South Side’s first priority for 2021: Stay healthy
Saturday, August 21, 2021 | 6:01 AM
South Side coach Luke Travelpiece has turned into a big believer in the law of averages.
After the way last season went, his team’s injury luck has to even out, doesn’t it?
Thanks to some season-ending injuries, some week-to-week injuries and covid testing, the Rams started six offensive line combinations in a seven-game season. When the same five linemen who started Game 6 were set to start Game 7, the backfield was hit by injuries.
“It was ridiculous the way it went,” Travelpiece said.
The lack of continuity in the lineup introduced some serious challenges to an otherwise promising season.
Led by Three Rivers Conference lineman of the year Caleb Kress, captain Devin Ross and talented quarterback Aden Almashy, the Rams had an outstanding senior class. Travelpiece compared it to the Class of 2018, which went 7-3 and finished second in the conference as seniors.
But the Rams ended up going 3-4, 3-2 in conference. All four losses were the kind of games where an injury or two might have made the difference. All four were one-score games, including a road game against conference champ and WPIAL finalist Sto-Rox.
“It is frustrating when it’s another close one,” Travelpiece said. “On one hand, you know you’re right there and have a pretty solid team. On the other hand, it’s just a kick again and again and again.”
Frustration aside, Travelpiece had no complaints about the effort his players gave during a trying season.
“The kids fought through adversity,” he said. “To have that many injuries and everything we were doing, they fought through adversity extremely well. We were proud of the way they did that.”
The upside of the injury plagued season is that the Rams now have an abundance of returning players with starting experience. Eight players on offense and nine on defense started at least two games last year.
The Rams have multiple ball-carrying options in their Wing-T offense, led by seniors Cam Knox and Donnie Jodikinos and juniors Alex Arrigo and Parker Statler.
Senior right tackle Hunter Fritz was the only offensive lineman to start all seven games last year. He’s joined by returning starters Rocco Barr and Evan Whitehall. Shane Hankey is a returning starter at linebacker.
Junior Logan Smith and sophomore Brody Almashy, Aden’s brother, were competing for the starting quarterback job in camp. Whoever isn’t under center will be at split end.
“They both do some different things well,” Travelpiece said. “They both fit our offense, which is huge. Stylistically, we’re able to execute what we want to.”
After pandemic schedule changes wiped out most nonconference games last season, the Rams will play five games before their Three Rivers schedule starts this year.
This should be cause for optimism for Travelpiece. After all, it will allow his young team time to find its footing before the playoff chase begins.
“It’s good that it gives us the opportunity to jell and do all those things,” he said.
But thanks to the way last year went, Travelpiece can’t help but wonder when a dark cloud is about to roll in.
“We’re a small Double-A, almost a Single-A team. If we get hit with injuries again this year like we did last year, we’re going to be decimated by the time we get into our conference games,” he said. “We have to make sure we stay healthy, and that’s going to be a big thing for us.
“Hopefully last year makes up for this year in a sense.”
Coach: Luke Travelpiece
2020 record: 3-4, 3-2 in Class 2A Three Rivers Conference
All-time record: 271-322-19
Date, Opponent, Time
8.27 at Freedom, 7:30
9.3 Neshannock, 7
9.10 at New Brighton, 7
9.17 Carrick, 7
9.24 at Avonworth, 7
10.1 Sto-Rox*, 7
10.8 at Carlynton*, 7
10.15 Brentwood*, 7
10.22 Seton LaSalle*, 7
10.30 at Western Beaver*, 12:30
Passing: Aden Almashy*
23-48, 229 yards
Receiving: Alex Arrigo
63-379, 11 TDs
• South Side was one of three WPIAL teams last year with a losing overall record (3-4) but a positive points differential (plus-16). The others were West Allegheny (3-4, plus-18) and Trinity (3-4, plus-12).
• The Rams reached that point differential thanks in large part to their defense. They led the Three Rivers Conference and were fifth among WPIAL Class 2A teams in points allowed with 123.
• Thirty years ago, South Side reached the WPIAL Class A finals, losing 20-7 to Rochester. South Side has reached the WPIAL championship game four times, winning twice (1970, 1999).
• South Side will open with three nonconference games against Midwestern Athletic Conference opponents — Freedom, Neshannock and New Brighton.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
Tags: South Side
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