Experienced Seneca Valley squad ready to make a run for gold in Class 6A

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Monday, August 8, 2022 | 11:58 PM


Editor’s note: Starting today, Trib HSSN will preview one WPIAL conference per day until the start of high school football season Aug. 26.

Back in the mid-2000s, Seneca Valley was a struggling Class AAAA program just trying to stay out of the basement in the old Quad North Conference.

The Raiders won a total of seven games between 2003-2006.

Those days are a distant memory now as the program has grown and flourished. Since expansion to six classifications in 2016, Seneca Valley is a combined 35-28 with two trips to the WPIAL 6A title game and two berths in the district semifinals.

Always on the brink, some feel this Raiders team may have enough size and experience to make a run at that elusive first WPIAL football crown.

“It’s a new year,” Seneca Valley coach Ron Butschle said. “Every year is exciting at this time. I love being around a bunch of kids and coaches who love football and can’t wait to compete.”

The team hopes to enjoy success and bring some positivity to the district and community, which has been hit hard in recent years with tragedy and loss away from sports.

“I don’t worry about football. We will play to the level of our preparation, which is something we can control,” Butschle said. “I worry about players and kids in general. The issue of mental health and tragic loss has gripped the culture that these kids live in and has directly touched the players and coaches on our team. Mental wellness, and in turn, mental toughness, is something that I worry about and we strive to address and improve.”

Last season, the Raiders finished in third place in Class 6A with an overall record of 7-4. The season ended with a semifinal loss to Central Catholic, 42-21.

“Last season was a year of inexperienced players and a new offensive staff,” Butschle said. “Although I am happy for every win, seven wins does not win a championship. Our returning players and staff all learned valuable lessons from last season.”

The Columbia blue and black returns plenty of experience with eight starters on offense and nine on defense back.

Leading the way on offense is senior quarterback Graham Hancox.

Last season, Hancox connected on 71 of 131 passes for 1,054 yards and eight touchdowns.

“As a returning starter, the expectation for Graham is the same as it is for every player,” Butschle said. “He is expected to be a leader and to make his teammates better. He has worked extremely hard with his teammates this offseason to grow on and off the field.”

The top target for Hancox last season, Luke Lawson, is also back. The Navy recruit caught 36 passes for 558 yards and six touchdowns.

“Graham is looking great,” Lawson said of his quarterback. “Having not only a great QB but a guy that bands the entire team together is huge. He always shows up and is on top of his game. Our offense is going to be tough to stop this year.”

Senior running back Wyatt Carver will lead a run game that could be productive behind a big and experienced line.

Creating the holes on offense while plugging them up on defense will be senior tackle Devin Webb (6-foot-2, 270), senior offensive guard and defensive tackle Lucas Lambert (6-2, 250), senior center and defensive tackle Logan Armstrong (6-0, 225) and senior H-back and defensive end Aiden Lyczek (6-4, 230).

Four other seniors expected to play big roles for a defense that finished third in Class 6A in points per game are Toledo recruit Chris D’Appalonia (6-3, 225) and fellow linebacker T.J. Border (5-10, 200) along with defensive backs Wayne Pirt (5-10, 165) and Joe Babusci (5-10, 170).

While Seneca Valley has some experience in August, Butschle knows that what happens in 6A games in September and October will determine if the Raiders are still playing deep into November.

“It will be the usual grind,” he said. “All of the teams in 6A are tough and well-coached.”

Lawson is also excited about the 6A portion of the Raiders’ schedule.

“Our competition is always top of the line, which makes our preparation now more important,” he said.

Seneca Valley

Coach: Ron Butschle

2021 record: 7-4, 5-2 in Class 6A

All-time record: 263-302-11

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 Penn Hills, 7

9.2 Peters Township, 7

9.9 Canon-McMillan*, 7

9.16 at Pine-Richland, 7

9.23 at Mt. Lebanon*, 7

9.30 at Butler, 7

10.7 at Hempfield, 7

10.14 North Hills, 7

10.21 Central Catholic*, 7

10.28 at North Allegheny*, 7:30

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Graham Hancox

71-131, 1,054 yards, 8 TDs

Rushing: Nolan Dworek*

123-619, 8 TDs

Receiving: Luke Lawson

36-558, 6 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Ron Butschle begins his sixth season in his second stint as head coach at Seneca Valley. He also coached the Raiders from 2004-2008.

• Since expansion to six classes in 2016, here is the overall record Seneca Valley has against their four other 6A opponents, including playoff results. Canon-McMillan: 4-0, Central Catholic: 1-8, Mt. Lebanon: 2-4, North Allegheny: 3-5.

• The Raiders have never won a WPIAL football crown, but they’ve played in three district title games. Seneca Valley lost 34-7 to Pine-Richland in the 2018 6A finals. They lost 42-7 to Central Catholic in the first 6A championship game in 2016. The Raiders’ first championship game experience was a 17-9 loss to Aliquippa in the 1989 Class AAA finals.

• This is the 58th season of Seneca Valley football, including preceding schools in the district.

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