South Park ready to rebound with experienced group

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Sunday, August 18, 2019 | 9:39 PM


South Park football coach Marty Rieck isn’t one to make excuses for shortcomings, but the fact of the matter is that his team was young last season.

The Eagles had only four seniors a year ago and as a young team they went through trials and tribulations en route to a 2-7 record and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Now on the other side it, the Eagles have 10 seniors and nine returning starters on both sides of the ball who went through the growing pains and are hopeful to restore the tradition of South Park being a difficult team to play against every Friday night.

“The results of last season, I view the blame where it should be, which is ultimately on me,” said Rieck, who is entering his fifth season as head coach and 15th with the program. “In my assessment I don’t think I had those guys mentality prepared when it comes to convincing them that they could win the battle with themselves. And that what is basically comes down to.

”South Park football prides itself on the fact it’s not necessarily who we are playing — and we play a lot of great teams — but that it is our job is to not beat ourselves. We have a group of kids this year that believe that, and that’s the only way you have a chance.”

Quarterback Stephen Kmonk and running back Rudy Mihoces, who are both seniors, return after having solid seasons. Mihoces has been a starter in some capacity since his freshman year. He rushed for 631 yards and seven touchdowns. He also starts at linebacker on defense.

Kmonk threw for 761 yards and eight touchdown passes and only had four interceptions. He also has the ability to scramble and rushed for more than 200 yards.

“He did a lot of positive things last year and we have an immense amount of trust in Stephen,” Rieck said. “He’s a really balanced kid. He has great feet. He throws the ball extremely well, so we’re definitely excited about having him back with a year under his belt.”

Mihoces and Kmonk will benefit from having an experienced offensive line. Seniors Jon Backburn, Jason Benevento and Dylan Stokes and juniors Vincent DiPaolo and Eli Podgorski all return on the line. They also make up the defensive line.

Kmonk also has some returning weapons at receiver in Nick Schnepp and Mason Kasprack and tight end Brandon Thomas.

Last year’s leading tackler, Nathan May also returns. He had 57.5 tackles last year at linebacker.

All that experience will be used to combat the ever-difficult Class 3A Tri-County West Conference that houses the last three state champions: Aliquippa (2018), Quaker Valley (2017) and Beaver Falls (2016).

Central Valley, Keystone Oaks, who finished 6-4 last year, but missed the playoffs, Hopewell and Waynesburg are also in the conference.

Last year was the first year South Park was paired with the tough Beaver County teams in conference play and for Rieck it was as tough as he expected it was going to be.

“Every conference game is a playoff game,” Rieck said. “We can’t look forward. We’re in a position where we just have to take it one at a time. We have to keep our focus on the next opponent and nothing else.”

Given its recent history, sans last season, and the large group of returners, South Park expects to be competitive this fall. They want wash away bad taste of last season and replace it with memories similar to what they had in 2016 and ’17.

“The kids who were seniors this year were around for the 2017 team where we split a share of the conference, so they know what it takes to get there,” Rieck said. “Their goal is to get back there. Sometimes, you have to hit the bottom before you hit the top. The end result of last season has certainly been a motivator.”

Schedule

Coach: Marty Rieck

2018 record: 2-7, 2-5

All-time record: 395-348-27

Date, Opponent, Time

8.30, at Beaver Falls*, 7

9.6, Derry, 7

9.13, at Keystone Oaks*, 7

9.20, at Waynesburg*, 7

9.27, New Castle, 7

10.4, Hopewell*, 7

10.11, at Aliquippa*, 7

10.18, at Central Valley*, 7

10.25, Quaker Valley*, 7

*Class 3A Tri-County West Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Stephen Kmonk

52-111, 702 yards, 8 TDs

Receiving: Brandon Golbach*

16-368 yards, 6 TDs

Rushing: Rudy Mihoces

164-647 yards, 9 TDs

*Graduated

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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