Uptick in numbers helps Bentworth’s confidence

Saturday, August 29, 2020 | 10:00 PM

J.J. Knabb, a teacher at Bentworth who doubles as the football coach, took over lunch duty last year so he could get the word out about his team’s sparse roster.

If there were football players camouflaged into the student body, his goal was to find them.

“It gave me a chance to talk to the kids every day,” Knabb said. “I had to work the halls. There were jokes about us using garbage cans as bodies because we didn’t have enough guys.”

It appears you can throw that mental picture away.

Knabb, a second-year coach, said he had 20 or more players out for summer workouts, a slight but promising uptick compared to the “16 to 18” the Bearcats dressed for games in 2019.

“It’s nice when you can line up an offense and defense in practice,” Knabb said. “We have a lot of talent back. The kids’ No. 1 goal is to get back to the playoffs. That’s in their sight.”

An experienced line returns, along with several skill players and defensive playmakers.

Leading rusher Trent Cavanaugh and top receiver Owen Petrisek, both seniors, will be dually valuable to the Bearcats’ success.

“They’re our two workhorses,” Knabb said.

The power-running Cavanaugh not only ran for 711 yards but he also posted a team-high 130 tackles from his middle linebacker spot.

He also caught 19 passes for 317 yards.

Petrisek set a single-season school record with 19 touchdowns, made 34 receptions and rushed for 472 yards.

Knabb called 1,700-yard passer Shawn Dziak “irreplaceable” at quarterback, but his graduation leaves a void the coach hopes to fill with either junior Seth Adams, who saw brief time under center last year, or freshman Vitali Daniels.

“We’ll use them both in some capacity,” the coach said.

The linemen back, all starters last year, are senior right tackle Nate Menzer (6-3, 210), freshman right guard Cameron McGaw, senior center Nick Scarfo, and juniors Ethan Luketich at left guard and Ethan Heinreich at left tackle.

Scarfo, who has started for three seasons, is the anchor piece.

“He’s hasn’t missed a snap in three years,” Knabb said.

Defensively, Menzer and junior nose guard Billy Leach are keys up front, with Cavanaugh and Petrisek at linebacker and Heinreich at defensive end.

“We need to take advantage of our physicality a little more,” Knabb said. “I expect more maturity from this group.”


Coach: J.J. Knabb

2019 record: 2-8, 2-5 in Class A Tri-County South

All-time record: 224-331-7

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, California*, 7

9.18, at Monessen*, 7

9.25, Carmichaels*, 7

10.2, at Jefferson-Morgan*, 7

10.9, West Greene*, 7

10.15, Avella*, 7

10.23, at Mapletown*, 7

*Class A Tri-County South Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Shawn Dziak*

95-220, 1,701 yards, 16 TDs

Receiving: Owen Petrisek

34-637 yards, 9 TDs

Rushing: Trent Cavanaugh

112-711 yards, 6 TDs


Fast facts

Bentworth finished 2-8 last season after near-miss playoff seasons the previous three years (5-5, 4-6, 5-5).

• The Bearcats have not been to the WPIAL playoffs since 2015.

• A porous defense allowed 49.9 points, including game totals of 82, 62, 60 and 67, three of which came in Tri-County South play.

• With indoor weight room visits limited in the summer because of covid-19 concerns, Bentworth moved its weights outside to the parking lot.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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