Lake Fong, Post-GazetteCameron Holland will try to lead the Commodores to their seventh consecutive City League title.
Perry Traditional Academy has gone back-to-back (times three) after claiming its sixth consecutive City League title last year with a 21-7 victory against Brashear at Heinz Field.
Perry continues to be the favorite in the City League despite the loss of all-state quarterback Desmond Brentley, who passed for more than 2,200 yards and 29 touchdowns.
If Perry wins the title this season and next, it would tie Westinghouse for the City League record of eight in a row (1954-61).
"It gets brought up to us all the time, but we're not thinking about that, especially in the preseason," said Perry coach Bill Gallagher, who has directed the team in the five most recent championship seasons.
The Commodores are 63-1 in league play since 2000 and that trend is not expected to end this year.
Although Perry's league record is near perfect, Gallagher works to improve the team's reputation outside the City. Perry lost in the PIAA Class AAA second round last season for the third consecutive time, falling, 41-20, to General McLane.
With most of the Commodores' offensive line back, Gallagher is confident Perry will be able to hold its own against non-league competition.
He saw evidence of that in scrimmages against North Allegheny and Central Catholic, two WPIAL AAAA teams.
"We were pretty happy with our run game [against Central Catholic]," Gallagher said. "Our first group did some good things and we felt we got better from the North Allegheny scrimmage to the Central scrimmage."
The Commodores are particularly strong on the right side with 6-foot-3, 285-pound all-City guard Cameron Holland and 6-3, 260 senior tackle Bradley McLee, the cousin of West Virginia University linebacker Kevin "Boo" McLee.
"This is probably our top offensive line," he said. "Our linemen are not only physical, they're also pretty athletic."
The Commodores are bolstered by 6-1, 250 center Chris Macellero, who started last season as a sophomore. Senior tight end Wallie Herring and junior two-way tackle Anthony Proctor also add experience and muscle up front.
The impressive one-sided statistics Perry puts up each year against City League competition always comes under question at state playoff time. Perry has lost three consecutive PIAA playoff games to the WPIAL champion (1999-2002). Gallagher believes the Commodores line play is starting to catch up with the state's elite teams.
"The weight room is starting to pay off," he said. "We tell the kids about it all the time and they can see it. We're narrowing the physical gap."
Perry will play non-conference games Friday at Erie Cathedral Prep and Oct. 6 at Cumberland Valley Oct. 6. Both are successful Class AAAA programs.
Despite the loss of Brentley and wide receivers Gary Nolen and Aundre Wright, Perry will have its usual cast of quality skill players, led by halfback Jarod Williams, who rushed for more than 900 yards last year. Other experienced returnees are senior receivers Harold Tardy and Quintin Walker.
The starting quarterback spot is up for grabs between juniors Erron Farrow, 6-3, 185, and James Hudgins, 5-10, 180. Farrow is the more athletic player of the two, but Gallagher likes what he sees in Hudgins.
"James really has a great understanding of our offense and what we're trying to do," Gallagher said. "Both kids are progressing and they have to keep getting better. Both are throwing the ball well and both are doing a nice job with their ballhandling and faking."
CITY LEAGUE DATA
TEAM TO BEAT
Perry Has won six titles in a row while compiling a 63-1 record. All-state quarterback Desmond Brentley (2,226 yards passing and 29 touchdowns) graduated along with several other quality players, but senior tackle Cameron Holland, a four-year starter; senior running back Jared Williams and senior receiver/defensive back Harold Tardy are the top returnees. Williams rushed for 930 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Allderdice Multipurpose threat Julian Finch, a senior who runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds, will play quarterback and flanker in the Dragons' spread offense. Senior linebackers Will Boyce, Darnell Pinnick, Joe Cirigliano and Todd Kaduke also should contribute on offense.
Brashear A surprise last year, reaching the championship game in a rebuilding year. With experienced juniors Eric Hemmingway, Quamane Bryant and Ed Tinker, the Bulls might be able to match Perry's speed.
Peabody Missed the City League playoffs for the first time in five years, but a large nucleus of experienced players return, including tackle Andre Weston, linebacker/tight end Josh Smith, offensive tackle Harold Brown, wide receiver/outside linebacker Pierre Johnson, fullback/linebacker Chris Black, offensive guard Deonte Manley and defensive back Devaughn Matthews.
Oliver Finished second last season with a senior-laden roster, but the Bears could be a playoff contender if running back Lemar Copeland stays healthy. He rushed for 734 yards and 10 touchdowns but missed four games because of injury.
Langley Coming off the program's first non-losing season (4-4) in 17 years. Although Matt Barnes, a three-year starter at quarterback, graduated, the Mustangs should be stronger on both lines with offensive guard/linebacker Frank Dodd, a four-year starter.
Schenley Missed the playoffs last year for only the fourth time in 14 seasons. Senior halfback Jamar Cromwell, who scored 12 touchdowns last season, and senior linebacker/fullback Brandon Morant, a three-year starter, return.
Carrick Appears headed for a 19th consecutive non-playoff season, the longest streak among City League teams. On top of that, the Raiders open the season against WPIAL powerhouse Hopewell.
Westinghouse Trying to break an unprecedented spell of four consecutive losing seasons. Former Allderdice assistant coach Don Smith has taken over the program and has nearly 35 players in preseason camp.
FIVE TO WATCH
Cameron Holland, Sr., Perry, DT/OT, 6-3, 285; Julian Finch, Sr. Allderdice, WR/DB, 5-9, 175; Regi Robinson, Sr., Brashear, LB, 6-0, 219; Jared Williams, Sr., Perry, RB/DB, 5-10, 190; Lamar Copeland, Sr., Oliver, RB/DB, 6-1, 210.
GAME OF THE YEAR
Perry vs. Brashear, Sept. 29.