Uniontown ready to right the ship after return to football field

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Wednesday, September 9, 2020 | 10:22 PM


When the Uniontown Area School District voted to cancel football and soccer seasons this fall back on Aug. 4 because of the fear of the coronavirus, football coach Cedric Lloyd accepted the decision.

But athletes and parents did not and they wanted the district to reconsider. The district did last last month to the delight of Lloyd, players, parents and fans.

Many thought missing an entire football season would cripple the struggling program for years.

Uniontown owns a 32-game losing streak and is 3-55 over the past six seasons.

The last victory came Oct. 14, 2016, when the Red Raiders defeated crosstown rival Laurel Highlands, 27-10.

The last time Uniontown had a winning season was in 2009 when it went 7-4 and defeated Belle Vernon, 21-20, in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

But Lloyd, who is beginning his fourth season as coach, isn’t worried about the past. His focus is on the future and trying to right the ship.

He’ll be doing it with a young group. There are 22 freshmen and sophomores on the 34-player roster.

“I see the excitement and dedication in the players since the board made the decision (last month),” Lloyd said. “The key is giving these players experience and the opportunity to showcase their talents.”

Uniontown, which is scheduled to open the season Sept. 25 at Ringgold, returns four starters on offense and four on defense.

Back are sophomore quarterback CJ Soltis, sophomore wide receiver Devin George, junior lineman Christian Perkins and junior lineman Zach Clark.

The defensive starters back are Perkins on the line, George at safety, senior inside linebacker Dakota Burkholder and sophomore inside linebacker Braxton Swaney.

Soltis is back after splitting time with Torry Robinson. Lloyd is eager to see how Soltis runs the offense in his second season.

“Basically, I want to see improvement every game,” Lloyd said. “I want him to get better and be better at running the offense and leading his teammates.”

George should be one of his top targets because they’ve played together since middle school.

Burkholder, who played wide receiver, will move to the running back spot along with two freshmen.

Senior wide receiver Josh Curry returns after missing the 2019 season with a basketball injury.

Also expected to see a lot of action is senior running back/linebacker Blade Witt.

“Josh could be a difference maker,” Lloyd said. “We’re excited that he’s back.”

Lloyd said since the original decision was announced, he stayed in contact with the players. He said a lot of them worked out on their own and the plan once the students returned to building was to get them in the weight room.

“We’re just happy that they are getting an opportunity to play,” Lloyd said.

Uniontown will play an independent schedule rather than competing in its WPIAL-assigned Big Eight Conference, but it has kept scheduled games with some of the teams.

“The schedule is a work in progress,” Lloyd said.

Schedule

Coach: Cedric Lloyd

2019 record: 0-10, 0-8 in Class 3A Big East

All-time record: 485-293-12

Date, Opponent, Time

9.25, at Ringgold, 7

10.2, Thomas Jefferson, 7

10.9, at Albert Gallatin, 7

10.16, at West Mifflin, 7

10.23, at Belle Vernon, 7

*Playing independent schedule

Fast facts

• Uniontown has won two WPIAL championships. The Red Raiders defeated Butler, 14-7, in 1965. They also were awarded the title in 1962. The 1965 team also was awarded a state championship.

• The Red Raiders have won seven conference titles, the last being the Keystone Conference crown in 2001.

• Since 2010, Uniontown’s record is 13-81. The last winning season was in 2009 when it went 7-4 and won its second playoff game, 21-20, against Belle Vernon.

• Uniontown has had 10 former players play in the NFL. That list includes Tory Epps (1990-95), Chuck Muncie (1976-84), Nelson Munsey (1972-77), Tom Hull (1974-75) and Harry Clarke (1940-48).

• Former Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render, the winningest coach in WPIAL history, spent seven seasons as head coach at Uniontown (1972-78), where he compiled a 43-28-3 record. The Red Raiders won the Western Conference in his final season and finished second to Upper St. Clair in 1975 with a 9-1 record, Render’s best at the school.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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