Trib HSSN football player of the week for 2023 Week Zero

Monday, August 28, 2023 | 10:13 PM

When it comes to high school football in August and early September, conditioning is huge. Many times it comes down to a battle of attrition as youngsters work their way into “football shape.”

So it was hard to figure out what was more impressive in Week Zero, the total yards gained or the amount of carries on opening night for South Allegheny sophomore Cameron Epps.

Epps carried the ball 26 times on a warm night in Glassport, rushing for 226 yards — an average of more than 8.5 yards a carry — in a victory over Yough

“I was most impressed with Cameron’s ability to carry the ball 25 times,” new South Allegheny head coach Brian Hanson said. “He’s not the biggest guy, but his offseason training allows him to excel on the field. He does what we require, but he also spends a significant amount of time training with Shelby Harris and it shows on the field.”

Hanson took over at South Allegheny after a successful run as coach at West Greene, where he always seemed to have a stud running back.

“At West Greene, we had Ben Jackson and Colin Brady,” Hanson said. “Both of them were really fun to coach. Epps is more like Jackson in the sense that he never comes off the field. He is extremely efficient with the ball in his hands. What I mean by that is Epps can accelerate and decelerate without taking extra steps. He plays the game full speed because of this.

“Like Jackson, he has that rare trait that he can play full speed and be in total control of his body. Epps is extremely versatile, too. He can line up at receiver and create some nice matchup problems as well.”

After Yough took an early lead, Epps said he could feel some of the wind coming out of the Gladiators’ balloon. However the young running back pumped life back into SA when he scored on a 6-yard run to pull the Gladiators to within a point.

A 42-yard scoring run in the second quarter by Epps put the Gladiators up for good, with an 8-yard touchdown run in the third quarter helping to seal 28-14 win.

Cam is now trying to make a name for himself as the Epps family tree of success at South Allegheny continues to grow.

Older brother Antoine Epps played football and basketball at SA and is now playing football at Duquesne. Big brother Bryce Epps is a freshman basketball player at La Roche after becoming the Gladiators all-time leading scorer.

The South Allegheny victory in Week Zero matches its win total from of last season, so there is early season excitement thanks to Epps and his teammates.

“The team played well considering that it was the first game of the season under a new regime and having five potential starters out for the game,” Hanson said. “I thought the team showed a ton of grit and toughed out some stressful situations. At several points in the game, we had five freshmen playing.

“This was the first home win at our new stadium, so seeing the smiles and attitudes was gratifying. We have a long way to go, but I think if we just focus on improving and being great teammates, we have a chance to really build something.”

Week Zero honorable mention

Payton Wehner, Central Catholic

On a team loaded with talent, senior quarterback Payton Wehner often gets lost in the shuffle. With new coach Ryan Lehmeier calling the shots, Wehner was near perfect in the season opener at Woodland Hills, connecting on 17 of 19 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns on passes of 9, 68, 54, 46 and 6 yards to Peter Gonzalez (2), Vernon Settles (2) and Jacob Sassic as the Vikings cruised past the Wolverines, 43-7.

Jack Fennell, North Catholic

An opening night football game turned into a game of Rock ‘em, Sock ’em Robots as the offenses from North Catholic and Serra Catholic kept landing haymakers, turning into the highest scoring contest in the WPIAL in Week Zero. Trojans senior running back Jack Fennell rushed for 171 yards and scored on runs of 56, 62 and 1 yard, plus the icing on the cake: a 39-yard pick-6 in the fourth quarter to seal a wild win over the Eagles, 49-42.

Eric Doerue, South Park

Because of storm damage and a power outage the night before, South Park thought it might have to postpone its scheduled Week Zero game against East Allegheny. The EA school district offered to host the game Friday afternoon, and South Park hopped on the bus and headed east. No truth to the rumor junior running back Eric Doerue drove one of the buses after leading the way on the field with 183 yards rushing and an opening score 2-yard run as the Eagles edged the Wildcats, 22-16.

2022 HSSN Players of the Week:

Week 11 – Braylon Thomas, Union

Week 10 – Matt Sieg, Fort Cherry

Week 9 – Jonny Huff, Neshannock

Week 8 – Cadin Olsen, Armstrong

Week 7 – Roman Sarnic, Franklin Regional

Week 6 – Landan Stevenson, Mapletown

Week 5 – Jake Wolfe, Montour

Week 4 – Jaren Brickner, Beaver Falls

Week 3 – Jake Phillips, Hempfield

Week 2 – Luke Cignetti, Shaler

Week 1 – Cruce Brookins, Steel Valley

Week Zero – Conlan Greene, Penn-Trafford


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