Young Hopewell team looks to keep rebuilding process going
Tuesday, August 15, 2023 | 12:55 AM
Hopewell sports made strides in 2023 when the Vikings won a WPIAL title in baseball as an underdog 14th seed and the track and field team also had an impressive season.
Football coach Matt Weiss wants his team to get in on the act.
Hopewell improved in football last season too. The Vikings went from winless in 2021 to 3-6.
Hopewell was much more competitive, and senior wide receiver and defensive back Tyler Lewis elaborated on how that energized the locker room.
Lewis, whose first year of high school football was last season, ran back a 60-yard pick-six against Western Beaver. The interception kept the team in the game, and it was a moment he’ll never forget.
“I was just thinking, ‘Do not get caught. Do not get caught. Do not let him chase you down,’” Lewis said. “‘And he didn’t catch me, so I was just happy about that.”
Lewis added that everyone was jumping, and the team was rejuvenated going into halftime.
“It was 7-0 right before the half, and then I got the pick six to make it 7-7,” Lewis said, “Everybody going into half, we were just all excited, pumped and ready to go into the second half ready to play some more football.”
Although they ended up losing the game, senior running back and defensive back Jacob Brunton said that getting some wins and staying competitive helped the team regain confidence.
“It really showed us to ourselves that we can do it and that we can come together as a team to win football games,” Brunton said. “Even our losses last year, some of the games were really tight in the beginning, and we just lost hope throughout the game. We’re really working on that, really sticking it through the games and focusing on not quitting, not giving up.”
Nonetheless, the team lost a few starting seniors who made quite the impact.
“We had strong senior leadership last year,” Weiss said. “Qualities from Sonny Kasanzale, Cam Fedorka, Greg Barlion, guys like that, so that left us a big hole. One thing we’ve been over this summer for the seniors for this year, and any underclassmen who’s in any type of role, is to be a good leader. That’s been a really big focus on us this offseason.”
Weiss has been overjoyed with the new crop of seniors over the summer.
“These guys, they took bits and pieces from what they learned from the seniors last year, and the others applying there have their own twist this year,” Weiss said. “Honestly, I’ve been pretty pleased with what we’ve had so far.”
Weiss elaborated on the progress made during summer workouts.
“They’re getting comfortable with themselves, and you’re starting to see guys that got significant playing time last year start to teach those guys that didn’t get significant playing time,” he said.
Senior linebacker and running back Naz Jeter is one of those seniors who is returning. Jeter spearheads the team on defense.
“I’m very excited for our seniors,” Jeter said. “I know we don’t have that many seniors this year, but I’m very excited because the seniors that we do have, their dedication have been amazing. I’m very excited for the season.”
Weiss mentioned that Jeter, Lewis, who was all-conference last season, tight end/lineman Sergio Garcia and the entire senior class has set an excellent example.
The seniors are becoming comfortable leading the charge, and Weiss said that Brunton is set for a strong season. Brunton missed the majority of last season due to a knee injury.
“You talk about a kid that’s quiet, and really just puts his nose down and goes to work, that’s Jacob,” Weiss said. “He got bigger over the offseason, and he got faster. He’s really become pretty good at running back and safety, and he’s a quiet leader, but he speaks when necessary, and when he speaks, you know it means something.”
Brunton ran for 143 yards on 34 carries in the games he played. He put the pedal to the metal over the offseason.
“I’ve been training ever since December all the way up ‘til now,” Brunton said. “I’m still going at it hard and in the weight room. I started going to this gym called Outer Limits Performance. … They’ve been really preparing me to get more explosive and quicker. I’ve put on about 25 pounds this offseason, and I also dropped my 40 time down and got more explosive.”
Brunton said he is preparing himself any way he can. He realizes as a senior, it is essential to lead by example. And he wants to lead in any way he can.
“I’ve been trying my hardest to just be the best leader I can,” Brunton said. “I’m not a big vocal guy. I’m kind of a quiet dude, but I’ve been trying to get out of my comfort zone and be a more vocal leader and hold guys accountable for what needs done.”
Jeter added that the ability to communicate can be a key to success. He said he trusts his teammates to execute and coordinator Joe Slappy with the play calling.
“We all want to be on the same page and have the same mindset and everything,” Jeter said. “It is important, and I feel like the main thing that we have as a team that we might have more than other teams is our communication.”
Jeter has been working over the offseason, and his goal is getting an interception this year.
Lewis is also putting the work in and wants to have a memorable senior season. Lewis had six receptions for 60 yards last year and he wants to build on those totals this season.
“I’ve been doing a lot of releases, routes, landmarks, stuff like that and a lot of learning coverages, going over them,” Lewis said. “I’ve been learning speed turns and stuff and just getting better overall with hitting the weights.”
Lewis added that he and senior wide receiver and defensive back Isaiah Pisano aim to make an impact. He also looks forward to seeing how sophomore quarterback Kingston Krotec performs in his second season.
“He throws the ball pretty well, he makes the right reads most of the time, and he does what he needs to do most times,” Lewis said. “I think it’s pretty good to have him as a quarterback.”
Krotec, who played a massive role as a pitcher in the Vikings’ WPIAL title run in baseball, is one of 20 sophomores on the football roster.
Brunton was impressed with the work the underclassmen, including Krotec, put in during summer camp.
“They trained hard this offseason. They really stuck to it and they got a lot bigger, a lot stronger, a lot faster,” Brunton said. “Replacing some of these guys, it was going to be a challenge, but I think they’re doing their part, and I think we’re going to be a total team where everyone’s coming together.”
Weiss expects big things out of the underclassmen. He said that he loves how Krotec is a competitor and that he will become more of a leader in the huddle as he continues to gain more confidence as a second-year starting quarterback.
Weiss said quite a few sophomores will make an impact. Julian Baldwin, Zander Muzzy and Nick Adams give the team a ton of depth at the wide receiver and cornerback position. Nick Thomas and Mikey Black are also centerpieces on the offensive and defensive line, along with senior Garcia.
Junior Thomas Pipkins III also returns at running back and linebacker.
Weiss said that the continuity on the line will help the team tremendously. He wants the team to continue to mature, and he sets the standard high for the team.
Lewis and the seniors can’t wait to don the blue and gold.
“We want to just keep getting better and better and better,” Lewis said. “We want to try and make the playoffs. Obviously, your main goal is to win WPIALs and states, but you obviously have to start little by winning the games you need to make it there. We have to get those down.”
Coach: Matt Weiss
2022 record: 3-7, 2-4 in Class 3A Western Hills Conference
All-time record: 367-405-25
Date, Opponent, Time
8.25 South Side, 7
9.1 at New Brighton, 7
9.8 Western Beaver, 7
9.15 at Avonworth*, 7
9.22 Seton LaSalle*, 7
9.29 at Quaker Valley*, 7
10.6 at Keystone Oaks, 7
10.13 South Park*, 7
10.20 at West Mifflin*, 7
10.27 Beaver*, 7
Passing: Kingston Krotec
51-119, 666 yards, 8 TDs
Rushing: Dayveon Jackson*
Receiving: Cameron Fedorka*
• Tony Dorsett, 1976 Pitt national champion, Super Bowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys and Pro Football Hall of Famer, went to Hopewell in the early 1970s. Dorsett is considered to be one of the greatest running backs of all time.
• Former Pitt and West Virginia running back and five-star recruit out of Hopewell, Rushel Shell III, broke the WPIAL and PIAA state record in career rushing yards when he ran for 9,078 in his four years with the Vikings.
• Hopewell has had five players make it to the NFL: Dorsett, Paul Posluszny, Curt Singer, Dan Rains and Bill Koman.
• Hopewell plays at Tony Dorsett Stadium.
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