CTK 2015 – Class AA Interstate Conference Preview

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Monday, August 24, 2015 | 11:16 PM


Repeat is not a word uttered often in the Interstate Conference. It has been a decade since a team has won the conference title outright (without ties) for two consecutive season.

Washington could very easily buck the trend this year.

It seems just about everybody is pegging Washington to repeat as conference champion.

But can Washington or any other team from the Interstate go on to win a WPIAL title? That doesn’t happen often, either. Of the teams currently in the conference, there have been only four WPIAL champs the past quarter century. Washington won twice and Waynesburg and McGuffey won one each.

Here is a look at the Interstate Conference:

BROWNSVILLE FALCONS:

Jason House begins his first season as the Falcons coach, and he inherits a program that has struggled mightily. He goes from offensive coordinator to head coach and one of the things he hopes will improve is the offense. The Falcons tied for the second-fewest points in Class AA last season with 97.

But there is always optimism with a new coach and maybe the Falcons can get a few more wins this season. They haven’t won more than one game since 2010, when they won two. But five starters return on both offense and defense.

Marcellous Grooms returns at quarterback and he has receiver Tyler Herman, who led the team with six touchdowns last season. DaVante Stafford also returns at tailback and defensive back.

The other returning starters are FB-LB John Pascoe, OL-LB Matt Rouse and OG-DE Hunter Holman.

BURGETTSTOWN BLUE DEVILS:

Like Brownsville, Burgettstown also has a new man at the helm. Mark Druga has been an assistant since 2007 and he takes over for Terry Havelka, who resigned after three seasons in which he was 3-24.

Druga takes over a team that has struggled in recent years. But the Blue Devils went 3-6 last season after two consecutive winless seasons. Druga has some experienced players at the skill positions. Leading rusher Jake McKee has graduated, but Cole LaRocka is back after finishing second on the team in rushing. Brad McLaughlin is a returning starter at quarterback and he has his top receiver – Jacob Shipley.

Burgettstown will have to be ready right out of the gates. The first three games are against playoff teams last year – Washington, Mount Pleasant and Waynesburg.

CHARLEROI COUGARS:

Charleroi hasn’t made the postseason since 2004. Although they figure to be improved from last season’s 2-7 team, the Cougars will have to fight and scratch for that final playoff spot.

But second-year coach Donnie Militzer is optimistic – and why not? Seven starters return on offense. Charleroi must develop a quarterback and likely will choose from two sophomores – Ryan Workman and George Lukach.

Charleroi has Brock Shannon, who could end up being one of the better running backs in the conference. Shannon rushed for 701 yards last season. Trey Douyon caught 26 passes from his receiver spot and also is back. And look for offensive lineman John Arnold. You can’t miss him. He’s 6-9 and 260 pounds.

On defense, lineman Brian Eckels and linebacker Errick Tedrow are two of the top players. The Cougars must get better defensively after giving up 382 points in nine games last year.

DERRY TROJANS:

The Trojans made some noise last year in Tim Sweeney’s first year as coach, going 4-6 after winning one game the previous two seasons in Class AAA. The move down to Class AA certainly helped.

This year, quarterback Trey Friedline is a returning starter at quarterback. The running game has potential with Nick Chincock and 6-3, 215-pound Sonny Stevens. Levi Humberger returns on the lines.

Defensively, lineman Noah Wiencek and defensive back Tyler Balega return.

McGUFFEY HIGHLANDERS:

It was a good 2014 for the Highlanders as they made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Now, can the Highlanders stay in the top half of the conference and make the postseason again?

There is a big hole to fill in the backfield as James Duchi graduated. Duchi rushed for more than 4,000 career yards. The second- and third-leading rushers also graduated. But five starters return on both offense and defense.

McGuffey has some talent and depth at receiver with Shaun Sanders and Nick Haynes. Marcus Czulewicz will be the new quarterback. Adam Townsend and Spencer Gillispie will handle the tailback duties. Chase Miller is a player to watch at linebacker.

MOUNT PLEASANT VIKINGS:

The Vikings are on a nice run, finishing either first, second or third in the conference six consecutive seasons. Last year’s team finished second in the conference and had an 8-3 record. Some key players graduated, but look for the Vikings to be near the top of the conference again.

Six starters return on offense and four on defense. Standout running back Trevor Salopek graduated, but Jake Adamrovich returns. He was the team’s second-leading rusher with 549 yards. Chris Wagner also returns after rushing for almost 400 yards.

Johnny Yester saw some action at QB last season. Three starters return on the offensive line – Josh Lind, Zack Klejka and Kurt Aumer. Lind was a first-team all-conference selection last year.

On defense, Klejka started at tackle. Aaron Bunting and Joe Loughner return at defensive back while Kyle Halterman heads the linebacker troops.

SOUTHMORELAND SCOTTIES:

Will the postseason drought end this year? Southmoreland hasn’t been to the WPIAL playoffs since 1979. The Scotties came so close last year, finishing with a 4-4 conference mark, one game out of the playoffs.

It will be tough to crack the top four, especially with the graduation of Jake Pisula, the school’s all-time leading rusher with more than 3,000 yards. Chas King, the school’s all-time leading tackler, also graduated. But Southmoreland should still be competitive and fighting for a playoff spot under coach Mark Adams.

Tommy Pisula was the leading receiver last year and also rushed for 322 yards on 58 carries. He is back to lead the offense. Southmoreland has two linemen who are being looked at by Division I-AA colleges. Jake Beistel is a 6-2, 280-pound nose tackle who won a PIAA Class AA wrestling championship last year. He was a first-team all-conference pick. Dough Leighty is a 6-3, 260-pound two-way lineman.

WASHINGTON LITTLE PREXIES:

Coach Mike Bosnic has a team that is experienced and talented, at both the skill positions and on the lines. The Little Prexies look worthy of a top five ranking in Class AA in the preseason.

Four players made first-team all-conference a year ago. They are tight end Nate Swart, lineman Khalik Blount, lineman Thomas Cherry and defensive back Jordan West. Swart is 6-5, 225 pounds and is considered one of the best tight ends in the WPIAL. He has already made a verbal commitment to the University of Toledo of the Mid-American Conference.

The offense has some holes to fill, though, with the graduation of Malik Wells (1,406 yards rushing) and quarterback Jonathan Spina (1,358 passing). Developing a quarterback will be key and Markel Pulliam will take over. As for running back, the Little Prexies seem to be in capable hands. Kurt Adkins rushed for 639 yards and averaged 8.8 yards. West also plays running back and had 499 yards last season along with a 9.4 yards per carry average.

Also back on the lines is Zach Parr.

WAYNESBURG RAIDERS:

Last season was a break-through campaign for Waynesburg as the team made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2003. Can Waynesburg make it two in a row?

Waynesburg lost many key players to graduation, but it’s not like the Raiders should fall apart this season because the bottom of the Interstate can be weak.

Hunter Cenname rushed for 1,478 yards last year, but graduated. The top three rushers overall graduated. Standout lineman Sam Augustine is gone as are others. Jacob Tretinik has the potential to open some eyes this season. Colin McCracken showed some promise last year as a tight end.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH IN THE INTERSTATE CONFERENCE:

1.      Washington Little Prexies

2.      Mount Pleasant Vikings

3.      McGuffey Highlanders

4.      Charleroi Cougars

5.      Derry Trojans

6.      Southmoreland Scotties

7.      Waynesburg Raiders

8.      Burgettstown Blue Devils

9.      Brownsville Falcons

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