Putting pressure on defenses, South Side in position for another playoff season

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Tuesday, September 1, 2020 | 10:38 PM


At this time of year, most high school football coaches will profess a desire to get the ball into the hands of a variety of players.

South Side’s Luke Travelpiece actually means it.

Last season, the Rams had four players with at least 650 yards from scrimmage, but no one with more than 800.

It’s the kind of democratic approach that the Wing-T offense promotes.

“When your quarterback is willing to run and you can make it a four-back attack and you can get it out to your split end – and we’ve been very blessed over the last number of years to have very good wide receivers that demand attention – you can put the defense on its heels and make them defend the entire field,” Travelpiece said. “That’s obviously an advantage to the offense.

“I know every offense, they think they’re doing the same thing. If you talk to the spread guys, they’ll tell you they’re spreading you out and forcing you to defend the whole field. This is just the way that we do it.”

The Rams will have to replace their top two rushers from last season, Dominic Marino and Anthony Navarra, who combined for 1,455 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, as well as top receiver Trenton Seik. They have plenty of candidates to fill the roles.

Start with Andrew Moots, a hard-nosed runner who amassed 653 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore last season without touching the ball much before Week 5.

Add in Alex Arrigo, who started and scored in last year’s season opener against eventual WPIAL finalist Sto-Rox as a freshman before sitting in a single high school class. He broke his collarbone in Week 1 and missed the rest of the season.

Another freshman in the starting lineup in last year’s opener, Parker Statler, contributed 200 rushing yards on an average of 10 per carry last season. Junior Donnie Jodikinos also returns.

The group of young ball carriers will run behind an experienced offensive line with at least four starters returning. Senior Devin Ross, a first-team all-conference pick last season, will lead the way. Seniors Caleb Kress, Chase Daniels and Ashton Statler are also back.

Perhaps most importantly, the Rams can lean on a veteran quarterback in senior Aden Almashy. He threw for 924 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

“He really grew and developed,” Travelpiece said. “When you can have that leadership back, that’s very big.”

The Rams will be looking to make the playoffs for the third straight year and the sixth time in the last seven seasons.

“It’s great to have a program where you’re coming into the season and you’re anticipating making the playoffs and getting there and having something to work for,” Travelpiece said. “You do this sport and you put the time in in the offseason because you’re competitive. If you didn’t have that to aim for and you didn’t have the trust in yourself that you’re going to be there and you’re playing for something – we want to put our year up on the trophy case – it’s a little harder to get excited.”

The Three Rivers Conference welcomes in Sto-Rox, which is bumping up from Class A, and Western Beaver, which is coming off a 7-3 season in the Midwestern Athletic Conference. Travelpiece expects a six-team battle royal.

“Every team in our section right now feels like they have a shot at the section,” he said, “and that’s what makes this so fun.”

Schedule

Coach: Luke Travelpiece

2019 record: 5-6, 4-3 in Class 2A Three River Conference

All-time record: 268-318-19

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, Western Beaver*, 7

9.25, Avonworth, 7

10.2, at Sto-Rox*, 7

10.9, Carlynton*, 7

10.16, at Brentwood*, 7

10.24, at Seton LaSalle*, 7

*Class 2A Three Rivers Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Aden Almashy

69-148, 924 yards, 8 TDs

Rushing: Dominic Marino*

140-760 yards, 6 TDs

Receiving: Trenton Seik*

45-640 yards, 5 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• South Side is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first WPIAL championship, a 20-12 victory over Chartiers-Houston for the Class A title in 1970. South Side also won a WPIAL championship in 1999 and played in the finals in 1991 and 2018.

• While teams across Class 2A were celebrating the promotion of WPIAL champion Avonworth to Class 3A, South Side didn’t join them. The Rams will play the Antelopes anyway with the teams squaring off in a nonconference game Sept. 25.

• While the rest of the Class 2A Three Rivers Conference will be welcoming WPIAL Class A runner-up Sto-Rox to the schedule, South Side is used to it. The Rams have faced the Vikings in nonconference games each of the last two seasons, splitting the pair of matchups.

• The key to South Side making the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven seasons last year was a Week 6 victory over South Allegheny. Andrew Moots ran for 183 yards and three touchdowns and the Rams broke open a 21-21 game at halftime to win, 41-28. South Side finished 4-3 in the Three Rivers Conference. South Allegheny finished 3-4.

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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