CTK 2013 – WPIAL Single-A Tri-County South Conference Preview
Saturday, August 24, 2013 | 5:37 PM
Youth was served last year in the Tri-County South Conference. Of the 24 positions for first-team all-conference last year, 16 were filled by sophomores.
Those players are a year older, which means the Tri-County South could be a little stronger.
Last year was the first of the “new” Tri-County South. That basically meant Monessen no longer was in the conference. The Tri-County South did not fare well in the postsesaon as all four teams lost in the first round.
Will the conference get to taste any postseason success this year? With so many returning all-conference players, maybe Tri-County South teams will fare better.
Beth-Center won the conference the past two seasons and the Bulldogs very easily could make it three in a row this season. But Jeff-Morgan has a big team that could challenge for the conference title and a few other teams, like Frazier, might make some noise.
Here is a look at the Tri-County South Conference:
The team that had trouble getting enough players a few years ago came close to making the playoffs last year. Avella finished 6-3 overall last season and 5-3 in the conference, one game out of the playoffs. The move from the Black Hills to the Tri-County South certainly helped make Avella more competitive last season.
Ryan Cecchini’s team has a roster in the mid 20s this year and most of his starters are seniors and juniors. Cecchini said this team’s goal is to make the playoffs for the first time since 1976.
Avella looks good at the skill positions with the return of the starting quarterback, the leading rusher and leading receiver. Santino Paris returns at quarterback after completing 60 of 127 for 962 yards last season.
Zach Thompson is a big-play receiver. He caught 28 passes for 618 yards last season, an average of 22.1 yards. Nick Kusich rushed for 675 yards on 113 attempts.
The Bulldogs, whose only conference loss was to Frazier a year ago, feature one of the conference’s top quarterbacks in 6-3 senior Gino Faieta, who completed 73 of 133 for 1,057 yards last season. He also was a first-team all-conference defensive end.
Leading rusher Cody Durant graduated. But Jason Stay and Matt Riggle return after seeing considerable action last season. Stay rushed for 443 yards on 76 carries and Riggle 430 on 65. Lucas Zellie is a top returning offensive lineman.
Austin Symcheck and Stay both were first-team all-conference linebackers a year ago. Riggle returns in the secondary.
Look for Beth-Center’s defense to be strong again. The Bulldogs gave up only 46 points in conference games last season.
Second-year coach Bob Niziol will try to get the Bearcats to improve on last year’s 2-7 record. But only three starters return on offense and four on defense. A lot of the Bearcats’ success might depend on whether a position switch pays off.
Angelo Rios-Lopez, a 5-8 junior, moves from receiver to quarterback. His play will be a key. Ethan Tush returns in the backfield after showing much promise as a freshman. Darius Hays also figures to add to the running game. Mason Shumaker is back on the line.
Shumaker, a starter since his freshman year, returns on the defensive line. Tush, Rios-Lopez and Rudy Davila return in the secondary.
CARMICHAELS MIGHTY MIKES:
Ryan Krull takes over as coach after spending the past two seasons as an assistant. He has a team that figures to be fighting for the top of the conference again. The Mikes finished tied for second place last year with Frazier and Jeff-Morgan.
Josh Mundell graduated after rushing for 1,202 yards last season. But there is still firepower on offense. Brennan McMinn returns after rushing for 615 yards on 76 carries last year and he made all-conference. Quarterback Brandon Lawless also returns, although he threw only 66 times last season.
Ty Aschbacher and Colby Smith will be the top receivers. The lines look good with Ty Metcalf, Nick Mattei, Joel Pekar and Tristan Santella. Mattei was an all-conference linebacker last year.
With one of the top passing attacks in the entire WPIAL, look for Frazier to again challenge for the conference championship.
Frazier features Charlie Manack, who tortured defenses with passing ability last year. He completed 121 of 208 for 1,793 yards and 20 touchdowns. His favorite receiver, Jaime Fell, graduated. But Mike Luce could have a big season after catching 32 passes for 423 yards a year ago.
But don’t think the Commodores are only a pass-happy team. The running game is in solid hands as the top two rushers from a year ago return. Chaise Bertocci ran for 499 yards on 81 carries and Zach Mastowski 374 on 87 attempts.
The defense will be led by Bertocci and lineman Daniel Leonard. Both were first-team all-conference a year ago.
The main question with Geibel isn’t how many starters return? The question is how many players will even come out for the team?
Geibel forfeited its first two games last year because of a lack of players. Geibel also didn’t participate in the first scrimmage this year because of low numbers. But Geibel plans to play out the season, according to school officials. Coach Pete Nace had 17 players, including a kicker. That’s not many, but Geibel feels it is enough to try and play.
Geibel was 0-8 in games last season. Although the Gators need help offensively and defensively, the offense was particularly lacking. The Gators scored only 53 points last season and gave up 333.
With five starters returning on offense and seven on defense, Jefferson-Morgan is expecting big things. It seems there are a lot things “big” about Jeff-Morgan these days.
Jeff-Morgan has some big players, including probably the biggest in the WPIAL. Jake Earnest is a two-way tackle who goes 6-10, 385 pounds. He was first-team all-conference last year.
Two other returning lineman are 6-3, 250-pound Brandon Pelosi and 6-foot, 275-pound Josh Bisset.
The defense features all-conference linebacker Logan Bowman, who had 85 tackles a year ago.
On offense, quarterback Tyler Bowman and leading rusher Dustin Conti graduated. Rece Henneman, a 6-5, 200-pound junior, will take over the QB duties. Caleb Pataski could become one of the team’s top runners. Freshman Trevor Jammison, sophomore Dalton Fowler, junior Kailan Foster and senior John Demaske are vying for playing time at running back.
Other returning starters are tight end-linebacker Jeff Jento and receiver-defensive back Gerald Metz.
The Maples wouldn’t mind another start to this season like last. But they definitely want to finsh a different way. Mapletown started 3-3, but finished 3-6.
This year’s team looks solid on the lines. Adam Hein and Colby Kincell return at running back. Hein rushed for 212 yards on 42 attempts last season and Kincell 125 on 27. It will be interesting to watch the development of quarterback Ben Boone, who didn’t play last year.
WEST GREENE PIONEERS:
After winning only one game in four previous seasons, the Pioneers made a big charge uphill last season and finished with a 4-5 record. With eight starters returning on both offense and defense, there is reason to believe more good times are ahead.
The team has a new coach in Paul Kreuzer, who had coached the middle school team. Leading the cast of returnees is top linemen Trevin Bedilion, Bray and Beau Jackson, as well as running back Dalton Wildman. Wildman played running back and quarterback last year, but will play mostly running back last year. Sophomore Owen Main will be the quarterback.
Other returnees include receiver-defensive back Wyatt Bowman, running back-defensive back Donovan weaver, lineman Will Van Norman, running back-defensive back Cale Miller and receiver Jarred Reed.
MSA SPORTS PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH IN THE TRI-COUNTY SOUTH CONFERENCE:
1. Beth-Center Bulldogs
2. Jefferson-Morgan Rockets
3. Frazier Commodores
4. Carmichaels Mighty Mikes
5. West Greene Pioneers
6. Avella Eagles
7. Mapletown Maples
8. Bentworth Bearcats
9. Geibel Gators
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