Neshannock looks to bounce back from ‘disappointing’ season
Monday, August 19, 2019 | 9:22 PM
High school football coaches talk about it all the time: Every game is meaningful.
Neshannock found that out in 2018 after finishing fifth in the Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference, one game out of a playoff spot behind Riverside.
The difference was the Lancers’ Week 1 loss to the Panthers on the last day of August.
It was the first time Neshannock missed the playoffs since the 2011 season.
“Looking back, it was a disappointing season,” said Neshannock coach Fred Mozzocio, who took over the struggling program in 2012 and led it to the postseason six straight years.
“We had some high goals set that we were not able to achieve. We had some very bad luck and were never at full strength. We were forced to play some young players in key positions, but now, looking back, that may play a positive moving forward into our 2019 season.”
The Lancers return seven starters on offense and six on defense.
Senior running back D.J. DeBlasio has been a key contributor since his sophomore season. Last year, he averaged 6.8 yards per carry and more than 10 yards per reception.
Senior slot receiver and cornerback Josh Medure comes from a family of great Neshannock players, following in the footsteps of his brothers, Jim (now a senior at Pitt) and Anthony.
Senior offensive tackle and defensive end Nico Nuzzo is a three-year starter who has become one of the top defensive ends in the area and is being recruited by James Madison, St. Francis (Pa.), Mercyhurst, Notre Dame (Ohio) and received a priority walk-on offer from Ohio State.
“We are looking very good,” Nuzzo said. “I believe we have solid players in all positions and will be very dangerous on both sides of the ball.”
Senior inside linebacker Andy Presnar is a two-year starter and will be the leader of the defense, Mozzocio said.
“The main thing we need to take advantage of is the experience that we were able to get last year with so many young players on the field,” Mozzocio said. “Hopefully they will be more mature and reliable after getting valuable experience.”
Nuzzo feels last year’s struggles are a motivation for this season.
“We have a great work ethic, and everyone has a chip on their shoulder from last year.”
While a lot of coaches are worried about certain positions or depth this time of year, Mozzocio said one of his biggest concerns heading into camp was that the Neshannock stadium renovations and new turf installation would be completed on time.
So while the Lancers prepare for the rigors of the Class 2A MAC and a hopeful return to the postseason, Mozzocio is fired up about being back at camp.
“It’s back!” he said. “We get to prepare and compete in the greatest sport in the world. I get excited just thinking about it.”
Coach: Fred Mozzocio
2018 record: 4-6, 3-4
All-time record: 265-319-15
Date, Opponent, Time
8.23, at Avonworth, 7
8.30, Riverside*, 7
9.6, Mohawk*, 7
9.13, at Ellwood City*, 7
9.20, Shady Side Academy, 7
9.27, at New Brighton*, 7
10.4, at Fort Cherry, 7
10.11, Freedom*, 7
10.18, Western Beaver*, 7
10.25, at Shenango*, 7
*Class 2A Midwestern Conference game
Passing: Jake McCormick*
86-184, 982 yards, 8 TDs
Rushing: Noah Karpiak*
155-898 yards, 10 TDs
Receiving: Mike Mozzocio*
23-215 yards, 2 TDs
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.