Westmoreland County teams turn to freshman quarterbacks

Thursday, September 10, 2020 | 9:14 PM

Two freshmen are expected to start at quarterback for Westmoreland County football teams on opening night.

Jeannette plans to open with Brad Birch, while Monessen will look to Shane Swope Jr. to lead the offense Friday.

Jeannette, ranked fourth in Class A, hosts rival and top-ranked Clairton, while Monessen is home to Avella in a matchup of teams that have battled depleted rosters in recent years.

Three quarterbacks are expected to see the field at various times for Jeannette — a nice problem to have, according to offensive coordinator Ryan Reitz.

“Hopefully, they work,” Reitz said of the variety of plays.

The Jayhawks have added a number of plays to take advantage of each players’ skills. The other quarterbacks, who will play additional positions, are seniors James Sanders, last year’s starter, and Roberto Smith, a transfer from Greensburg Salem.

The 6-foot, 180-pound Birch, the younger brother of junior receiver Brad Birch, has a strong arm and showed mobility in the team’s scrimmage against Sto-Rox. Jeannette never has started a freshman at quarterback, according to Jayhawks coach Roy Hall.

Sanders threw for 1,357 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

Birch and Swope had success at the youth level. Swope transferred from Yough where his father, Shane, was an assistant before taking over at Monessen.

“He’s ready to play now,” the elder Swope said.

A number of other local teams plan to trot out new quarterbacks as well.

It might be common for teams to use two quarterbacks.

Hempfield was auditioning a pair of potential starters in senior Christian Zilli, who returns to football after a short hiatus, and sophomore Jake Phillips. Coach Rich Bowen said Zilli will start Friday at Norwin but Phillips also will play.

As for Norwin, senior Nick Fleming will start after competing with junior Luke Levendosky. Both are dual threats.

Incumbent junior Bobby Fetter is back at Latrobe, but senior Landan Carns was looking to push to start under center.

Belle Vernon will likely alternate two players at quarterback in junior Devin Whitlock and senior Jackson Jewell. Whitlock was the starting QB at Monessen when he was a freshman.

Greensburg Central Catholic also has two options behind a staunch line: senior David Altimore and sophomore Nate Dlugos. Altimore started last season and threw for 1,118 yards and 14 scores. Altimore will start the opener.

Greensburg Salem is expected to go with first-year starter Hayden Teska, a junior, while Ligonier Valley also will have a new name under center in its return to the WPIAL from District 6 — sophomore Haden Sierocky.

Junior Tristan Waldier returns for Yough, a boost for first-year coach Chris Chunko. Waldier was the quarterback early last year before a knee injury ended his season.

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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