Yough eyes improvement on defense under 1st-year coach

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Sunday, September 6, 2020 | 11:11 PM


Yough hasn’t exactly built a fence around the end zone in recent seasons.

The past three years, it has allowed 41.0, 33.7 and 37.8 points per game, averages that ranked second to last, third from the bottom and one worse than another team in the Cougars’ conference.

But first-year coach Chris Chunko has plans to tighten the bolts in the Cougars’ porous defense and lead them in a new direction.

“I brought in a 4-2-5 (defense) that I like to use,” said Chunko, who in the past has served as the defensive coordinator at California, Charleroi and Ringgold. “It’s more geared to slow the spread and get guys wide. I’m a creature of habit.”

Yough finished 1-9 last season, the last for fourth-year coach Scott Wood, who was not retained.

Chunko was hired in February, before the coronavirus took control of seemingly everything, and immediately began to show his players how to break down film via virtual Zoom meetings.

“I wanted to be able to do something productive, football-wise,” he said. “The kids want to learn and get better.”

When Chunko coached under Donny Militzer at Charleroi, those Cougars went from allowing 47 points to 16 in a three-year window. Charleroi also went from 0-9 in 2015 to 9-2 in ’17.

Yough’s new offensive coordinator is Mark Adams, the former Southmoreland and Leechburg head coach. He has installed a spread offense that should allow the Cougars to get their best athletes out in space.

Among those playmakers are senior receiver C.J. Waldier, who had an impressive 71 receptions — the most in the WPIAL during the regular season — for 929 yards and five touchdowns.

He led Yough with 1,759 total yards.

Senior teammate Gamal Marballie also returns, having moved to quarterback last season after a season-ending injury to then-sophomore Tristan Waldier, who is healthy again.

Marballie, a dual threat in the backfield, passed for 1,227 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for a team-best 612 yards and six scores.

He had 115 more carries than the second-leading rusher.

“Our guys are stronger and faster,” Chunko said. “They are taking to the offense and getting better every day. I think we can do something special.”

Marballie will look to be the big-game gainer Dustin Shoaf was two years ago. Shoaf graduated as Yough’s all-time leading rusher with 5,053 yards.

With Marballie having experience at quarterback, he could be a go-to in wildcat situations.

His move to tailback means a reset under center.

“With Tristan back, we want him to be the quarterback,” Chunko said. “He has good game experience. That will give us a lot of options with the other guys. And we have our entire line back, which is a big plus.”

Key returnees up front for a group that has started one season together include junior Sam Dippolito, senior Austin Caudill, sophomore Tanner Jarmon and senior Glenn Christner.

“Dippolito and Caudill will anchor both lines,” Chunko said.

Other linemen looking to provide time are junior R.J. Romano and sophomore Brett Suehr.

At receiver, senior Cody Bogac figures to be a key target for Tristan Waldier, along with junior C.J. Brown and freshman Tarek Crosby.

Senior wideout Jason Phillabaum is back after missing last year with an ACL tear.

C.J. Waldier, also a talented safety who will play more of a hybrid linebacker spot known as the “dog,” led the Cougars with 79 tackles, and senior defensive end C.J. Layne returns after making 71 stops.

Other key defensive players are Marballie, Bogac, Christner and Tristan Waldier. Marballie, Chunko said, is a “shutdown corner” type on the perimeter.

Bogac, who will slide over to linebacker, had 61 tackles and two interceptions.

Sophomore Khadeem Marballie also could figure into the mix at running back, Chunko said.

Schedule

Coach: Chris Chunko

2019 record: 1-9, 1-7 in Class 3A Big East

All-time record: 156-319-11

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, Chartiers-Houston, 7

9.18, at South Park*, 7

9.25, South Allegheny*, 7

10.2, at Mt. Pleasant*, 7

10.9, Southmoreland*, 7

10.16, Valley, 7

10.23, at Brownsville, *, 7

*Class 3A Interstate Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Gamal Marballie

103-172, 1,227 yards, 7 TDs

Receiving: C.J. Waldier

71 rec., 929 yards, 5 TDs

Rushing: Marballie

171-612 yards, 6 TDs

Fast facts

• Yough has neither made the WPIAL playoffs nor posted a winning season since 2013.

• Chunko is a Monessen grad and played center for the Greyhounds.

• Additional assistants include former WPIAL players Akeem Moore (Brentwood), Sean Bowen (Norwin) and Jake Beistel (Southmoreland).

• Dippolito is a transfer from Laurel Highlands.

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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