Jefferson-Morgan football team relies on competition to improve
Tuesday, August 20, 2019 | 4:40 PM
Competition for playing time tends to bring out the best in everyone. Young or less-experienced players give their all to make coaches take notice, and established players, in turn, step up their game to avoid losing playing time.
Jefferson-Morgan football coach Aaron Giorgi, in his fifth season with the Rockets, is hoping that formula works for his team in 2019.
The Rockets haven’t been to the WPIAL playoffs since 2012. Not even a couple of 4-4 performances in the Tri-County South, including 2015, Giorgi’s first season, were enough to boost Jefferson-Morgan into the postseason.
But with 32 players — a bigger roster than the Rockets typically have — Giorgi is hoping more competition within the team leads to a more competitive season. The Rockets were 2-8, 2-5 in the conference, last season.
“I feel like (the competition) will make everyone work harder at their position, and it will make them better on Friday nights,” said junior fullback/linebacker Jonathan Wolfe, a returning all-conference selection.
Added Liam Ankrom, a sophomore halfback/linebacker who also was all-Tri-County South: “I feel like our team bond is stronger, and with more competition at the positions, we push each other.”
Wolfe and Ankrom, though underclassmen, will be among the team’s leaders. Giorgi said both play beyond their years.
“Liam’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he plays bigger than his stature,” Giorgi said. “Jonathan knows only one speed, and that’s 100 mph, whether that’s in practice or a game.”
The fact a junior and a sophomore are team leaders is indicative of the overall age of the Rockets roster. The team is freshman and sophomore heavy.
Two of those sophomores help anchor an experienced offensive line: guards Gage Falcon and Mason McNett. They join senior Justin Silbaugh and junior Logan Rhodes, both tackles, as returning starters.
Two-thirds of the backfield is set with Ankrom at halfback and Wolfe at fullback. Who takes over at quarterback remains up in the air as sophomore Colt Fowler and freshman Cole Jones compete for the position.
Jones played quarterback in junior high, and Fowler got some time at QB with the varsity last season. If Jones gets the nod, Fowler will slot in at receiver. He also plays one of the corner spots on defense.
Of course, with a smaller roster, most of the Rockets will play two ways. Having a lot of two-way players is not unusual at any level in the WPIAL, but at a Class A school, players might have to learn more than one offensive and one defensive position to provide more flexibility in the event of injuries.
“We have a lot of young players coming up, a lot of freshmen and a lot of sophomore players,” Giorgi said. “As far as making the numbers work, we try to make players know multiple positions.”
That being said, having 32 players might give Giorgi the luxury of playing a handful only one way.
Any little bit helps as the Rockets try to catch up to Tri-County South heavyweights such as Monessen, West Greene and California. But if Jefferson-Morgan is able to get back to the playoffs, it likely will be because the competition in practice will be just as intense as on game nights.
“I don’t know how it’s going to translate into wins and losses,” Giorgi said, “but I will say … it’s nice to have somebody to push guys. The kids are being held more accountable this season.”
Coach: Aaron Giorgi
2018 record: 2-8, 2-5
All-time record: 345-444-36
Date, Opponent, Time
8.23, Waynesburg, 7
8.30, at Chartiers-Houston*, 7
9.6, Mapletown*, 7
9.13, Monessen*, 7
9.20, at Avella*, 7
9.27, at California*, 7
10.4, Riverview, 7
10.11, OLSH, 7
10.18, at West Greene*, 7
10.25, at Bentworth*, 7
*Class A Tri-County South Conference game