TribLive HSSN Preseason Football All-Stars gather, excited for fresh faces

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Friday, July 15, 2022 | 9:16 PM


Armstrong quarterback Cadin Olsen is a three-year starter, but like many football players across the WPIAL, the senior has a little sense of unfamiliarity heading into the fall.

That’s because this is a realignment year, meaning new conferences, new schedules and some new opponents. That leads to more scouting, more film study and maybe more excitement.

“It’s definitely more work,” said Olsen, a recent Penn recruit. “For us this year, six of our 10 teams have brand new coaches. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. We’ll take it week by week and see how it plays out.”

North Catholic and Kiski Area joined Armstrong in the Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference, but the River Hawks also drew nonconference games with Aliquippa and New Castle, teams not on last year’s schedule.

“I think having these new teams does create a little more excitement,” Olsen said, “especially playing against new teams that you haven’t played. You’re playing against new kids as well. It will be cool to see.”

Olsen was among the Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Stars who took a break from summer workouts to be recognized Friday at Kennywood Park. The 25-person team included North Allegheny’s Tyree Alualu, Upper St. Clair’s Aidan Besselman, Gateway’s Brad Birch, McKeesport’s Bobbie Boyd, Beaver Falls’ Jaren Brickner, Steel Valley’s Cruce Brookins, Mt. Lebanon’s Kade Capristo, Penn Hills’ Julian Dugger, Penn-Trafford’s Joe Enick, Avonworth’s Peyton Faulkner, Washington’s Davoun Fuse, Laurel Highlands’ Rodney Gallagher, Central Catholic’s Pete Gonzalez and Anthony Speca, Aliquippa’s Tiqwai Hayes and Cameron Lindsey, Seneca Valley’s Luke Lawson, Leechburg’s Braylan Lovelace, Belle Vernon’s Quinton Martin, Thomas Jefferson’s Jordan Mayer, Sto-Rox’s Dre Miller-Ross, Chartiers Valley’s Lamont Payne, Brashear’s Ta’Mere Robinson and Central Valley’s Jayvin Thompson.

Heat acclimation week begins Aug. 8, so the unofficial start of camp is less than a month away. The first practices are Aug. 15, with scrimmages Aug. 20. So, as the summer stretches into July, there’s a growing sense of anticipation.

“At the start of the summer, everyone’s ready to start but not fully in football mode,” said Lovelace, a Leechburg senior and Pitt commit. “Now that we’re getting there, everybody is dialed in at practice every day. We’re really getting ready to go.”

Teams have had about six months to study their opponents. The WPIAL released updated conferences in January after a short delay to decide Aliquippa’s classification, a pause that tested some teams’ patience.

The WPIAL revises conferences every two years.

“We were waiting for it forever,” said Faulkner, an Avonworth senior. “With Quip possibly coming down to our conference, with it getting put on hold, we were definitely looking forward to it.”

The Antelopes didn’t get Aliquippa, but they will share a conference with West Mifflin, a newcomer to Class 3A.

But not everyone was waiting eagerly for the new alignment. Enick, a Penn-Trafford offensive lineman, said his Warriors would’ve played anyone. They’re the defending WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A champions.

“It doesn’t matter who we play against,” said Enick, a Central Michigan commit. “Playing ball is what we care about.”

But Enick was pleased to see Hempfield and Norwin join the conference. In recent years, Penn-Trafford was matched against those Westmoreland County teams in nonconference matchups.

Now, they’re conference games.

“It’s good to see those games matter now,” Enick said. “When they’re nonconference, it’s not that big of a deal. Now they’re conference games, so it will be different. ”

Not everyone ended up in an unfamiliar place. In Beaver County, two state champions with a strong rivalry share the same conference. Aliquippa and Central Valley have played often, most recently as nonconference foes.

Now, they’re in the same conference.

“I feel like it’s always meant something because they’re our rivals,” said Lindsey, an Aliquippa junior. “But now that we’re in the same conference, it means a lot more.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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