The faithful of Kiski Area High School are witnessing a trend this year that they have not been accustomed to in quite some time -- a winning football team.
After its scintillating 34-14 victory against Penn-Trafford last Friday at Davis Field in Vandergrift, the Cavaliers improved to 4-3 overall and 4-2 in the Class AAAA Foothills Conference and now has a chance to record its first winning season since 2003.
"I am just trying to concentrate on one day and one week at a time," second-year head coach Dave Heavner said about clinching a WPIAL playoff berth. "Last year was my first year at Kiski Area and going into the job I knew what we had. I had an opportunity to build on things from last year but the success begins and ends with the football team."
Heavner began the turnaround last year after taking over a team that won three total games the previous two years. Last year he led the Cavaliers to a 4-6 overall record and 4-4 mark in the conference, ending a five-year playoff drought.
"Usually there is a lot of growth between the first and second year," Heavner said. "The foundation last year everyone knew the expectations that I had. In the offseason the coaching staff knew what we had and knew how to tweak our system and get all of our athletes on the field at the same time."
The staff and players have done a great job working to improve their history this year, and make sure to acknowledge the small accomplishments along the way.
"Winning games like the homecoming game was a big deal for this team," Heavner said. "We appreciate the little goals that we have accomplished throughout the season."
The Cavaliers' success this year has been headlined by a mixture of the senior class and underclassmen, and the fact that they returned nine players on defense and 10 on offense.
"We played young guys last year and were able to gain experience," Heavner said. "This year we were able to take that experience and make plays on the football field.
"The strength of our football team is our senior class. All of them are special and have worked real hard."
Some of the seniors whom Heavner is referring to are captains Joe Brungo, Shane Kuhn, Pat Turner and kicker Adam Mitcheson.
Brungo has been a first-team all-conference selection at wide receiver since his sophomore year and as a safety last year. So far in this campaign, Brungo leads the team with 20 receptions for 220 yards and three touchdowns. He is also first on the team with three interceptions and third with 29 tackles.
"He is a great leader and a great defender on the football field," Heavner said.
Shane Kuhn is an all-conference tight end and linebacker. Kuhn has 12 receptions for 181 yards and one touchdown on the season and also has an interception and is first on the team with 62 tackles. Kuhn was also a WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up in wrestling.
Pat Turner made second-team all-conference at cornerback and halfback. Turner also returns kickoffs and punts for the Cavaliers. Turner leads the team with 492 all-purpose yards. In seven games, Turner has 284 rushing yards, 112 receiving yards, 65 kick return yards and 31 punt return yards. He also has five touchdowns on the season.
"He is a big part of what we do," Heavner said.
Kiski Area also has the luxury of having a kicker whom they can rely on. Mitcheson is 22 for 22 on extra points this year and is 6 of 8 on field goals and has a long of 38 yards.
"We had an emphasis this offseason to improve our special teams and that is what Adam has done for us," Heavner said.
The Cavaliers have also been getting significant production from their underclassmen, in particular sophomores Chad Kuhn and Lincoln Clayton and freshman Justice Evans.
Chad Kuhn, Shane's younger brother, is in his second year under center as Kiski's quarterback and has shown much improvement. In seven games, he has completed 56 of 91 passes for 680 yards and has thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions.
Kuhn successfully completed all his passes in last week's win, going 13 for 13 for 156 yards.
"He is having a great season and is performing and running the offense the way it should be run," Heavner said. "We put him in a leadership role. The more that he played the more comfortable he got. Now as a sophomore things are coming to him. He is a very smart football player and usually doesn't make the same mistake twice."
Clayton spent time at running back last year as a freshman and was also a starting outside linebacker where he received all-conference honorable mention at both positions. This year Clayton has run for 220 yards on 57 carries.
"He is certainly a gifted athlete who gets better every day and he understands how to play the game," Heavner said.
Evans, who is the brother of Turner, is a starting cornerback and shares time in the backfield. He also serves as one of the punt and kickoff returners. On offense Evans has rushed for 311 yards on 64 carries and three touchdowns on the season. He also has nine receptions for 84 yards. On the defensive side of the ball, Evans has 17 tackles and three passes defended.
"He never leaves the field," Heavner said. "He has done great things this year. He amazes me with his athletic ability. No game or situation is too big for him. I wouldn't be surprised if he is first-team all-conference this year."
The Cavaliers have two regular-season games remaining, Friday against undefeated McKeesport Area (7-0, 6-0) the Post-Gazette's No. 4-ranked Class AAAA team, and the finale against Greater Latrobe (2-5, 1-5).
If the Cavaliers can win both of those, they'll guarantee themselves a winning season, breaking that six-year streak.
First Published October 16, 2013 8:00 PM