Football team looks to get in on championship act at Neshannock

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Saturday, August 20, 2022 | 12:01 PM


Rumor has it a major repaving project has been planned for Mitchell Road in Neshannock this fall.

Over the last year or so, there have been so many championship parades in front of the high school that the traffic pattern has worn grooves in the pavement.

OK, no such rumors actually exist, but it wouldn’t be hard to see why they would start.

WPIAL and PIAA championships for the girls basketball and softball teams. A PIHL title for the hockey team. A state championship for the competitive spirit squad.

Add in trips to the WPIAL and PIAA finals for the baseball team and district and state playoff victories in boys basketball, and there isn’t a school in Western Pennsylvania that can match the Lancers trophy for trophy.

“They’re putting a lot of pressure on me down here,” football coach Fred Mozzocio joked. “I better win a WPIAL or a state title here quick.”

Jokes aside, it’s fair to say the football team held up its end of the bargain last season. The Lancers went 7-4 overall, tied with Mohawk for the third place in the Midwestern Athletic Conference and reached the WPIAL playoffs.

That included an impressive four-game winning streak in the middle of the season that started after a series of significant injuries hit during a loss to Mohawk in Week 3. Star running back Cam’Ron Owens was out for the season and starting quarterback Kurt Sommerfeld missed three weeks.

“We were short five or six bodies, but we rallied together and went on a run,” Mozzocio said.

The rash of injuries led to one of the most interesting stories of the season for the Lancers. Peyton Weaver, a junior who had started three games at center when injuries hit the previous season, was pressed into action at running back. He responded with 924 yards and 10 touchdowns as starter.

“He has a close relationship with the linemen from being down there when he was younger,” Mozzocio said. “They just took to him and they love to block for him. He runs the ball like he’s a 250-pounder, even though he’s probably 5-6, about 160 pounds. He’s a downhill kid. He’s put together, a great power lifter for his size and weight. And he’s got some speed as well.”

Junior Jonny Huff also saw time in Sommerfeld’s absence under center. Mozzocio is excited to see what he can do in a full season.

“Jonny can do it through the air and with his feet as well,” Mozzocio said. “We look for him to pick up right where Kurt left off. Probably will be a little better throwing the ball this year as well.”

All told, the Lancers have seven starters back on offense and eight on defense, including exciting slot receiver Lucianno Delillio and dynamic safety Matt Ionelli.

Linemen Jaxon Mozzocio, Aidon Shaffer and Mike Ponzianni and receiver Ronnie Demase are back on offense. Linebackers Ryan Huff, Jackson Billyk and Pat Argiro and defensive backs Braden Huff and Anthony Boner return on defense.

Put it all together and the Lancers are in good position to add another Neshannock success story to an already long list.

“It’s a small community, a close-knit community,” Mozzocio said. “These kids grow up together, they’re all friends, and they feed off each others’ success. It just goes from one sport to the next.”

Neshannock

Coach: Fred Mozzocio

2021 record: 7-4, 4-3 in Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference

All-time record: 285-329-15

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 Sharon, 7

9.2 Laurel, 7

9.9 at Ambridge, 7

9.17 at Western Beaver*, 12:30

9.23 Beaver Falls*, 7

9.30 New Brighton*, 7

10.7 at Freedom*, 7:30

10.14 Riverside*, 7

10.21 Ellwood City*, 7

10.28 at Mohawk*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Kurt Sommerfeld*

62-116, 651 yards, 8 TDs, 5 INTs

Rushing: Peyton Weaver

12-984, 13 TDs

Receiving: Jonny Huff

16-248, 3 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Frank Bongivengo, longtime coach who has been inducted into the Lawrence County Historical Society Sports Hall of Fame and Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, has decided not to coach this season. The 84-year-old Bongivengo has been on head coach Fred Mozzocio’s staff for the last 10 years. “It will definitely be a different vibe for us this year to not have coach around on a daily basis,” Mozzocio said.

• The Lancers will have to replace a pair of impact linemen. Mason Manos, the Bill Fralic Award winner in Class 2A, is playing at Westminster. Two-way starter Landon Shaffer is at Mt. Union.

• Neshannock averaged 32.5 points per game last season, sixth-best in Class 2A in the WPIAL.

• Neshannock is the sixth-smallest school in Class 2A in WPIAL football with 138 boys in grades 10-12.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at jbombulie@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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