 record and tied for fifth place in the Century Conference, one game out of a playoff spot.

Leading the way on offense for the Highlanders is junior quarterback Nate Whipkey, who hit on 32 of 85 passes a year ago for 439 yards and three touchdowns. However most of the damage done by McGuffey last year was on the ground through junior running back James Duchi, who ran for 1,514 yards and scored twelve touchdowns. Senior fullback Patrick Frey also returns along with junior tight end Ryan Steinstraw and junior wide receiver Adam Narigon.

Four of the five starting offensive linemen from a year ago are back in guards Ryan Ward and Anthony Mussolino and tackles Nick Matheny and A.J. Johnson.

On defense, Ward and Johnson return on the line while Steinstraw and Steve Clemens are back at linebacker. Frey, Shawn Sanders and Kendrix Reed are returning starters for the Highlanders at defensive back.

Another important aspect often overlooked in football is special teams, where McGuffey has three players in Frey, Duchi and Clemens that have returned a combined twelve kickoffs for touchdowns.

QUAKER VALLEY QUAKERS:

John Tortorea begins his third year as head football coach at Quaker Valley looking for his postseason game. The Quakers were 3-7 in 2011 and finished 3-6 and tied for fifth place in the conference a year ago. There was a time when back-to-back three wins seasons were to be celebrated at Quaker Valley. But this staff is not satisfied and wants to take that next step toward a winning season and a chance to play November football.

There is room for optimism for Quakers fans as they return a nice blend of experience in both the skilled positions and in the trenches up front on both sides of the ball.

Burke Moser passed for nearly 1,200 yards last year, but his graduation opens the door for the dynamic Dane Jackson, who led the team in rushing with 534 yards, led the team in scoring with 8 touchdowns, was third in receiving with 233 yards and was second in passing with 53 yards.

The running game is in good hands with the return of fullback Aaron Cunningham (451 yards in 2012) and running backs Trevon Marshall and Jake Trovato.

 Five returning lettermen will anchor both the offensive and defensive lines with Marcus Coury, Matt O'Neill, Sebastian Gordan, Jon Bernard and Garret Ziegler.

SETON-LaSALLE REBELS:

These are strange days indeed at Seton-LaSalle. Veteran coach Greg Perry begins his 9th season at the helm of the Rebels with a well-earned reputation of having explosive offenses. That doesn’t mean this year’s team will struggle pointing up points, but it is the defense that might be the key to Seton’s chances of vying for a conference title.

The Rebels return nine starters on defense including defensive ends Trey Imler (6’3, 305), Mike Kalnas and Jacob Blahut, linebackers Daquay Broadwater, Ricky Mellick and Adam Ottaviano and defensive backs Tom Rizza, James Ross and Dom Delgreco, who will handle all of the kicking duties and was a member of the MSA Sports/Kennywood Park all-star team.

Seton-LaSalle is known as QB High with an outstanding lineage of signal callers over the past two decades.  Hoping to fall in line with the great quarterbacks of the past for the green and gold is junior Tyler Perone, who tries to fill the void of 1,795 passing and 17 touchdowns tossed last year by Luke Brumbaugh.

Four of the top five rushers from a year ago are all back for the Rebels to help ease Perone into his new position with Tom Rizza (550 yards a year ago), Rick Mellick (291), DeQuay Broadwater (172) and fullback Brandon Aiello (145).

With some holes at receiver due to graduation, expect this group of Malik White, Matt Reinmund, Danzel McKinley Lewis, Kevin Curran and Delgreco to vie for playing time as targets for Perone along with Markus Nones at tight end.

SOUTH ALLEGHENY GLADIATORS:

The memories of the 2012 football season at South Allegheny won’t soon fade away as Pat Monroe’s team finished in third place and a 7-2 overall regular season record, plus the Gladiators first trip to the WPIAL football playoffs in 26 years. But now the team must re-group and re-focus in order to build on last season and make the postseason for the second time since 1986.

It won’t be easy as South Allegheny has to replace a lot of productive players who graduated including their leading passer in Dustin Anderson and teams leading rusher in Brandon Murn.  Anderson will be replaced under center by one of his top targets a year ago in Ty Cook, who was one of the leading scorers on the team a year ago.

Junior running back DaVonte Johnson will likely lead the ground attack. Johnson made some big plays on both sides of the ball a year ago as a sophomore, including a pair of interception returns for touchdowns.

While the Gladiators graduated a lot of skilled players, they do have experience up front on the lines where they were very young a year ago.  Of the 13 varsity lineman from the 2012 season, nine of them were either sophomores or freshmen.

SOUTH FAYETTTE LIONS:

The green machine under Joe Rossi, now starting his 7th season as head coach at South Fayette, continued to hum along in 2012 with an undefeated regular season, another Century Conference championship and a berth in the WPIAL Class AA Semifinals where the Lions fell to the Washington Little Prexies 26-14.

Last year, the high octane Lions finished second only to Aliquippa in ALL of the WPIAL in points scored. With plenty of weapons coming back of offense, expect South Fayette to be hard to stop again this fall. It all starts under center where one of the top quarterbacks in the district returns as junior Brett Brumbaugh looks to improve on 154 of 245 passing for 2,823 yards and 37 touchdowns a year ago. Brumbaugh already has offers from Akron and Temple and is drawing interest from both Penn State and Virginia Tech.

While top target Zach Challingsworth will certainly be missed, there are plenty of other skilled players for Brumbaugh to chuck the pigskin to. Justin Watson was second on the team a year ago in receiving yards with just under 600 yards and eight touchdowns. He is getting D-I looks from several MAC conference schools and some Ivy league schools.  Second in receptions last year for South Fayette was Connor Beck, who returns after 29 catches for 457 yards and four touchdowns in 2012. Speedster Roman Denson adds a deep strike threat for the Lions after transferring from Gateway High School in the offseason. Tight end Logan Sharp is expected to also be a big part of the South Fayette aerial circus.

Three of the top five leading rushers from last year also return to keep the ground game formidable. Grant Fetchet (932 yards a year ago) Zach Walker (193 yards) and J.J. Walker (134 yards) will lead the ground attack behind a line led by Ben Berkovitz and Anthony Davidson.

While the offense gets all the headlines, the defense was also top notch a year ago. South Fayette allowed a total of 58 points through their first 11 games and finished with 91 points allowed, an average of just over 7 points per game.

SOUTH PARK EAGLES:

Eight years ago, South Park enjoyed an undefeated regular season and won the Century Conference championship. The Eagles end up capturing both the WPIAL and PIAA Class AA state championship. However the well has been dry for veteran coach Tom Loughran as South Park has not been back to the district or state playoffs since.

A pair of Eagles who saw time at quarterback last year return in senior Mike McLaughlin and junior Nick Scholle. While South Park leans heavy on its running attack, a top target for the Eagles will be senior wide receiver Stefon Isbell.

Gone is all-conference running back Jared Becker, who ended up 4 yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing for the season, but it appears senior Greg Pantuso is ready to take the lead in the Eagles ground game. Pantuso was a steady contributor last year, including scoring all three touchdowns (one on a 65-yard pick six)  in a Week 5 victory over McGuffey 20-14.

South Park finished 3-5 in the conference a year ago, tied for fifth place and one game out of a playoff spot. A key this year might be the Eagles start out of the gates in the Century Conference. In 2012, they lost 3 of the their first 4 games, including an opening night heartbreaker when they took a 17-0 lead into the fourth quarter only to lose at home to Quaker Valley 20-17.

STEEL VALLEY IRONMEN:    

It was an up and down 2012 campaign for Steel Valley as they finished fourth in the conference and qualified for the WPIAL postseason. However they ended up with a 4-6 overall record after falling hard to eventual champion Aliquippa in the opening round of the playoffs 55-0. Now in his 4th season, Rod Steele is expecting bigger and better things from his squad here in 2013 with seven starters back on offense and six on defense.

Steel Valley will be experienced on the lines with four out of five starters back up front including seniors Corey Pinkerton and Shane King along with juniors Vinny Steele and Tyrell White. That should help the ground game that returns last year’s leading rusher D’Andre Pickens along with junior Tyrone Freeman. A player to watch who might factor in on the Ironmen ground game is freshman Duane Murray.

Two year starter Pat O’Malley is gone at quarterback, but junior Connor Stevens is set to take over under center for Steel Valley. He will have a pair of senior wide outs to throw to in Derek Taylor and Ajan Smith.

It’s a mix of experienced older players on defense with a touch of young newcomers for the Ironmen. Joining Pinkerton, King, Steele and White up front are sophomores Derian Smith and Logan Blazevich. At linebacker with Smith is sophomore Diego Lopez and freshman Murray while at defensive back with the likes of seniors Pickens and Taylor are juniors Brendon Caldwell, Julian Cox and Ryan Cox.

MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH IN THE CENTURY CONFERENCE:

1.      South Fayette Lions

2.      Seton-LaSalle Rebels

3.      Steel Valley Ironmen

4.      McGuffey Highlanders

5.      South Park Eagles

6.      Quaker Valley Quakers

7.      South Allegheny Gladiators

8.      Keystone Oaks Golden Eagles  

9.      Burgettstown Blue Devils

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