Pytlak grows into 2-way talent for Yough football

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Thursday, August 22, 2019 | 6:17 PM


Russell Pytlak has been a work-in-progress type of player for coach Scott Wood and his staff at Yough.

Not that he needed much grooming. Pytlak’s talents were evident at an early age. If and when he caught up to his body, he’d be a handful for opponents.

A player brimming with potential and seething for the chance to shine, Pytlak will get an ample chance in his final season in Cougars’ orange and black.

“From his freshman year until now, he has filled into his body and he has more strength to go with his size,” Wood said. “He is a college-level kid who I think could play defensive end at a higher level. The potential is there.”

Pytlak, who at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds — 70 pounds heavier than when he started playing varsity football — is one of Yough’s largest players. His two-way role will be just as substantial as his roster specs.

A fourth-year starter — he saw time late in his freshmen season at linebacker — Pytlak will remain at defensive end, where he’s been playing since 10th grade. But the plan is for him to be less of a blocker and more of a pass-catcher on the offensive side for the Cougars, who will look quite different with the graduation of 5,000-yard career rusher Dustin Shoaf, who is now at Mercyhurst.

Wood hopes to spread the ball around, with sophomore quarterback Tristan Waldier operating as a pass and run threat. Pytlak will be a primary target, be it through the air or tucking in handoffs.

Pytlak’s new role will be as an H-back, where he can line up in a number of places and get touches. Wood thinks Pytlak is a hand-in-glove fit for the position.

He moved from tight end, a position he still could play.

“I am looking forward to playing there,” Pytlak said. “I want to be in the backfield, be in the slot, all over.”

Pytlak can be explosive off the edge with a 4.6-second 40-yard dash time. Last year, he had 17 tackles for losses.

“Russell does his talking with his pads,” Wood said. “He’s a quiet young man but he shows you with his play. He doesn’t chirp; he just plays. He is great to have around. He is a 4.0 (grade-point average) kid and he comes into the weight room and does his work. He doesn’t complain.”

Seniors are expected to provide steady leadership and Pytlak is ready to assume that role as well.

“I am one of only four seniors and we have a young team,” Pytlak said. “Those guys know they can count on me. I will be there to push them and make sure we’re doing our best.”

As for his college endeavors, Pytlak said he has a Division II offer from Seton Hill, and Wood said there is interest from several other PSAC schools. Some lower-level Division I schools also have inquired.

That he wants to major in physical therapy is no shocker: Pytlak tore his labrum as a freshman and went through therapy to return to game form.

“I want to do it because I went through it,” he said.

Yough is aiming to finally break through and make the postseason again. The last trip was in 2013.

Dissuading the doubters has been on Wood’s bucket list since he started coaching his alma mater.

“I think we’ll still be looked at as an underdog,” said Pytlak, whose father, Jeff, played football at Greensburg Central Catholic. “But I think maybe we can win five or six games and maybe get into the playoffs.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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