Despite roster losses, reloaded Laurel in good position to contend in Class A
Thursday, August 25, 2022 | 12:01 PM
Last fall, Brian Cooper watched as, week in and week out, his running back and quarterback sliced through opposing defenses.
The combination of Luke McCoy and Kobe DeRosa combined for 2,938 rushing yards and scored 47 touchdowns, as the Spartans finished the season 11-1, qualifying for the WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinals.
“Last year was the first that we went to the spread instead of the wing-t, and obviously we had great success with it,” said Cooper, who enters his ninth season as head coach. “We’re going to continue to build on that this season and go with the momentum off of that.”
There’s just one problem. McCoy and DeRosa have been lost to graduation, as well as versatile running back Michael Pasquarello. All three are playing college football.
They helped the Spartans outscore opponents by 32 points per game last season, finishing with Class 2A’s second-best defense and offense. Laurel lost 6-0 to eventual WPIAL champion Serra Catholic in the quarterfinals last November.
Despite the key losses, Cooper is optimistic — as his team moves to Class A due to the PIAA’s reclassification — that Laurel can be a force this season.
“A lot of our seniors had roles on that team,” he said. “They weren’t as much in the spotlight, but they sat back and waited for this opportunity.”
Chase Tinstman, one of 14 seniors on the roster, will take over for DeRosa under center.
“He has a great arm,” Cooper said. “He may not be the runner that Kobe was, but I think he’ll do well there. We’re hoping to be more versatile in our offensive attack. We were really run heavy the last couple of years.”
Flanking Tinstman in the backfield will be Landon Smith, who replaces McCoy, the program’s all-time leading rusher.
“He’s quick, shifty and has good speed,” Cooper said of Smith. “He’s a player. He can make plays happen.”
Ben Hennon is more of a downhill runner and will share some carries with Smith, who can also be used at receiver. Brady Cooper will be the primary H-back.
A pair of starting receivers from a year ago return in seniors Lucas Davis and Carter Haney.
“They’re both big and physical,” Cooper said. “They helped us get to the edge last year and get blocks downfield. We need to find ways to get them the ball.”
Three senior starters return on the offensive line in Aidan Collins, Coltin Hill and Ryan DiMuccio.
“With some of the guys we lost offensively, when I think about how many guys we have back and how strong we are with seniors, we’re very blessed there,” Cooper added.
The returners will be joined by junior Keegan O’Brian and senior George Michaels, who is playing high school football for the first time but has already impressed coaches and will be a strong force on the defensive line as well.
DiMuccio and Hill will combine with Michaels on the line, as well as Karsten Alwardt and Joey Hudack, who is back from a knee injury.
Brady Cooper returns at inside linebacker alongside Collins. Carter Haney, Aaron Doughty and Laban Barker will rotate on the outside. Smith will move from cornerback to safety and Colin Bartley will be a three-year starter as a defensive back.
“I expect us to be a little better defensively to start,” Cooper said. “A lot of (the returners) played on defense. The defense is going to keep us in a lot of games as the offense figures it out.”
Coming off such a dominant year in a higher classification, the Spartans will be looked at as one of the favorites now in Class A’s Big 7 Conference.
Cooper, however, believes that Laurel can’t afford the luxury of looking ahead too much.
“We just have to get better every week,” he said. “A couple of years ago, we were in (Class) A and didn’t make the playoffs either year, even though we thought we should’ve. It’s not going to be easy. There’s going to be a lot of good competition.
“But we feel that we’re a very competitive team who should be in the mix of it all.”
Coach: Brian Cooper
2021 record: 11-1, 7-0 in Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference
All-time record: 352-259-10
Date, Opponent, Time
8.26 New Brighton, 7
9.2 at Neshannock, 7
9.9 Mohawk, 7
9.23 at Union*, 7
9.30 Rochester*, 7
10.7 at Northgate*, 7
10.14 South Side*, 7
10.22 at Summit Academy*, noon
10.28 Shenango*, 7
Passing: Kobe DeRosa*
39-64, 639 yards, 6 TDs
Rushing: Luke McCoy*
161-1,803, 29 TDs
Receiving: Michael Pasquarello*
14-234, 4 TDs
• DeRosa and Pasquarello are now college teammates at Washington & Jefferson.
• Laurel allowed just 7.4 points per game last season, while scoring 39.4 on average.
• The Spartans have won one WPIAL title, the Class A crown in 1980.
• Laurel’s perfect regular season in 2021 was the program’s first since 1977.
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