Just 1 starter returns for defending WPIAL champion Jeannette

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021 | 6:01 AM


Roy Hall is not sure how this season — his last with the Jayhawks — will play out, but he knows what the main goal is for his football team.

“Survival,” he said. “We want to keep our kids healthy and do everything we can to get through the season. We have kids here who are working hard and want to be here.”

The defending WPIAL champions and PIAA runners-up in Class A could be in for a rise and fall like no program has seen over one year’s time. This could be the most challenging season the traditional power has seen.

After a rash of transfers dealt the WPIAL’s winningest program a troubling blow, the Jayhawks begin the season with one returning starter, little game experience and low roster numbers.

They were hovering around 20-22 players during summer workouts. Some newcomers are band members playing football for the first time.

Coaches are cautiously optimistic a season can happen and the team can compete.

“It’s a one-day-at-a-time thing,” Hall said. “We’re just preparing for our first scrimmage and our first game. Usually by this time of year, I know what we have. This is the first time in my career I don’t know.”

The lone starter back is senior lineman Justin Shank, an all-conference pick on defense. He and senior Savion Harper will be keys on both lines. Depth behind them is a different story.

“Everyone else is young and will be new,” Hall said.

Senior Antonio Clark, who did not play football last year, has shown some skill as a running back and linebacker.

Senior Tyler Horn and sophomore Payton Molter were competing for the starting quarterback spot left vacant by Gateway transfer Brad Birch, a rising sophomore standout and Division I prospect who threw for 1,676 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Other transfers included seniors Brett Birch (Gateway) and Taishaun Jamison (Greensburg Central Catholic), juniors Ryan Kimmel (GCC), Jaydin Canady (GCC), Eli Binakonsky (Hempfield) and Louis Callaway (Woodland Hills).

Junior Basil Wilson moved to Texas.

Sophomore Michael Mason and junior Matt Ross are looking for carries at running back, and sophomore Quwonez Jackson is a receiver with potential.

Senior Chris Hemminger could make an impact at defensive end.

Jeannette had 11 seniors, three juniors, nine sophomores and eight freshmen on a tentative preseason roster.

Jeannette

Coach: Roy Hall

2020 record: 10-2, 6-1 in Class A Eastern Conference

All-time record: 766-320-48

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.27 at East Allegheny, 7

9.3 Sto-Rox, 7

9.10 at Ligonier Valley, 7

9.17 Riverview*, 7

9.24 at Imani Christian*, 7

10.1 Leechburg*, 7

10.8 Springdale*, 7

10.16 at Bishop Canevin*^, 7

10.22 Greensburg C.C.*, 7

10.29 at Clairton*, 7

*Conference game

^At Dormont Stadium

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Brad Birch**

117-184, 1,676 yards, 30 TDs

Receiving: Brett Birch**

46-669, 11 TDs

Rushing: Roberto Smith*

131-792, 16 TDs

*Graduated

**Transferred

FAST FACTS

• Jeannette has 766 wins, the most in WPIAL history. The team has had just two losing seasons since 1967.

• The Jayhawks have 10 WPIAL titles, four since 2006.

• Jeannette stands fifth in the state in all-time wins, behind Mt. Carmel (868), Easton (842), Berwick (826) and Steelton Highspire (773).

• A new-look coaching staff under Roy Hall includes Charlie Cook, Darius Brown, Mike Mariotti, Ty Lankford and Brian Defelice.

ROSTER

No., Name, Ht./Wt., Cl.

1, Jeremiah Williamson, 6-1/190, So.

3, Matt Riston, 5-11/151, Sr.

7, Antonio Clark, 5-10/190, Sr.

9, Payton Molter, 5-11/165, So.

10, Andrew Ross, 5-9/140, So.

16, Tyler Horn, 5-11/155, Sr.

17, Ashtyn Molter, 5-8/130, Fr.

18, Lonnie Greene, 6-2/210, Fr.

19, Hunter Blasowich, 6-1/155, So.

21, Brayden Anderson, 5-6/131, So.

23, Mason Yates, 5-7/175, Sr.

33, Michael Mason, 5-10/150, So.

35, Mike Pitzer, 5-7/165, Sr.

50, Samuel Harper, 5-7/ 205, Sr.

52, Christopher Heminger, 6-1/170, Sr.

54, Nathanael Gantt, 6-0/220, Jr.

55, Justin Shank, 6-2/285, Sr.

57, Warren McCarthy, 5-10/170, So.

58, Nathan Moore, 6-2/282, Sr.

59, Jaron Poole, 5-9/227, Fr.

62, Tamiron Stevens-Blew, 6-2/200, Sr.

63, Jesse McCurdy, 5-8/210, So.

65, Gavin Holemeyer, 5-7/175, So.

66, Nathaniel Christoff, 5-11/185, Sr.

67, Nick Stuchell, 5-11/240, Fr.

69, Mitchell Steel, 6-1/190, Jr.

71, Savion Harper, 5-11/260, Sr.

72, Matthew Cox, 6-2/250, Sr.

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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