North Xtra: Replacing stars challenge for Seneca Valley coach

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After more than two decades of coaching, as an assistant at the collegiate level and a head coach at the high school level, Don Holl has been to his fair share of preseason camps.

"If you do this long enough, you will see every different scenario," Holl said in the midst of his fifth preseason camp as Seneca Valley football coach. "You will have scenarios where you have to replace everyone, the scenarios where you have everyone back and somewhere in between."

When it comes to skill positions on offense, this is one of those scenarios where Holl must replace everyone.

Gone is quarterback Jordan Brown, a 1,901-yard passer last season who threw 21 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Gone are the team's top four receivers, Jon Dorogy, R.J. McCauley, Forrest Barnes and Paul Hudanick. The foursome combined to catch 105 of the team's 123 receptions.

Barnes, Brown and Dorogy also doubled as the team's top three rushers, combining to rush for more than 2,600 yards.

Brown was the fourth-leading passer in Class AAAA, Dorogy was the sixth-leading receiver in the classification and Barnes led all running backs in Class AAAA with 1,676 yards.

Holl has coached offenses everywhere from Gannon University to Erie Cathedral Prep to Seneca Valley.

"I guess I would say [no]," Holl responded when asked if he ever had to replace so much offensive production. "I've had situations where we've lost the quarterback or receiver or running back but not at the same time, it was never the whole picture."

Holl is hardly dwelling on last year when his team finished the regular season 8-1 and reached the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals. The Raiders finished 10-2 with their only losses coming to North Allegheny, once in the regular season and once in the semifinals.

"The nature of the beast is cyclical," Holl said. "You hope what you are doing is building continuity and building a program."

There is a lot to build off from last season and pieces in place to build with.

"There are a lot of young, talented guys who have worked very hard this offseason," Holl said. "Those guys who graduate, they are on college rosters doing other things. We are just focusing on the guys we have. It is certainly going to be interesting to see who will answer the call."

In Seneca Valley's Oregon-like spread offense, it begins with the quarterback. Vying to replace Brown is senior Mike Jones and Holl's son, junior TJ Holl.

"They bring different talents to the table," Don Holl said. "Mike is a great, great kid and a great leader. He has earned the respect of the guys. He does everything you can do on and off the field. He is a talented athlete."

Jones was the backup last season and in limited time completed 10 of 15 passes for two touchdowns and 214 yards.

TJ Holl started at strong safety and was a returner on special teams.

"They are two very good players who we think we can plug into our system and they both bring a little bit of something different," Don Holl said. "In our system, we do rely a lot on the quarterback in the running game. I will stop short of saying it is a flex-bone offense where throwing is a bonus -- our guy has to do a lot and he has to be a quarterback who can throw first and be a threat to run."

Making the life easier of whoever the starting quarterback is will be three returning linemen who saw starting time last season: guard Steve Gaviglia and tackles Dan Miller and Tyler Hudanick.

A key component of the offense could end up being Dom DiTommaso, a senior who played as a freshman and sophomore but took off last season to focus on lacrosse. Of DiTommaso, Don Holl said: "He can play slot back and he sort of reminds us of the role that Jon Dorogy played last season."


First Published August 22, 2013 4:00 AM


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