WPIAL position by position breakdown: Scouting the safeties

Tuesday, August 20, 2019 | 7:55 PM

Versatile safeties are crucial in today’s WPIAL.

With more teams turning to no-huddle, spread offenses, defenses need defensive backs who can cover receivers and also attack the run. The safeties on this year’s list — topped by Blackhawk’s Marques Watson-Trent — are just what coaches want.

Combined, they forced nearly two dozen turnovers.

Watson-Trent was a key in Blackhawk’s turnaround last season. The Cougars went 2-7 in 2017 but rebounded to a 10-2 record last year with Watson-Trent leading them as a standout safety and running back. He had more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 touchdowns.

But he’s not the only player working double duty. Pine-Richland’s Luke Meckler and Penn-Trafford’s Caleb Lisbon are standout safeties who were ranked among this year’s top running backs.

1. Marques Watson-Trent


Senior, 6-0, 190

Watson-Trent earned first-team all-conference honors at both defensive back and running back a season ago. He had 70 tackles, an interception and five forced fumbles as a junior — proof that he’s willing to hit. He has more than a dozen Division I offers, including Navy, Maine, New Hampshire, Monmouth, Fordham, Rhode Island, Sacred Heart, Cornell, Holy Cross, Lehigh, William & Mary, Robert Morris, Youngstown State and Duquesne.

Watch Marques Watson-Trent highlights

2. Aakeem Snell

Penn Hills

Senior, 6-2, 185

Snell was a key part in a Penn Hills defense that went undefeated last season and won WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A titles. He had three interceptions and returned a fumble 37 yards for a touchdown. He has Division I offers from Buffalo, Toledo, UMass, Central Michigan, Ohio, Ball State, Bowling Green, Robert Morris and William & Mary.

Watch Aakeem Snell highlights

3. Luke Colella

North Allegheny

Senior, 6-0, 175

Colella committed in July to Princeton over offers from Dartmouth, Holy Cross, Lehigh, Sacred Heart, Lafayette, Central Michigan, Bryant, Columbia and Robert Morris. He earned all-conference honorable mention in Class 6A last season. He was fourth on the team with 49 tackles and scored three touchdowns.

Watch Luke Colella highlights

4. Max Schipani

Seton LaSalle

Senior, 6-3, 175

Schipani was a first-team all-conference defensive back in the Class 2A Three Rivers. He showed his speed last season with a 97-yard touchdown run. Defensively, he intercepted three passes and made 34 tackles. He has offers from Air Force, Albany, Columbia, Cornell and Rhode Island.

Watch Max Schipani highlights

5. Cochise Ryan


Senior, 5-10, 175

Ryan will make an impact at running back but also has strong defensive skills. He returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown last season and also took a kickoff 75 yards to the end zone. He rushed for 513 yards on 48 carries last season and could challenge for the WPIAL rushing title this year.

Watch Cochise Ryan highlights


Shane Thrift


Junior, 6-0, 165

Thrift, who lists a Division I offer from William & Mary, transferred this summer from Seton LaSalle. He’s the younger brother of former Gateway standout Brenon Thrift, who is a redshirt senior at West Virginia. At Seton LaSalle, Thrift had five interceptions, including one he returned 36 yards for a touchdown.

Watch Shane Thrift highlights


QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | CB | S | K

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Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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