Increased roster numbers boost Avella

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Saturday, August 29, 2020 | 10:00 PM


Low roster numbers have plagued Avella before, but coach Ryan Cecchini can assure you, he’s shaken all he can from the bushes in the school district.

He has exhausted his recruiting in the school halls options.

The football team had between 12 and 16 players for summer workouts and, “We’ll probably start the year in the low 20s,” Cecchini said.

“But that’s what we have every year. There just isn’t that much to pick from. We only have, what, 62 to 64 (boys). If we can get 33 out, we’re already at half.”

The Eagles still have managed to field a team time and again despite some close calls in the past that saw injuries mount and able bodies dwindle.

They went 1-9 last year, dropping eight in a row following a 12-0 victory over Bishop Canevin.

“We’re a little different out here,” said Cecchini, in his 10th season. “We’re in a rural area. We don’t have a lot of kids. But the kids we have are willing to put in the work.

“With all we have back, I feel really good about this group.”

Cecchini likes the experience built into his 4-4 defense, which brings back 10 starters. Two key leaders who will initiate things on that side of the ball are senior linebacker Blaze Allen and senior defensive end Robert West.

Eight starters are back on offense, led by junior K.J. Rush, a lineman-turned-quarterback who could end up spending a lot of time in the shotgun formation.

“He resembles a fullback and comes right at you,” Cecchini said. “He is a downhill runner.”

A team not short on wide outs will once again look to spread the ball around with three- and four-receiver sets. But don’t call the Eagles a passing team just yet.

“We have to adapt to our personnel and opponents,” Cecchini said.

Case in point? When the team had a strong line a couple of seasons back, it went to a wing-T.

“We’ll go to what we think can work,” the coach said.

The team’s leading passer, rusher and receiver graduated, so that creates a void in production, but Cecchini thinks he has other options.

The main rushers will be senior Matthew Kidwell, who played wideout last year, and junior Noah Markle, who had 137 yards on the ground last season on 45 carries.

Some linemen looking to give the Eagles spacing to operate, no matter the scheme, include junior Harrison Fischer, a 350-pounder who can anchor the unit, along with senior Dylan Gzikowski.

Additional pass-catching threats include senior Tanner Terensky, junior Brandon Samol and senior Ty Jaworowski. Terensky, Samol, Jaworowski and Kidwell each had 10 or more receptions. Terensky is the top returnee with 17 for 197 yards and three scores.

Regardless of how the Eagles move the ball, possessions must carry greater value, the coach said.

“The offense didn’t help the defense much last year,” Cecchini said. “We have to take better care of the ball.”

Schedule

Coach: Ryan Cecchini

2019 record: 1-9, 0-7 in Class A Tri-County South

All-time record: 347-473-26

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, at Monessen*, 7

9.18, Jefferson-Morgan*, 7

9.24, at West Greene*, 7

10.2, California*, 7

10.9, at Mapletown*, 7

10.15, at Bentworth*, 7

10.23, Carmichaels*, 7

*Class A Tri-County South Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Derek Tarolli*

73-165, 759 yards, 8 TDs

Receiving: Justin Dryer*

18-211 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing: Anthony Georgetti*

90-356 yards, 1 TD

*Graduated

Fast facts

• The Eagles averaged just 8.4 points and were shut out four times.

• The team has just two conference wins in the past three seasons.

• After making a long trip to Jeannette last year for a nonconference game, the Eagles have to go to Monessen this year.

• Avella was not able to use its indoor facilities deep into the summer, so fundamentals such as push-ups and sit-ups were often part of the daily outdoor routine.

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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