Despite losing key starters, Beaver looks to keep building

Saturday, August 17, 2019 | 11:10 AM

Following an adjustment period, Beaver football hopes it is more acclimated to Class 4A football.

The Bobcats, which moved up a classification during last summer’s PIAA realignment, finished with a respectable 7-4 record in 2018, falling in the quarterfinals to Belle Vernon.

“What we’ve found is that every (Class 4A) team has a quarterback and everybody can throw the ball,” said coach Jeff Beltz, who enters his 20th season. “And every team has a 200-pound running back. So you have to be flexible enough to guard both. And we’re trying to do that.”

Beaver finished third in the Northwest 8 conference, behind WPIAL champion South Fayette and Blackhawk.

In order to return to the postseason, the Bobcats need to adequately replace their leading passer, rusher and receiver from 2018.

Brady Hansen, a member of Beaver’s WPIAL championship baseball team who passed for 148 yards when starter Brodie List went down with injury, is back for his junior year and has grasped the reigns of the starting spot.

“Brady’s the guy,” Beltz said. “He’s developed. He’s a multiple-sport athlete. He’s just maturing as a young man. He’s got some experience, he’s getting stronger and all those attributes have shown through this summer.”

Jackson Thomas, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior, and Anthony George, a 6-2, 215-pound junior, will get the bulk of the reps in the backfield following the departure of Gino Mavero, who scored 13 touchdowns last year.

“Both have played a lot,” Beltz said. “With Anthony, his size is unique, so both of those guys bring something different to the table. They’ll see a lot of carries.”

The backs should benefit from a point of returning strength, as Beaver welcomes back three offensive linemen.

Junior Scott Wilson, a three-year starter, as well as senior Dante Castagna, a four-year letter winner, anchor the group. Senior Bryce Diab, who missed some time because of injury in 2018, is back, as is key reserve Keegan Wise.

“We’re trying to find a fit where those guys maneuver,” Beltz said. “There’s four quality players in there that have a lot of experience.”

Junior slot receiver James Finch leads the pass catchers, while Charlie Higgs, a 6-5, 200-pounder, looks for a healthier year. Tyler King has evolved into a solid option, as well.

“There’s probably six guys that we feel that we can get on the field and rotate in the wide receiver position that will be productive for us,” Beltz said.

Defensively, King and Hansen are returning starters in the secondary, which is in need of depth, according to Beltz. Thomas also will join that group.

George, a talented linebacker, will be joined by senior Brody Culley.

Castagna, Wilson and Jaydin Sallis highlight a deeper group of defensive linemen, something Beltz thinks is key in Beaver’s conference.

“It’s nice to say, ‘this is our guy,’ but, at the same time, it’s nice to say, ‘we’ve got a few guys that can serve a role for us,” he said.

Defensively, Beaver is looking for improvements from a year ago, when it allowed a respectable 20.1 points per game, sixth-best in Class 4A.

“We’d like to be different in some defensive settings,” Beltz said. “With the change in program, we’re going to face different offensives that are a little more dynamic in the league that we’re in now. Not that Aliquippa and Beaver Falls (old Class 3A rivals) aren’t dynamic but, from top to bottom, there’s more consistency.”

Beltz has lead Beaver to nine straight winning seasons, averaging nearly eight wins per year during that stretch.

“We expect, year in and year out, to be a playoff contender,” he said. “We’ve been able to uphold that.”

Big picture plans will take care of themselves if Beaver keeps its focus more shortsighted in 2019, which opens with a Week Zero game against Brashear before the Bobcats host South Fayette.

“The good thing about being in the league we’re in, in 4A, we’re still given four (playoff spots in the conference),” he said. “If we can just continue on, throughout the year, and we hit that home stretch again, we’ll have an opportunity to get back in the playoffs.”


Coach: Jeff Beltz

2018 record: 7-4, 4-3

All-time record: 647-399-55

Date, Opponent, Time

8.23, at Brashear, 7

8.30, South Fayette*, 7:30

9.6, at Knoch*, 7

9.13, at New Castle*, 7

9.20, Highlands*, 7:30

9.27, at Ringgold, 7

10.5, Ambridge*, 7:30

10.11, Quaker Valley, 7:30

10.18, at Montour*, 7

10.25, Blackhawk*, 7:30

*Class 4A Northwest 8 Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Brodie List*

64-127, 1,187 yards, 15 TDs

Receiving: Matt Lipinski*

26-491 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing: Gino Mavero*

193-891 yards, 13 TDs



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