Western Beaver boasts experienced roster, championship coach

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Tuesday, September 1, 2020 | 10:38 PM


The last time Western Beaver athletic director and assistant principal Ryan Matsook found himself on the sidelines as a high school football coach was in 2016.

He was dressed in black and orange and he was at the helm of a Beaver Falls team that only lost one game all season and scored an average of 33.6 points per game on its way to winning WPIAL and PIAA Class 3A titles.

Since that season, Matsook has spent time in his current positions 17 miles to the south of his old school, and he never really had that itch to return to the sidelines. But when Western Beaver found itself without a head coach after first-year head coach Derek Moye had to resign for work-related reasons, Matsook stepped in to help.

“When Derek stepped down, a lot of the guys on the staff were guys that I knew and they came out and wanted to be on Derek’s staff,” Matsook said. “We as a district wanted to keep the continuity, and we felt like we didn’t want to start from scratch again. So, I stepped up and said you know what, as the athletic director, I’m going to do what I have to do to keep continuity here.”

The Golden Beavers will have a lot of experience returning from a team that went 7-3 and missed out on the playoffs by just one game last season. They only lost six seniors, so Matsook has several players returning that logged significant minutes on Friday nights. He couldn’t be happier about it.

“I’m lucky to step into the situation I have, so I have to give credit to the two previous coaches because they really put a structure in place,” Matsook said. “I was able to step into it and just kind of enhance from the things that I see. So, it’s been a big luxury to have kids that understand what it’s like to be on the field on Friday nights.”

That experience comes back in bunches as Matsook has eight starters returning on offense and nine on defense. After a few weeks of voluntary workouts, the veteran coach came to believe defense may be the team’s strength heading into the season.

The Golden Beavers allowed 18.1 points per game last season and only allowed Neshannock and Riverside, which were two of their losses, to score 30 points of more.

“We all look good in shorts, but we are just trying to establish an identity and kids are trying to understand their roles,” Matsook said. “We played really good defense last year, and we have nine starters back there. So, if I had to pick a strength, I would say our defense, so we can lean on those guys while our offense catches up.”

Offensively, the Golden Beavers would like to be balanced this season and with the tools they have, that’s exactly what they could do. Matsook said sophomore Xander LeFebvre and senior Austin Hall were competing for the quarterback position during camp.

LeFebvre saw time under center last season, completing 39 passes for 666 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Thad Gray will step in at running back, and Matsook will have plenty of athletes in the receiving core to stretch the field.

“We have the background of running the ball, but we certainly aren’t afraid to throw it,” Matsook said. “We have Elias Bishop, a returning starter, who is 6-3, and you have Dakari Bradford, who is a returning starter at 6-4 with other guys sprinkled in there like Levi Gray and Aaron Smith just to name a few. So, we have the capability to throw if we want.”

No matter who they place on the field, the Golden Beavers are looking to take another step this season, and with the experience they have returning, they are hoping to make a playoff appearance.

“We have a lot of kids who saw a lot of time on a pretty competitive team,” Matsook said. “We are just hoping to smooth it out, kind of trim the fat and hopefully get into the playoffs this year, which would be nice.”

Schedule

Coach: Ryan Matsook

2019 record: 7-3, 4-3 in Class 2A Midwestern Conference

All-time record: 295-250-6

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, at South Side*, 7

9.19, at Beaver, 7:30

10.3, Seton LaSalle*, 12:30

10.9, at Brentwood*, 7

10.16, at Sto-Rox*, 7

10.24, Carlynton*, 12:30

*Class 2A Three Rivers Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Xander LeFebvre

39-204, 783 yards, 8 TDs

Receiving: Noah Gray*

29-479 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing: Cam Irvine*

73-393 yards, 5 TDs

Fast facts

• Western Beaver will have 15 players from Lincoln Park this season as a part of their co-op agreement.

• The Golden Beavers are looking to make their second playoff appearance in the last three years.

• Ryan Matsook coached 11 seasons at Beaver Falls and has compiled a career record of 101-26 and three WPIAL championship appearances.

• As a sophomore, Thad Gray started a few games at quarterback last season. He completed 27 passes for 377 yards and 5 TDs.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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