South Xtra: Upper St. Clair grad develops at Clarion

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Tight end is a position on the football field that requires great proficiency and versatility.

A successful tight end must be equally adept at catching the ball and also blocking effectively when one of his teammates is running the ball or another receiver has caught the ball and trying to gain some yards after the catch.

One of the best tight ends in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference is Clarion's Mike Deitrick, who has been so effective that the Golden Eagles have named him one of the team's co-captains entering this season that begins at 1 p.m. on Sept. 6 with a game at St. Francis of Loretto.

Deitrick, an Upper St. Clair High School graduate, gives equal effort to his pass-catching and blocking responsibilities. He caught 24 passes a year ago for the Golden Eagles, gaining 239 yards and scoring two touchdowns.

"Quite honestly, we take a lot more time to get the technique down [in blocking]," he said. "Being next to the offensive tackles, there's a lot of double-teams and schematics we have to take care of in the run game. And, we're mostly a run team to begin with. The run game is just as important as the pass game."

Deitrick said playing for Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render gave him a solid foundation when it came to playing on the NCAA Division II level at Clarion as the Panthers were a run-first team.

"[Render] definitely liked to run the ball," Deitrick said. "Playing in that offense under Render at Upper St, Clair definitely prepared me pretty well for the college game."

After eight games last season, the Golden Eagles were 4-4, but they lost their final three games and were unable to enjoy a winning season in 2013. Deitrick said injuries were a big factor in Clarion's demise at the end of the seasons.

"Quite honestly, we have to stay healthy," he said. "Last year, we lost our quarterback, Ben Fiscus, to a season-ending injury in the second game. [Perry graduate] Darelle Carson came in and filled in pretty well for him, but he was thrust into the spotlight out of nowhere.

"Regardless of who you are, there's going to be a learning curve from high school to college. With Darelle having another year under his belt, and if the rest of the team stays healthy, I feel we can compete."

Deitrick said the PSAC-West's reputation of offering a quality brand of football is well-deserved.

"There are no off games in the PSAC," he said. "Every week you have to bring your best game."

Clarion begins the season with road games at St. Francis and at PSAC-East rivals Millersville and Cheyney before hosting its first home game on Sept. 27. Deitrick said the three road games will be a test for the team.

"Obviously, it would be great to start the season with three straight wins, and have the rest of the season at home for the most part," he said. "We put a lot of importance to starting hot out of the gate."

Deitrick has enjoyed his experience at Clarion.

"I wouldn't have picked anywhere else," he said. "I'm extremely happy with my decision to play here."

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