South Park looks to regain winning ways after tough season

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Tuesday, August 16, 2022 | 12:01 PM


South Park enters the new season in rebound mode.

After splitting their first four games in 2021, the Eagles lost their final five contests by a combined score of 171-27, keeping them out of the WPIAL postseason for the first time since 2018.

“I commend our kids for doing the best that they could with such a small window of preparation time, being that we were not permitted to work out as a team until the first week of July,” South Park coach Marty Reick said. “The record is not a true reflection of our program or of the kids that take such pride in wearing the uniform. We had a multitude of young kids willing to step onto the varsity field and learn on the fly, and those young men are now a year older, a year wiser, and a year stronger.”

The team returns 13 starters total from a year ago, including six on offense.

Leading the way once again will be the team’s top passer the last two seasons in senior Harper Conroy.

Conroy led the Eagles in passing as a sophomore with 936 yards. He again led South Park last fall, although injuries limited him to 481 yards passing in only seven games.

“Our expectation for Harper is that he goes out and simply enjoys playing the game of football,” Rieck said. “The kid has a full arsenal of weapons at his disposal, and I want to see him use them all. He will be given first shot at being under center for us. What I expect of him, as I expect of all the other players, is to leave everything he has on the field and enjoy the process of learning and growing. If he can do that, and I firmly believe that he will, the sky is the limit.”

One of the top weapons for the Eagles in the passing game is senior wide receiver/defensive back Jack Sudduth, whom Rieck calls very versatile. Sudduth averaged 8.5 yard per catch, 3.0 yards per carry and even saw time at quarterback last year.

“We are definitely hungry,” Sudduth said. “There’s a lot that we want. We have big goals, and everyone is eager to work toward accomplishing them as a team.”

The South Park running attack will center on senior Sean Saunders and sophomore Eric Doerue, who as a freshman last fall was second on the team in rushing and had 47 tackles, including eight tackles for a loss, from his linebacker spot.

A pair of seniors will help the Eagles in the trenches. At 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, Sean Morrison will be a force on both the offensive and defensive lines while Broden Urquhart (6-2, 190) will help on the O-line and lead the linebackers on defense.

Every high school football camp is filled with excitement in August; however, Rieck realized the pain suffered from a tough season a year ago could set the stage for something special this upcoming season.

“I’m excited about watching a hungry group go out and prove their worth,” he said. “The kids are so eager and receptive to pushing through their comfort zones. Leadership is emerging and manifesting itself at all levels. Last year, our ranks were full of underclassmen that saw significant varsity time. They now know what to expect and what it takes to compete and win.

“I am blessed beyond measure to be able to go to work every day with the coaching staff and players that make up our program. The seniors on this team were freshman when we last played in the semifinals. I’m excited to see this group leave their mark.”

The offseason work ethic and desire has everybody wearing blue and white pumped for the new season.

“My teammates show up day after day, pushing themselves towards our overall goal,” Sudduth said. “We have guys that are driven and that have a lot of heart, which the team is very thankful for.”

South Park was affected by the realignment of conferences by the WPIAL. The Eagles move from the Interstate Conference in Class 3A to the Western Hills Conference, joining Avonworth, Beaver, Hopewell, Quaker Valley, Seton LaSalle and West Mifflin.

“For us, the new conference puts a couple historical rivals back on the schedule and puts us in play with four teams geographically north of us, which is reminiscent of the cycle a few years back that had us in conference play in the Beaver Valley,” Rieck said. “(Class) 3A is full of heavy hitters, some of whom have been in the classification for a while and a few that recently dropped down from 4A. We are fully aware that we will be facing quality competition each and every week of the season. We know where we want to end up and we are fully invested in the journey to get there.”

South Park

Coach: Marty Rieck

2021 record: 2-4, 2-7 in Class 3A Interstate Conference

All-time record: 406-365-27

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.26 at East Allegheny, 7

9.2 at Keystone Oaks, 7

9.9 Brentwood, 7

9.16 Beaver*, 7

9.23 at Avonworth*, 7

9.30 Seton LaSalle*, 7

10.7 at Quaker Valley*, 7

10.14 Hopewell*, 7

10.21 at McGuffey, 7

10.28 at West Mifflin*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Harper Conroy

41-93, 481 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing: Adam Johnson*

86-326, 7 TDs

Receiving: Jack Ferency*

11-118, 2 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Marty Rieck begins his eighth season as head coach at his alma mater, South Park.

• The Eagles have qualified for the WPIAL playoffs in four of the seven years under Rieck.

• This is the 25th anniversary of South Park’s first WPIAL and PIAA football championships. The Eagles won the Century Conference, defeated Laurel and Center in the first two rounds of the district playoffs before rolling past Shady Side Academy, 38-6, in the WPIAL AA finals. Coach Tom Loughran’s team beat Wilmington in the state semifinals before shutting out South Williamsport in the 1997 PIAA AA title game, 20-0. The Eagles also won a WPIAL football championship in 2005.

• This is the 86th season of South Park football, including preceding schools in the district.

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