WPIAL’s best football players take break for TribLive HSSN event

Tuesday, July 23, 2019 | 7:35 PM

High school football teams have worked out together for months in weight rooms and practice fields, but suddenly those offseason sessions have a more serious tone.

Camp is only three weeks away.

“Absolutely, things start to heat up,” Norwin quarterback Jake Salopek said. “We start to work a little bit harder as the season gets closer.”

However, for one fun afternoon, the best players from the WPIAL and City League gathered Tuesday at Kennywood Park as TribLive HSSN Preseason All-Stars on an event stage tucked between the Thunderbolt and Noah’s Ark.

But with August nearly here, many teams are working out in earnest daily. In fact, some all-stars attended practice in the morning Tuesday before heading to the amusement park.

Teams will begin traditional practices in pads Aug. 12, but unofficial workouts started weeks ago.

“My coach (Jason) Booker comes up to me after every practice and says, ‘Hey, that’s one down. You’ve only got a limited amount,’ ” Highlands receiver Johnny Crise said. “That shocks me to give it all every time.”

Recognized Tuesday were Salopek, Crise, Central Catholic’s A.J. Beatty and Elliot Donald, Hempfield’s Fintan Brose, Gateway’s Tui Brown and Derrick Davis, Mars’ Michael Carmody, Peters Township’s Josh Casilli, Thomas Jefferson’s Dan Deabner, McKeesport’s Deamontae Diggs, Aliquippa’s Zuriah Fisher, Baldwin’s Dorien Ford, Union’s Aaron Gunn, Westinghouse’s Dayon Hayes, West Mifflin’s Nahki Johnson, Seneca Valley’s Josh Kaltenberger, Penn-Trafford’s Caleb Lisbon, North Allegheny’s Jake Lugg, Pine-Richland’s Luke Meckler, Montour’s George Padezanin, Woodland Hills’ Josh Rawlings, Penn Hills’ Aakeem Snell, Blackhawk’s Marques Watson-Trent and Sto-Rox’s Eric Wilson.

The group includes nine players already committed to colleges: Beatty (North Carolina), Brose (Delaware), Carmody (Notre Dame), Hayes (Pitt), Kaltenberger (Purdue), Johnson (Pitt), Lugg (Harvard), Rawlings (Virginia) and Salopek (Western Michigan).

The 16 others hold Division I offers.

“Every day, the closer the season gets, I’m more nervous, more excited,” said Gunn, a junior lineman with offers from West Virginia, Kentucky and Michigan State, among others. “All the emotions start coming back from football. I love it.”

Football teams start heat acclimatization Aug. 5, a PIAA-mandated weeklong adjustment period for dealing with summer temperatures.

The first scrimmages are Aug. 17. Week Zero games are Aug. 23-24.

“Senior year kind of snuck up on us, to be honest,” Crise said. “Time flies. People don’t kid around when they say that.”

As teams wind down their summer workouts, attention soon shifts to the second Monday in August — the date camps open across Western Pennsylvania.

After months of noncontact workouts, the pads come out of storage that day. There’s a lot to like about camp, said Padezanin, a two-way lineman who highlighted the down time between practices for building team camaraderie.

“But honestly,” Padezanin added, “that first day of hitting is pretty fun.”

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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