North Xtra: Fox Chapel grad ignores preseason hype at IUP

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Expectations are high for the IUP football team as the Crimson Hawks are favored to win the eight-member Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference's Western Division title.

But the preseason accolades mean little for returning center Matthew Sasson, who played his high school football at Fox Chapel Area.

"There's no point in wondering what will happen [toward the end of the season]," said Sasson, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound senior who played in nine games a year ago and started in eight of them. "We're just trying to get better every day.

"There's no point in wondering what will happen in November. All we can worry about is what's going to happen today. But we're going to play hard, and if we do what we're supposed to do, I think we could be a really good team."

Sasson said there will be some experienced players joining him on the offensive line when Indiana opens its season in a non-conference game at noon on Sept. 6 against visiting St. Augustine's.

One of them is Jorge Vicioso, a 6-6, 305-pound redshirt senior who played in all 11 games for the Crimson Hawks a year ago after transferring from Rutgers.

"He's a guy who came into a new team and didn't know what to expect, and it was his first starting experience," Sasson said. "But he got better as the year went along, and he'll be a real difference-maker."

He also expects a big contribution from another redshirt senior, Bruce Atkins, a 6-4, 260-pound right or left tackle who played in high school at Woodland Hills.

"This is his fifth year at IUP, and he knows what's expected of him," Sasson said. "We're excited to have him on the line, too."

The line will be opening holes for the backfield and giving the quarterback time to throw passes. Sasson has high hopes for Izzy Green, a 5-9, 210-pound sophomore running back from Trotwood, Ohio, who rushed 66 times for 336 yards and scored three touchdowns.

"He played a lot as a true freshman, and the biggest leap that you have as a player is from that first to second year," Sasson said. "I expect him to mature and get into the offense, and I think he'll have a good year."

Sasson believes there is good reason for the preseason accolades the Crimson Hawks have received, but he cautions that preseason talk is just that ... talk.

"We don't shy away from expectations," he said. "Our expectations of ourselves is bigger than what is outside of us. You can't win on media day. But we have to come out in Game One and play and do that for 11 weeks and see what happens there.

"We were expected to win the league [title] last year, and we didn't do it. We'll take everyone's best shot, but that's what it means to play at IUP. We're going to take everyone's best shot, and we welcome the challenge."

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