Offense gets facelift for defending WPIAL champion Beaver Falls

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Saturday, August 21, 2021 | 6:01 AM


If he wanted to, Beaver Falls coach Nick Nardone could have written his offensive game plan on a matchbook cover last season.

Plan A: Hand the ball to 240-pound Syracuse recruit Josh Hough or 250-pound Edinboro recruit Shileak Livingston.

There was rarely need for a Plan B.

Add in Tyler Jones, and the Tigers had a trio of senior backs who combined for nearly 3,400 yards and 54 touchdowns on the ground.

“When I knew we only had to throw five passes a game, that’s any coach’s dream, in my opinion,” Nardone said. “And really, we threw those passes at the end of halves or the end of games.

“We were lucky to have those three backs last year that, at any given moment, could take one of those 4- or 5-yard gains that we’d been getting and turn them into 40 or 50 and score a touchdown. It was a blessing.”

For the rest of the WPIAL Class 2A field, it was a curse.

The Tigers rolled through their Midwestern Athletic Conference schedule and WPIAL playoff bracket undefeated, failing to score more than 40 points in a game only once.

It was a wildly successful season, but it ended with a 20-18 loss to Wilmington in the first round of the state playoffs.

Nine months later, it’s a loss that still stings in the Beaver Falls locker room.

“We’re still very excited and proud that we were able to win a WPIAL title and be as dominant as we were able to be and all the accolades our kids were awarded with, all-state players, all-conference players, but at the end, we always want to stay hungry and have that attitude that we want more,” Nardone said.

As the Tigers reload for another run, it’s clear that their offense will look dramatically different this season.

“I’m one of those believers in building your offense and your defense around the players you have,” Nardone said. “I can tell you we will not look like the Beaver Falls of last year this year. I don’t want to give away everything we’re changing and doing, but we will definitely have some differences.

“Don’t get me wrong. We still have a lot of confidence in our backs and a lot of confidence in our line. We think we can still be a power run team in certain instances, but we’re really excited about returning skill at the wide out position, our tight end, our quarterback.”

Senior quarterback Jaren Brickner, who is in his third year as a starter, threw for 1,000 yards last season even with limited attempts.

His receiving corps looks especially dangerous, led by Quadir Thomas, Trey Singleton and Mekhi Clark.

“Those three guys are the reason we’ll be different,” Nardone said. “Not because we have to be different, but because those three guys have put the time in and are athletic and can do special things.”

Seniors Anthony Cousar and Tyler Cain and junior Connor Paolucci return to anchor the offensive line.

Thomas, Singleton, Clark and De’Sean Anderson will man the defensive backfield, which Nardone called the unit’s backbone. Cain is a leader from his middle linebacker spot, and Kamari Mathews will return on the defensive line.

“We asked a lot of them last year and we’re going to ask a lot of them this year,” Nardone said. “We’re excited with the fact that we have so many guys coming back.”

Beaver Falls

Coach: Nick Nardone

2019 record: 10-1, 7-0 in Class 2A MAC

All-time record: 676-415-52

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.27, Blackhawk, 7

9.3, Aliquippa, 7

9.10, at OLSH, 7

9.17, at Laurel*, 7

9.24, Ellwood City*, 7

10.1, at New Brighton*, 7

10.8, Mohawk*, 7

10.15, Freedom*, 7

10.22, at Neshannock*, 7

10.29, Riverside*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Jaren Brickner

44-113, 1,053 yards, 6 TDs, 6 INTs

Receiving: Trey Singleton

13-450, 3 TDs

Rushing: Josh Hough*

125-2,051, 29 TDs

FAST FACTS

• With nonconference games back on the schedule after a one-year hiatus due to pandemic-related changes, circle Sept. 3 on the calendar. Beaver Falls hosts Aliquippa. Coach Nick Nardone said the Tigers fared well in a scrimmage against the Quips last season, which gave the team confidence it carried into the regular season.

• With 186 boys in grades 10-12, Beaver Falls is the second-largest Class 2A football school in the WPIAL. McGuffey (190) is the largest.

• After winning the school’s fourth WPIAL championship in 2016, the Tigers followed it up with their fifth last year. There was a much longer wait between the three previous titles in school history (1928, 1960, 1984).

• Beaver Falls was fourth in the WPIAL in points scored in the regular season last year (361), trailing Central Valley (412), Clairton (379) and Aliquippa (372).

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at jbombulie@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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