Greensburg Salem seeks right chemistry in pursuit of 700th win

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Wednesday, September 2, 2020 | 10:54 PM


Don’t get too used to the starting lineup Greensburg Salem football coach Dave Keefer rolls out in the opening game.

Or, the following week. Or, maybe even the one after that.

“We are going to try a lot of things and move guys around until we find something that works,” Keefer said. “Our lineup in (the first game) will be different from the one in Week 3. It might take until Week 3 to find a spot for everybody.”

The Golden Lions, who are chasing history — they sit one win away from No. 700 — have a young and mostly inexperienced group, but one that shows flashes of talent nonetheless.

An abundance of seniors graduated, so Keefer and his staff are looking to fill key voids with players who look the part but are unproven.

“We have a lot of young guys,” Keefer said. “We’ll see how everyone develops and grasps what we want to do. Last year we steered the truck. This year we’re building it.”

As for the milestone victory, it would suit the team best to get it sooner rather than later so it can focus on a new spot in the Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference. Imagine the delight that would have come with an opening-night win over Hempfield, but that can’t happen because the first three weeks of the schedule were wiped out because of a delayed start to the season.

“We’ll take it any way we can get it,” Keefer said. “It would be nice to get it early. It’s one of those things, the elephant in the room.”

Leading rusher Alex Briggs returns for his senior season and will have an experienced line blocking for him. He ran for 621 yards last fall on 108 carries.

Four linemen who started in last year’s quarterfinal playoff game against Blackhawk are back, including senior right guard Joe McGough, junior left guard Billy McChesney, senior right guard Joe Gongaware and senior right tackle Dakota Powell.

Powell will be a fourth-year starter, while McChesney and Gongaware will start for a third straight season.

A fifth would-be starter up front, senior Matt Metrosky, transferred to Greensburg Central Catholic.

With team leader Trent Patrick gone at quarterback, the Golden Lions will turn to junior Hayden Teska, who missed much of last season with a broken collarbone he sustained in Week Zero while playing defensive back.

“Hayden is different than Trent in his style,” Keefer said. “He doesn’t have Trent’s arm, but his accuracy is exceptional and his ability to read the field is really good. He is a really heady player. He is composed and confident in himself.”

Keefer said sophomore Christian McChesney, junior Clayton Hudspath and sophomore Kaleb Riggs were competing to start at center.

Sophomore Rashad Canady and junior J.C. Wallish also should see carries in the backfield.

“We have three good guys with good talent and ability,” Keefer said. “But Briggs will carry the majority of the mail.”

About “six or seven guys” were looking to make an impact at receiver.

Linebacker looks like the strength of the defense, led by Briggs. Others are juniors Jayden Stevens and Preston Henry and Wallish.

Canady also could fit into that rotation if he doesn’t line up in the secondary, and Teska is another top defensive back.

Keefer enjoyed competing in the Big Eight Conference, which included 4A heavyweights Thomas Jefferson and Belle Vernon, last year’s WPIAL finalists.

The Greater Allegheny will house Armstrong, Hampton, Highlands, Indiana, Knoch, Mars and Plum.

“I wish we would have stayed where we were, to be honest,” Keefer said. “You know where you sit with those teams. We played four of the final four teams last year. From a coach’s perspective there was a preparation aspect that went into it.

“Don’t get me wrong, I like the new conference. We play five 5A teams, basically, so it doesn’t get any easier.”

Schedule

Coach: Dave Keefer

2019 record: 5-6, 5-2 in Class 4A Big Eight Conference

All-time record: 699-389-39

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, Plum*, 7

9.18, Knoch*, 7

9.25, at Indiana*, 7

10.2, Hampton*, 7

10.9, Armstrong*, 7

10.16, at Mars*, 7

10.23, at Highlands*, 7

*Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Trent Patrick*

62-154, 805 yards, 11 TDs

Receiving: Ryan Thomas*

12-171 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing: Alex Briggs

108-621 yards, 3 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• The Golden Lions’ next win will be the 700th in program history. Only Jeannette (756), New Castle (746), Aliquippa (734) and Washington (710) have more than 700 wins in the WPIAL.

• Greensburg Salem averaged 18.6 points last season but scored 28 against Mars, a new conference opponent.

• Briggs averaged 5 yards a carry as a junior.

• Teska also plays baseball and was a starter as a freshman two years ago at catcher.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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