West Xtra: Cat fight in MAC attracts attention

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After each team put up 42 points in its season opener, New Brighton and Beaver will meet Friday in an important early season matchup in the WPIAL Class AA Midwestern Conference.

For Beaver, it will be the team's first conference matchup and its first road contest after the Bobcats throttled Burgettstown, 42-0, in a non-conference home game.

Meanwhile, New Brighton opened the season with a 42-21 victory on the road against Ellwood City. It is the second consecutive season the Lions enter the game with a 1-0 league record. Last season, the Bobcats drilled New Brighton, 41-20.

"Last season, we didn't do very well in this game," New Brighton coach Joe Greco said. "If you can beat a team like Beaver, you're a playoff-caliber team. We'll see how much we've matured this past year."

New Brighton returns quarterback Gabe Greco, Joe's son, and his top receiver, Craig Thompson. Greco threw for 1,189 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, while Thompson had 31 catches for 583 yards.

Both got off to a good start last Friday. Greco completed 11 of 15 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 35 yards on six carries. Thompson had three catches for 47 yards.

But the Lions had contributions from a number of players. Six receivers caught passes, led by Jesse Sabol's four receptions. Four players also carried the ball at least four times, with Scott Florence leading the way with 17 carries for 111 yards.

But what really makes the offense go is the offensive line, which returns four starters.

"They enable our athletes to make plays," Greco said. "They're a very united group."

The defense also made plays against Ellwood City, forcing five turnovers and scoring two touchdowns. The Lions also allowed three touchdowns of at least 60 yards, however, and Greco knows that can't happen again if they want to win against the Bobcats.

"We can't do that again," Greco said. "We have to play solid all the way around. You should make your most improvements from the first to the second week, so we should be more settled in."

The Lions will have to be against a strong Beaver team that had five touchdowns of at least 19 yards using its new offense Friday night.

Without the size up front that they usually have, the Bobcats have adopted a spread, no-huddle offense this season, with Alex Rowse leading the way.

The senior quarterback was 5-0 to start last season in place of the injured Austin Ross and now has the reins to himself. He threw for 222 yards and four touchdowns in the opener.

"We're going to take what the defense gives us, but with an experienced quarterback and good athletes on the perimeter, it does make sense to pass more," Beaver coach Jeff Beltz said.

Rowse hit seven receivers, with Kresten Wallace leading the way with four catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, the Bobcats held Burgettstown to 78 yards of total offense.

With the defense playing so well, Beltz needs his offense, which had two turnovers last week, to take care of the ball Friday.

"It's cliché, but we want to end every possession with a kick, even if it's a punt," said Beltz. "Whether it's an extra point, a field goal or a punt, those are all good outcomes for us. If we do that and play solid defense, we're in good shape.

"But if we have penalties and turnovers, the odds will not be with us."



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