Led by Division I QB Salopek, Norwin takes aim at winning season, playoff berth

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Thursday, August 15, 2019 | 1:51 PM


It has been more than 10 seasons since the Norwin football program had a winning record.

During that stretch the Knights have won five games in a season six times, including finishing with a .500 mark four times.

Norwin is coming off a 3-7 season in 2018, and senior quarterback Jack Salopek is ready to lead the Knights back to the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs after a year’s absence. To do that, Norwin has holes to fill, especially on defense.

But the offense has continued to progress with Salopek leading the way. The Western Michigan commit completed 116 of 226 passes for 1,790 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall.

Norwin coach Dave Brozeski said he likes how Salopek has assumed the leadership role.

“We’re excited about Jack, and we have a lot other guys back on offense,” Brozeski said. “Jack has great leadership, not by words but by example. We want leaders by what they do, not what they say. Jack does that.

“He’s developed very well over the past few seasons. He’s a leader not only with the older guys coming back but to the younger guys in the quarterback group: Nick Fleming, Luke Levendosky and our ninth-graders.”

Salopek said he will be able to relax more after making his college commitment.

“Having the commitment out of the way takes a lot of pressure off me.” Salopek said. “Now I can concentrate on having a good season with the team. It’s definitely a big relief.”

When he looks to throw the ball, 6-foot-4 junior tight end Tanner Krevokuch will be one of the main targets. Krevokuch caught 26 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns in 2018.

The other experienced receiver is senior Sean Pavlic, who had 18 catches for 296 yards and three touchdowns.

Senior Declan O’Brien and juniors Connor Chrisman and Ty Bilinsky also will be counted on in the passing game.

Camp will determine who the running backs will be.

There is little experience returning at the position, but Brozeski said senior Tanner Queen, sophomore Dom Barca, senior Deven Summers and junior Hayden O’Bryon give the Knights good options.

“The more the guys get comfortable with the offense, the better we’ll be,” Salopek said. “We have guys switching different positions.

“If someone gets hurt, the next man up will be a big thing for us. The players need to get into the playbook and learn the offense. That will be a big key for us.”

One thing that will make the Knights a little more comfortable early on is the experience along the offense line.

The Knights return four players who started or saw a decent amount of playing time in 2018: junior Anthony Giansante (6-4, 275) and seniors Aaron Bowen (6-1, 230), Connor Vogel (6-5, 227) and Liam Melegari (6-0, 207).

“They learned a lot last season,” Brozeski said. “We had a new offensive system. Experience is a big factor. We’re excited to see how they take that next step.”

The defense has less experience returning so Brozeski said he’ll be leaning on several players — senior linemen Alex Novak (5-10, 235) and Bowen, senior linebackers Jake Merlin and Brandon Grimes, junior linebacker Krevokuch and senior Mike Ryan and Queen at defensive back.

Brozeski said missing the playoffs in 2018 is a big motivator for the team. To return, the Knights will again have to navigate a challenging schedule of Class 6A foes — Butler, Canon-McMillan, Central Catholic, Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny, Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley. The top six teams qualify for the playoffs, and the top two seeds earn a bye in the opening round.

Schedule

Coach: Dave Brozeski

2018 record: 3-7, 2-6

All-time record: 388-568-36

Date, Opponent, Time

8.23, at Penn-Trafford, 7:30

8.30, at North Allegheny*, 7:30

9.6, Hempfield*, 7

9.13, at Chartiers Valley, 7

9.20, at Pine-Richland*, 7

9.27, Butler*, 7

10.4, Central Catholic*, 7

10.11, at Canon-McMillan*, 7

10.18, Mt. Lebanon*, 7

10.25, at Seneca Valley*, 7:30

*Class 6A Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Jack Salopek

116-226, 1,790 yards, 15 TDs

Receiving: Billy Kerston*

27-409, 4 TDs

Rushing: Eric Houser*

76-512 yards, 4 TDs

*Graduated

Norwin roster

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

1, Michael Ryan, WR/DB, 5-10/175, Sr.

2, Connor Chrisman, WR/DB, 6-1/165, Jr.

3, Tyler Bilinsky, WR/DB, 5-9/155, Jr.

4, Aaron Schmook, WR/LB, 5-10/170, So.

5, Declan O’Brien, WR/DB, 5-10/150, Sr.

6, Jack Salopek, QB, 6-3/180, Sr.

7, Austin Kantz, WR/DB, 5-9/160, Jr.

8, Tanner Krevokuch, TE/LB, 6-4/205, Jr.

9, Jake Merlin, TE/LB, 6-1/210, Sr.

10, Brandon Grimes, TE/LB, 6-0/208, Sr.

11, Luke Levendosky, QB/DB, 5-9/150, So.

12, Noah Houser, WR/DB, 6-0/185, So.

14, Dasani Edwards, WR/DB, 5-11/145, So.

17, Nick Fleming, QB/LB, 6-2/200, Jr.

20, Brian Woods, LB, 5-10/180, Sr.

21, Freddy Calub, RB/DB, 5-9/160, Sr.

22, Dom Barca, RB/DB, 5-7/170, So.

24, Tanner Queen, RB/DB, 5-10/178, Jr.

25, Ryan Hileman, WR/DB, 6-0/145, So.

26, Tanner Babeo, RB/LB, 5-10/178, Jr.

28, Deven Summers, RB/DB, 5-9/165, Sr.

31, Jaskaran Singh, WR/DB, 5-11/155, Sr.

32, Hayden O’Bryon, RB/DB, 5-8/155, Jr.

33, Matt Grimes, RB/LB, 5-10/160, So.

34, Cory Johnson, RB/LB, 5-8/165, Jr.

35, Ryan Kerber, WR/DB, 5-9/140, Sr.

40, Antonio Lattimore, WR/DB, 5-7/140, Sr.

42, Max Christopher, WR/DB, 5-9/155, So.

46, Noah Visco, WR/DB, 5-6/120, So.

50, Josh Page, OL/LB, 5-10/185, So.

51, Alex Novak, OL/DL, 5-10/235, Sr.

52, Jared Brumm, OL/DL, 5-10/200, Sr.

54, Sebastian Rosado, OL/DL, 6-0/213, So.

55, Aaron Bowen, OL/DL, 6-1/230, Sr.

57, Matt Seigler, OL/DL, 5-11/205, So.

59, Brennan Hileman, OL/DL, 5-10/240, Jr.

62, Jake Young, OL/DL, 6-2/255, So.

66, Liam Melegari, OL/DL, 6-0/207, Sr.

68, Anthony Giansante, OL/DL, 6-3/280, Jr.

75, Billy Eger, OL/DL, 5-9/185, So.

77, Connor Vogel, OL/DL, 6-5/227, Sr.

79, Austin Lane, OL/DL, 5-11/250, So.

80, Jacob Bazala, TE/LB, 6-1/185, Jr.

88, Sean Pavlic, WR/DB, 5-8/155, Sr.

90, Trinity Wills, K, 5-6/125, So.

95, Joey Castle, K, 6-1/160, Fr.

99, Mike Tully, OL/DL, 6-1/295, Jr.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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