Season of change brings challenges to Chartiers Valley football team

Sunday, November 20, 2022 | 11:01 AM

This was a season of change for the Chartiers Valley football program.

Following district realignment, an already tough Class 4A Parkway Conference became incredibly deep with the additions of defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Central Valley moving up and traditional 5A power West Allegheny moving down.

This added to a massive mix that already included the 4A defending district and state champion Aliquippa as well as perennial contenders Montour and Blackhawk.

Plus, the Colts had a new football coach for the first time in five years when Dan Knause left in the offseason to take over the Trinity program.

Overall it turned out to be a rough season for first-time coach Aaron Fitzpatrick.

“The season was complicated and adverse,” Fitzpatrick said. “We were looking for leaders often, and when some emerged, it was deep into conference play. Some good things came out of the season and some things were exploited. Now I get a true offseason with these boys to really build and develop the foundation of how I want this program to be.”

Chartiers Valley finished the season with a record of 2-8. However, the Colts did finish in sixth place in the Parkway Conference and missed out on a postseason berth by only one game.

“It was difficult, but this is what you want,” Fitzpatrick said of life in the Parkway. “I have a lot of respect toward those teams and what they do. We had things go our way and then next thing you know, we lose focus and mistakes happen that took us out of a few of those games.

“I am confident that in the years to come, Chartiers Valley will have the same respect as the other teams in our conference. It won’t be easy, as nothing is when you need to work for it and earn it. It adds to the fire that’s slowly burning amongst our athletes.”

On offense, the Colts were led by a pair of seniors.

Quarterback Gavin Owens threw for 1,217 yards and eight touchdowns while Penn State recruit Lamont Payne Jr. averaged 15.4 yards per catch with 524 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

“The legacy that (CV seniors) had left behind is helping to instill the mindset in our younger athletes to not just follow their footsteps, but to make bigger strides,” Fitzpatrick said. “The seniors were really big on creating relationships with the younger guys and making them feel welcome and a part of the team. I am very grateful for them.”

There is some talent among those younger guys that Fitzpatrick hopes to build with starting next fall.

“(Junior) Austin Efthimiades caught his stride offensively in the backfield and (sophomore) Nick Evangelista on the offensive line was one of the more consistent guys this year,” Fitzpatrick said. “Some true freshmen in Michael Lawrence and Justin Terhune stood out simply because of their attention to details and their understanding of the game already.”

One of the Colts’ two victories this season came in Week 9 against Ambridge in a battle for nothing but pride. On the road, Chartiers Valley outlasted the Bridgers to win a wild one, 43-39.

“That win was big,” Fitzpatrick said. “For those returning players, it’s given them a glimpse of the growth we have accumulated over the season. Regardless of record and battles lost, these boys came out stronger mentally and heard the overall message that progress takes time and can show in small pieces until the bigger picture is more noticeable. They’re just as excited to get back after it as we are.”

After a long, frustrating season, many coaches are looking forward to a break away from it all before preparation starts for the 2023 season. However, Fitzpatrick and his staff realize how important this offseason is for the players and the program.

“Having a true offseason and doing things the way I see fit to move us forward, we won’t be playing catch up,” Fitzpatrick said. “We will have January through May to lift, work on speed and football related drills and installs.”


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