Norwin has postseason aspirations amidst field of new 5A opponents

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Thursday, August 11, 2022 | 12:01 AM


Dave Brozeski stops short of using air quotes when he talks about Norwin “dropping down” to Class 5A this football season.

But his sentiment still is clear.

Big picture: the change is inconsequential to the Knights.

“If nothing else, it’s better for us in terms of the locality of opponents we play,” Brozeski said. “It’s a better layout. I think Plum is our farthest conference game.

“It doesn’t matter who we play; it could be the Steelers. The focus has to be on us and what we do.”

Norwin went 20-39 in six grueling years in Class 6A, making the WPIAL playoffs in the first two.

Competing against Central Catholic, North Allegheny, Mt. Lebanon and others became taxing depth-wise for the Knights, who made the playoffs four straight times to open Brozeski’s tenure, but have missed the postseason four years in a row.

The new classification, the Knights hope, gives them a greater sense of belonging. The move could serve as the catalyst that moves the team to better things.

The Big East Conference will be home to Norwin, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Hempfield, Penn-Trafford and Plum.

Hempfield also comes down from 6A, while Plum comes up from 4A.

“The goal is the playoffs, that’s what you play for,” Brozeski said. “They’re only taking the top two (teams) so it is going to be tough. We still have a sour taste in our mouth from last year.”

Norwin took a forfeit loss to Seneca Valley last year, which ultimately kept them from the postseason, despite the Knights winning their final two games to finish 4-6.

The Knights have not had a winning season since 2008.

With some skill back, especially at receiver, tight end and special teams, this could be the team that wins more than it loses.

A revamped offense features junior Jackson Pons, a Division I prospect who had a team-best 33 receptions last season. Senior Nick Urey, the backup to graduate Luke Levendosky, who was the top passer and rusher, is competing for the starting quarterback spot with freshman Tristan Tavares.

Seniors Christian Beck and Kai Weems could be a one-two punch at running back, while senior Xander Smith is another receiving threat in addition to being one of the top long snappers in the WPIAL.

Also watch senior Liam O’Brien as a pass-catcher on the outside or in the slot, along with seniors Anthony Pirillo and Trey Huha.

Junior Luke Denny gives the Knights a versatile back who also should help the offense.

“We have some experience (on offense) and you want to get the ball to your playmakers,” Brozeski said.

At tight end, seniors Noah Vogel, Anthony Petrulo and Ryan Frankovic are back and should provide substantial blocking.

An inexperienced front line only has one returning starter in senior AJ Clemens (6-3, 230), but Brozeski said seven others are in the mix, including seniors Matt Tennant, Josiah Pastories and Jake Pawling.

Senior kicker and punter Joey Castle is a weapon, giving the Knights field goal hopes once they cross midfield, and a big leg for punts.

“People don’t realize how important special teams are,” Brozeski said. “Joey and Xander are very important to what we want to do.”

Petrulo, Vogel and Clemens are key down linemen on defense, with Tennant and Pastories in the fold.

“We have about 70 guys in 9-12 through our program, so we have more depth in practice,” Brozeski said. “Guys have really shown some competitiveness.”

Frankovic is expected to move from cornerback to outside linebacker, joining Beck, while Jake Page, Weems, Pawling and junior Antonio Rothrauff could line up inside.

Depth does not necessarily mean rest for starters. Several will still play both ways.

Pons and Huha are possibilities at safety, with senior Steve Rogers, O’Brien and Smith as corners.

Senior Louie Botti also could make an impact at receiver and defensive back.

The Knights won’t open against rival Penn-Trafford, which has become customary. Week Zero this season is against Upper St. Clair.

“It will be interesting not seeing P-T in the opener,” Brozeski said. “It will be an adjustment with some new teams, but our job is to have the kids ready to compete, and that is what we will do.”

Norwin

Coach: Dave Brozeski

2021 record: 4-6, 2-5 in Class 6A

All-time record: 395-588-36

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 Upper St. Clair, 7

9.2 at Penn Hills, 7

9.9 Fox Chapel, 7

9.16 Plum*, 7

9.23 Woodland Hills, 7

9.30 at Penn-Trafford*, 7:30

10.7 Franklin Regional*, 7

10.14 North Allegheny, 7

10.21 at Gateway*, 7

10.28 at Hempfield*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Luke Levendosky*

85-156, 1,090 yards, 8 TDs

Rushing: Levendosky*

120-522, 4 TDs

Receiving: Jackson Pons

33-457, 1 TD

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Rich Bowen, the former Hempfield head coach, is now the offensive coordinator for the Knights.

• Brozeski, who will coach linebackers and the defense, harkening him back to his coaching roots, begins his ninth season as head coach and 27th overall.

• Norwin’s three opponents before Big East play are Upper St. Clair, Penn Hills and Fox Chapel.

• The Knights need five wins to reach 400 all time.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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