Shaler football battling through one of WPIAL’s toughest schedules

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Sunday, September 27, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Don’t waste time looking for a spot where the Shaler Area football program can take a breath.

The Titans schedule doesn’t allow for it.

All seven of Shaler’s opponents qualified for the WPIAL playoffs last season in various classes. In the first two weeks, North Hills and West Allegheny beat the Titans by a combined score of 75-15. Shaler then was rewarded with a trip to perennial playoff participant Penn-Trafford.

Sophomore safety Luke Cignetti and his teammates aren’t seeking sympathy.

“Obviously, by the looks of it, we were given a hard schedule,” said Cignetti, who intercepted two passes against West Allegheny. “That puts a challenge on us. Being 0-2 isn’t how we wanted to start the year, but the past is in the past. We need to worry about the future.”

Part of this season was always going to be about the future for Shaler (0-2, 0-1 Northeast Conference). The Titans only returned four starters on each side of the ball from a squad that finished 4-7 and made the playoffs last year.

Junior Josh Miller, who took over as the starting running back, piled up 95 yards against North Hills and 116 against West Allegheny.

“It’s new to all of us,” Miller said. “We lost a lot of seniors, and it hasn’t been the same. The team is doing well. We’re just young on offense and defense. We’ve been managing it well so far.”

Shaler’s positive attitude has been a strength for the Titans. Coach James Ryan feels the young team has taken its bumps in stride.

“We have a wonderful group of young men,” Ryan said. “They understand the attitude you need to win. Despite the adversity we faced already, we’ve never seen any quit. They get it.”

Staying positive is something Miller takes seriously.

The upperclassmen want to set the right example.

“We always have the mindset that we can beat our opponents and give max effort during practice,” Miller said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a walk-through day or conditioning, we have the leaders to make sure we are doing well and giving effort.”

Even with matchups with Penn Hills, Pine-Richland and other strong programs looming, Cignetti isn’t looking for an easy exit.

Shaler is ready to meet the challenges full bore.

“The goal is to make the playoffs,” Cignetti said. “We need to stay in good spirits. … The last is the past, and we don’t want to look too far in the future.”

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