Hanlon’s versatility provides unique advantage for Riverview

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019 | 5:50 PM


Zach Hanlon possesses two Riverview football jerseys: No. 36 and No. 78.

Versatility is the name of the game for the Raiders senior captain, a 220-pound bruising running back and the anchor of the defense at inside linebacker.

While he enjoys his current offensive position at running back, he understands there’s always the possibility he could return to a spot in the trenches.

“I am happy to play wherever the coaches need me. I know I have to be ready,” said Hanlon, a multiple-time Class A Eastern Conference All-Star selection.

“The offensive line is really shaping up to be good. There’s a lot of experience. I am confident they will open up the holes for me and the other runners and be able block when we pass the ball.”

Hanlon began last season wearing No. 78 along the offensive line. He battled through injury but came back and was blocking in the backfield as an H-back.

He then started running the ball.

“He was running people over, and he really impressed us,” Riverview coach Todd Massack said. “Hopefully, he’s able to stay in the backfield for us. It would be great for Zach to keep No. 36 and never touch No. 78. If that happens, it means we are staying healthy. We have some good, veteran players up front.”

Hanlon liked the way he and his Raider teammates fared Saturday in a scrimmage against Class 3A Deer Lakes at Riverside Park.

“We looked pretty good against a bigger team, and it gives us the mentality and confidence that we can come out and compete and win some games this season if we keep working hard,” Hanlon said.

“We were aggressive and were getting to the ball. There were a few mistakes here and there, but they can be fixed with film work and practice. We’re going to keep grinding to be a better team.”

As far as a personal assessment from the scrimmage?

“I have to read my holes a little better and make some better cuts,” he said. “Defensively, I needed to get to the ball quicker a couple of times. But overall, I could see improvement in my game. I just have to stay focused and be ready for the next opportunity.”

That next opportunity to face another team is fast approaching. The Raiders will pay a visit to Shady Side Academy on Thursday for a 7 p.m. scrimmage with the Indians.

It’s the final dress rehearsal, so to speak, before the season opener Aug. 31 against Eastern Conference rival Greensburg Central Catholic at Riverside Park.

“Game day is always a fun day,” Hanlon said. “We’re always pumped. We come out of that locker room ready to battle. But we still have work to do and time to prepare (before GCC).”

Hanlon, at inside linebacker, is the heart and soul of a defensive unit that hopes to slow down some of WPIAL Class A’s most potent offenses.

“Defense is always the best part,” he said. “Everyone likes hitting, and no one likes getting hit. You have to be aggressive and get out there and pop some pads.”

Eastern Conference foes Clairton and Jeannette are No. 1 and No. 2 in the Tribune-Review Class A preseason rankings. Riverview gets Clairton on Sept. 13 and Jeannette on Oct. 18.

“We know the challenges that we have faced and will face this season, but we’re not going to back down,” Hanlon said.

Massack said it’s a great feeling to know Riverview will face those challenges with a player like Hanlon helping lead the way.

“Zach is a good athlete with strength and power. Add to that a relentless attitude,” Massack said.

“He’s a great listener to the things we are teaching. He’s never satisfied with his performance on the field, whether it be in practice, in a scrimmage like (Saturday) or in a game. He’s always working harder to get better.”

That desire to get better, Massack said, rubs off on his teammates.

“Zach is a great leader, both vocally and by example. He doesn’t just say things. He follows through with his actions. His teammates see that and trust him.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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