CTK 2013 – WPIAL Double-A Midwestern Conference Preview
Monday, August 19, 2013 | 12:19 AM
The Aliquippa Quips continued their dominance of Class AA with another WPIAL championship in 2012. The win was the fifteenth title in school history and the second of back to back gold footballs for the Quips.
Aliquippa is likely the favorite once again in both the Midwestern and the classification, a huge challenge could come from their old rivals, the Beaver Falls Tigers, who are also in everyone’s top 5 to start the season. Could it be another Beaver County matchup at Heinz Field in November, stay tuned to the MSA Sports Network to see.
Here is a look at the Midwestern Conference.
The only down side to a perfect season for the Quips was a 17-14 loss to Wyomissing in the state title game. The Quips finished 15-1 and ran the table in the conference last season.
Some numbers on the 2012 team, they averaged 47 points per game and only allowed 102 points all season, an average of 6 points per game. The Aliquippa defense posed six shutouts, the offense ran for 5,859 yards last season, an average of 363 yards per game.
And the best part if you are a fan of the Quips, the two top rushers are back in seniors Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson. Henry ran for 1,919 yards and scored 31 touchdowns, Swanson added 1,546 yards, an 11 yard per carry average and 21 touchdowns. That’s 52 trips to the end zone between the two from last season.
If that wasn’t enough, and for the rest of the Midwestern Conference, wait, there’s more. Add in seven scores from Anthony Barton, six from Kaezon Pugh and four from Jyier Turner, that’s 68 touchdowns from last season.
Add in a pair of tight ends in Dajon Perry and Donovan Cobb, plus Nayo Seaburn and Jaleel Fields on the line, there will be lots of open holes for the Quips. QB Darrien Fields takes over at quarterback for the Quips.
On the defense, Henry and Swanson are in the secondary, Cobb is strong at linebacker and the Quips will be tough to run upon once again.
The Bobcats were riding high thru the first eight games of 2012 with an 8-0 record, then fell to Aliquippa in the final game of the regular season. Beaver went on to the playoffs and advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Jeanette.
Beaver had no problems scoring in 2012, the Bobcats averaged 32 points per game, they allowed 23. Head coach Jeff Beltz does have some concerns, needing to replace the top four rushers from 2012.
Alex Rowse will likely get the nod at quarterback, having thrown 69 passes last season. He will have a couple of good targets in the speedy Jalen Lawson and Kresten Wallace, the duo combined for 23 catches in 2012.
Jordan Yates was named to the MSA Sports/Kennywood Park preseason team as a punter, look for Yates to figure in the offense as well.
BEAVER FALLS TIGERS:
The Tigers went 8-3 last season and are looking for huge things in 2013, including having the chance to knock Aliquippa off the perch in both the Midwestern and the WPIAL. Coach Ryan Matsook has a great cast of players to try and accomplish that feat, heading into the season.
Beaver Falls has several Division 1 recruits in the fold for this season, led by WR Elijah Cottrill. The senior had 26 catches and nine touchdowns as a junior, he has made a commitment to Akron for football but has also been offered a scholarship to Creighton for basketball. Cottrill has said he will keep his options open until after basketball season to see where he will be headed. And if Cottrill didn’t do enough for the Tigers, he also added 20 extra points.
QB Dan Stratton also returns, he threw for over 14 hundred yards and 18 touchdowns last season with just seven interceptions. Add in Damian Rawl at running back, he racked up 11 hundred yards, along with the speedy Marcus Cleckley, plus the possibility of Freedom transfer Khalil Caracter, he ran for 700 yards for the Bulldogs last season and knows the system, having played for the Tigers as a freshman.
Sage Curry was all conference on both sides of the ball last season at tight end and linebacker, he moves into the backfield in 2013 and has signed with West Virginia. Brock Boxen was all MAC on the defensive line, he will also go both ways and has also signed with Akron.
And in the tradition of Beaver Falls, there is another Jeter in the mix, Donovan Jeter is 6-5 and expects to see a lot of playing time in 2013 and beyond.
With all of the offensive talent returning, expect to see big numbers again on the Reeves Field scoreboard, the Tigers averaged 33 points in 2012, they allowed 24 per game.
ELLWOOD CITY WOLVERINES:
The Wolverines were the story of the WPIAL a few years ago, ending a long losing streak in 2009, making the playoffs in 2010 and winning a first round game in 2011. 2012 was not a good season for Lincoln High, going 2-7 overall and 1-6 in the MAC.
Ellwood City started slow, going 0-4 and allowed 36 points per game on defense. That is a number that head coach Don Phillips knows he has to change in 2013 if the Wolverines look to return on the Highway to Heinz.
A plus for the Wolverines is the return of running back Jared Myers, who was the bulk of the offense in 2012, running for 1,060 yards and scoring 16 touchdowns. A pair of quarterbacks return in Justin Vetica and Brandon Magnifico, neither had much success throwing the football in 2012. Seth Mley also returns to the receiving core.
Ellwood City does have a number of underclassmen battling for positions on the line, on both sides of the ball, depth may not be a problem there for the next couple of seasons.
The Bulldogs finally righted the ship in 2012, making the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2004. Freedom finished 4-6, falling to South Fayette in the opening round of the playoffs.
The record was the best for the Bulldogs since their last playoff season, over the seven year playoff drought, Freedom won only 12 games and dropped 55.
The Bulldogs will have to try and return to the playoffs with a new coach, Tom Dubovic takes over for Frank Hernandez.
With leading rusher and scorer Khalil Caracter leaving for Beaver Falls, it doesn’t leave a lot in returning players for the Bulldogs to build on. A largely untested group of backs and receivers will battle it out to see who will be in the starting lineup for Freedom in 2013.
The Warriors have not made the playoffs since 2005 as a member of the defunct Tri-County North and have not had a winning season in the last six seasons. But folks in the Bessemer area think this might be the year to change that.
Mohawk broke a 14 game losing streak with an opening night win over Freedom, but could not build on that momentum. The offense averaged only 10 points per game and were shutout five of nine games. That is a major stat that the Warriors will have to improve on in 2013, if they are to find their way back into the playoffs.
Head coach Joe Lamenza is back for his second season, he returns QB Gio Menichino and RB Shane McFarland to the backfield. McFarland had some success in 2012, running for 631 yards and six touchdowns.
One player that could have a breakout season for the Warriors in 2013 is Travis Giardina on both sides of the ball, he started as a tight end in 2011 and moved to the line last season. He has proved to be a very tough defender and must be accounted for.
The Warriors also have a number of lineman returning, while not all are experience, there is strength in numbers, especially in the junior and sophomore classes, giving Coach Lamenza something to build on.
The non-conference schedule does also not help the Warriors, who have AAA power Montour at home in Week 3 and go to AA contender Seton LaSalle in Week 8.
NEW BRIGHTON LIONS:
Head coach Joe Greco would like to forget the middle part of the 2012 season. After defeating Ellwood City in the opener, the Lions would lose the next six games, including three point decisions to Freedom and Beaver Falls that took New Brighton out of the playoff picture in the MAC.
The Lions have not made the playoffs since 2003, the longest streak of any team in the Midwestern, but New Brighton figures to compete for one of the playoff spots this season.
Senior QB Gabe Greco returns, he threw for 1,189 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. Also returning is last years leading receiver Craig Thompson, who had 31 receptions for 583 yards and five eight touchdowns.
Junior Scott Florence is the leading returning rusher, so the Lions will have to shore up the running game to make the playoffs. Sophomore kicker Gavin Pritchard is an MSA Sports Player to Watch, he converted 22 extra points and one field goal as a freshman.
The Lions will have to improve the defense, New Brighton allowed an average of 34 points per game in 2012.
The Panthers were on the bad end of some serious lopsided scores in 2012, having six of their nine games go into the mercy rule in the second half. Riverside allowed 428 points last season, the most in Class AA and second most in the WPIAL behind Serra Catholic. The average margin in the eight losses was by 40 points and the Panthers twice allowed 68 points in one game. Needless to say, defense has to be a priority of the Panthers heading into the 2013 season.
Riverside has not made the playoffs since their return to the MAC, their last playoff trip was 2007 as a member of the Tri-County North. But before last season, the Panthers did have some success, posting back to back winning overall records at 5-4 but were knocked out of the playoffs on tiebreakers.
The quarterback position sees a battle between junior Zach Gould and sophomore Jason Dambaugh, the Panthers used four quarterbacks last season. A pair of receivers in Aaron and Matt Tedys return, each caught nine passes and averaged over 20 yards per catch. Aaron Tedys also had 32 carries out of the backfield, look for him to get more looks this season.
The Panthers do have a number of linemen returning for 2013, there will be some position battles in camp and in practice for starting jobs on both sides of the ball.
Riverside takes a five game losing streak into the season. Like Mohawk, the Panthers are not blessed with an easy non-conference schedule as they will travel to Taggart Stadium to meet high powered New Castle in Week 2 and host another high powered offense in South Fayette at Memorial Field in Week 7.
MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH IN THE MIDWESTERN CONFERENCE:
1. ALIQUIPPA QUIPS
2. BEAVER FALLS TIGERS
3. BEAVER BOBCATS
4. NEW BRIGHTON LIONS
5. ELLWOOD CITY WOLVERINES
6. MOHAWK WARRIORS
7. FREEDOM BULLDOGS
8. RIVERSIDE PANTHERS
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