With young roster, Bentworth ‘will have to grow up fast’

Thursday, August 26, 2021 | 5:01 PM

A year after the covid pandemic wreaked havoc with most high school football schedules, Bentworth coach J.J. Knabb feels his team received a break this season.

And he intends to make the most of it.

“Our schedule has two scrimmages and then the first two games are nonconference,” Knabb said. “And I intend to take full advantage of those four weeks to do what it takes to make sure by the time we play our first conference game, we will have the absolute best players on the field to give us the best chance to be successful.”

It’s a good thing Knabb’s first Tri-County South Conference game is almost a month away because the Bearcats will have one of the youngest teams in the WPIAL.

“We have four returning senior starters who we will be depending on a lot to develop into a cohesive unit,” Knabb said. “But overall, we are a very, very young team.

“Our young players will have to grow up fast as varsity football players.”

Bentworth’s senior quartet of returning starters is made up of quarterback Seth Adams, wide receiver Caleb Peternel, tackle Ethan Heinrich and guard Ethan Luketich.

“Those guys are our leaders,” said Knabb. “We plan to build a solid team around them.

“The rest of the offense will be fresh faces. Some of the guys I’m listing as starters may not be there by the time we play conference games.”

Knabb has eight players vying for the remaining seven positions, and only junior center Cam McGaw is above the class of sophomore.

At running back will be either sophomore Drew Petrisek or freshman Xavier Bell. The tight end, who also will line up at times in the backfield, is sophomore Vitali Daniels. The other receiver in Bentworth’s one-back set will be either sophomore Ben Luketich or freshman Vinny Logan.

The other line spots will be manned by a pair of freshmen, Abe House and Alex Rusilko. Knabb is particularly high on the massive Rusilko (6-4, 285).

“He’s without a doubt one of the biggest kids in our conference and he’s only a freshman,” Knabb said. “By the time he’s a senior, I would expect a lot of colleges to be looking at him.”

Knabb said fans won’t be seeing the same kind of Bentworth offense they are used to seeing.

“We won’t be using many two-back sets and running into the line,” he claimed. “Our personnel is more suited for more wide-open formations. We will definitely be doing things differently.”

Defensively, the Bearcats are still young, but they return seven starters from last year’s 3-4 squad.

Returning are ends Heinrich and McGaw, tackle Ethan Luketich, linebackers Daniels and Adams and defensive backs Peternel and Ben Luketich.

Filling out the Bentworth defense for now are expected to be senior tackle Billy Leach, Belle and freshman Thatcher Spencer at linebacker and Logan in the secondary.

Knabb lists his team’s strength as its motor.

“Everything we do, on and off the field, we expect it to be done with high intensity,” he explained. “Our motor should always be running, no matter what.”

The obvious weakness for the young Bearcats is inexperience.

Bentworth was fifth in the Tri-County South last year and Knabb is expecting a better finish in 2021.

“California is the best team in the conference, and anyone who says otherwise is lying,” he said. “Carmichaels is big and talented, too. Those are the top teams. After that, I think it’s pretty wide open.

“The rest of us are pretty even. If we stay healthy and our young kids mature quickly, we should compete for a playoff spot. That’s our goal, our expectation.”


Coach: J.J. Knabb

2020 record: 3-4, 3-4 in Class A Tri-County South

All-time record: 227-335-7


Date, Opponent, Time

9.3 Waynesburg, 7

9.10 at Frazier, 7

9.17 Monessen*, 7

9.24 at Carmichaels*, 7

10.1 Jefferson-Morgan*, 7

10.8 at West Greene*, 7

10.15 at Avella*, 7

10.22 Mapletown*, 7

10.29 at California*, 7

*Conference game


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