Shenango to lean on versatile Reis Watkins in move to Big Seven

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020 | 11:21 PM


The plan was always to get the ball in Reis Watkins’ hands.

He’ll just get it a little sooner than expected now.

The Shenango senior ran for 1,269 yards and 13 touchdowns as the team’s feature running back a year ago.

He will start this season taking snaps at quarterback while junior Tino Campoli recovers from an offseason injury that will likely sideline him until midseason.

“He’s a very versatile player. We can put him anywhere and he’ll do well for us,” coach Jimmy Graham said.

“He has a really good arm, good decision making, big kid (6-foot-3, 225 pounds), very athletic, a lot of upside for him at the next level. He’s definitely someone who will contribute to whatever school he decides on. He’s definitely the catalyst on offense.”

Watkins played quarterback since fifth grade but moved further into the backfield last season to help balance the offense. Campoli threw for 1,612 yards and 13 touchdowns to help the Wildcats finish 6-4 overall. They were 3-4 in the Class 2A Midwestern and fell short of a playoff berth.

Moving back under center only adds to Watkins’ role as a leader for the Wildcats.

“No matter the situation, I have to stay positive,” Watkins said. “If I get down, the team will get down.”

He will have a couple of experienced targets to throw to in junior Adam Bryant, a third-year starter at wide receiver, and sophomore running back/receiver Aaron Martin, as well as talented sophomore CJ Miller.

The offensive line also will be a strength behind three returning starters — senior Alex Suber and juniors Colton Ferrucci and Trevor Valenti. Juniors Jason Domenick and Brandon Stuck are expected to step into starting roles on the line as well.

Many of the same players will be found on the defensive side of the ball.

Watkins, Bryant, Martin and junior Will Patton lead the linebacker group, and Miller returns to the defensive backfield.

Senior Aiden Johnston returns to handle the kicking duties.

“That’s where our strong point will be, defensively,” Graham said. “We’re physically bigger and stronger than we were last year. That’s one positive thing of covid. These kids have really been hitting the weight room.”

Through PIAA realignment, Shenango dropped down from the Class 2A MAC to the Class A Big Seven this season and will face Burgettstown, Cornell, Fort Cherry, Northgate, OLSH, Rochester and Union.

It’s a welcomed change for the Wildcats, who went 1-9 in 2018 while playing against some of the biggest Class 2A teams in the area. Graham expects to be more competitive and physical against schools closer to the same enrollment size.

“We have a lot of new opponents we don’t know much about, they don’t know us,” said Graham, who is entering his third season at Shenango.

“Single-A is very competitive, just like Double-A. Double-A was a gantlet week in and week out. I don’t expect any different going to Single-A. What we try to do is play fundamentally sound in all three aspects of football. Usually, if we do that and don’t beat ourselves, we’re in most of the games.”

Watkins also is excited for the new conference opponents but knows nothing will come easy.

“We’ve been talking about winning the section and making a run in the WPIAL,” he said. “We’re going to be playing in a tough conference. (Rochester), OLSH and Burgettstown will be tough to beat, but I’m looking forward to playing them.”

Schedule

Coach: Jimmy Graham

2019 record: 6-4, 3-4 in Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference

All-time record: 413-360-38

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, Union*, 7

9.18, Fort Cherry*, 7

9.25, at Cornell*, 7

10.2, Burgettstown*, 7

10.9, at Northgate*, 7

10.16, OLSH*, 7

10.23, at Rochester*, 7

*Big Seven Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Tino Campoli

111-189, 1,612 yards, 13 TDs

Receiving: Jason Kraner*

40-770 yards, 8 TDs

Rushing: Reis Watkins

168-1,269 yards, 13 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• In addition to Campoli, sophomore Shawn Gould also could see time at quarterback as the season progresses.

• The Wildcats enter the season with six seniors on the roster – Watkins, Johnston, tight end/linebacker Ryan Lenhart, receiver/defensive back Andrew Paiano, receiver/defensive back Ramirez Williams and Suber.

• Shenango won three straight games midseason in 2019 but narrow losses to New Brighton (33-28) and Neshannock (13-7) dropped the Wildcats to sixth in the MAC.

• Watkins threw two passes last season, completing both for 63 yards and a score.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.

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