East Xtra: Central Catholic's cupboard isn't bare

CLASS AAAA PREVIEW


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The defending WPIAL Class AAAA champions have all the weapons to make another run at a WPIAL title.

Despite losing six All-Northern Eight Conference players from last season, the Vikings have reloaded like few teams can. Five all-conference starters graduated including leading rusher, Luigi Lista-Brinza. His backup, Riley Redman, the team's second-leading rusher, has been ruled ineligible because he turned 19 before the state-mandated July 1 cutoff date. Combined Lista-Brinza and Redman rushed for more than 2,700 yards last season.

Senior running back Grant Foster is expected to be one of the top rushers this season.

To replace last year's starting quarterback, J.J. Cosentino, a Florida State recruit, Vikings coach Terry Totten will turn to either junior Gunnar Frerotte or junior Mike Navarro. Frerotte is the son of former NFL quarterback Gus Frerotte, who is Central's quarterbacks coach.

Senior center Eric McAllister (6-1, 270) is a returning all-conference player and senior Graham Adomitis (6-4, 215) is a weapon at tight end.

Central Catholic's defense could be one of the best in the WPIAL. Senior John Petrishen is a heavily recruited defensive back and the defensive line is loaded with talent including Harvard recruit Richie Ryan, Rashard Wheeler, Jordan Scarborough and Braeden Hinish.

Penn Hills

Penn Hills returns experience all around the field this season, including, most importantly, at the quarterback position where junior quarterback Billy Kisner (5-10, 170) is back after enjoying a breakout sophomore season.

Kisner passed for 477 yards and rushed for 1,191 yards and 10 touchdowns to help lead the Indians to a 5-5 overall record, a 4-4 mark in the Southeastern Conference and a WPIAL playoff berth after missing the postseason in 2012.

Eight starters are back for Penn Hills, including seniors Te'Shan Campbell (5-10, 180) and Isaiah Jones (5-10, 170).

On defense Penn Hills will have to replace first-team All-Southeastern Conference defensive back Shawn Featherstone.

Third-year coach John Peterman will look for improvement on an offensive line that will be led by Michael Ames (6-3, 255, Sr., C) and Jaasen Alston (6-2, 245, Jr., T).

Woodland Hills

Miles Sanders and Art Thompkins combine to give Woodland Hills one of the most explosive backfields in the state.

Thompkins (5-9, 172, Sr.), a Toledo recruit, and Sanders (6-0, 180, Jr.), a Penn State recruit, are major reasons why many expect the Wolverines to make a run at a third consecutive trip to Heinz Field for the WPIAL championship game.

Sanders rushed for 1,064 yards and Thompkins rushed for 426 yards and had 228 receiving yards last season. Sanders, a starter since he was a freshman, is the lone returning first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection for coach George Novak.

The most notable departure was that of quarterback Harry Randall. Junior Jeremiah Jones (6-0, 180) saw limited time in relief of Randall last season and he is expected to take over at quarterback.

He will start behind a line led by seniors Jake Cassidy (6-0, 299), Dan Gibson (6-3, 260), Kevin Soloman (5-8, 270) and Akira McClean (6-2, 214).

The defense must replace four first-team all-conference players.

Hempfield Area

Hempfield has made it back-to-back playoff appearances in the first two seasons under head coach Rich Bowen.

The Spartans should once again be a postseason contender with five starters back on both sides of the ball.

The biggest question will be at the offensive skill positions where quarterback Ty George (651 passing yards, 492 rushing yards) and running back Joey DeFloria (1,397 rushing yards) have both graduated. George was a first-team All-Foothills Conference quarterback and DeFloria was an all-state running back.

Junior Dan Walters (6-0, 205) is expected to take over at quarterback while junior Don Washington (5-9, 160) and sophomore Jordan Kempka (5-10, 160) figure to factor into the running game.

Walters will have experienced targets with Dante Luther (5-10, 185, Sr.) and Dylan Sikora (6-2, 185, Jr.) returning at wide receiver and Jay Flock (6-2, 235, Sr.) back at tight end.

The offensive line will be anchored by left guard Mike Ferret (5-11, 250, Sr.) and left tackle Tony Pilato (6-7, 300, Sr.), a Pitt recruit.

The returning starters on defense are Logan Swan (6-4, 215, Sr., DE), Chase Logan (6-2, 220, Sr., DE), Josh Kempka (6-2, 230, Sr., LB) and Lorenzo Barchetti (5-11, 170, Sr., CB).

Kiski Area

Kiski Area returns five starters on offense and three on defense from a team that went 5-5 overall and 5-3 in the Foothills Conference to qualify for the postseason for a second consecutive year.

The Cavaliers have to replace four all-conference players from last season but they do return junior quarterback Chad Kuhn (6-2, 195) and two returning running backs, junior Lincoln Clayton (6-1, 180) and sophomore Justice Evans (5-8, 165).

Kuhn passed for 1,007 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Clayton and Evans combined to rush for 576 yards.

On the offensive line, senior tackle Jake Reid (6-6, 270) and senior guard Bill Sarraf (6-2, 290) return.

Evans at defensive back, Reid at defensive tackle and Clayton at linebacker are two-way returning starters.

Dave Heavner, in his third season at Kiski, expects contributions from new starters, including Tre Talton (5-8, 160, Sr., WR/DB), DeShawon Bracy (6-1, 165, Jr., WR/DB), Ty Travaglia (5-9, 190, Jr., LB), Tyler Worthing (5-10, 205, Jr., LB), Jon Bracy (6-2, 180, Soph., RB/DE) and Noah Clayton (6-2, 185, Soph., TE/LB).

Junior Tim Collins (6-0, 175) will take over kicking and punting duties from all-conference selection Dane Mitcheson who has graduated.

Greater Latrobe

First-year coach Jason Marucco takes over for former coach Ray Reitz at a Latrobe program seeking its first playoff trip since 2009.

Marucco has spent the past 18 years as a varsity assistant at East Allegheny, Mount Pleasant and Latrobe. He inherits an experienced group with 12 players returning with starting experience.

The Wildcats are coming off back-to-back 1-7 seasons in the Foothills Conference. They must replace their lone all-conference selection from last season, wide receiver Logan Carns who is now playing at Seton Hill University.

Junior quarterback Craig Stevens (6-1, 215) is a returning starter as is junior wide receiver Bailey Larkin (6-2, 160).

Senior running backs Brandon Friedline (5-9, 185), Luke Monteparte (6-0, 205) and Josh Shivetts (5-11, 190) figure to form the majority of the ground game.

Senior offensive tackle Cody Henry (6-2, 345) and senior center Tyler Mears (6-1, 265) are returning starters who will anchor the line.

McKeesport Area

McKeesport graduated its top five rushers from last season, but veteran coach George Smith, in his second stint at his alma mater, has a new crop of athletes to plug into his vaunted flexbone offense that led the Tigers to an undefeated regular season last year.

Gone are the likes of Mikell Moore (1,029 rushing yards), David Queen (676 yards), Allen Wright (445 yards), Carlos Hudson (263 yards) and Reggie Smith (228 yards), but the Tigers' cupboard isn't bereft of talent.

Senior TyWann Smith (6-0, 160) and junior Tymar Sutton (5-11, 195) will split quarterback duties. Khaleke Hudson (6-1, 215), a heavily recruited junior, will play fullback and wingback. Junior Mark Cromerdie (5-9, 141) will play halfback.

"Our strength is with our skill players," Smith said.

The line will be anchored by three returning senior starters, Kameron Bostic (5-11, 205), Evander Dillard-Fennell (6-0, 235) and Joseph Krimm (5-11, 236).

The Tigers must also find replacements for four first-team All-Foothills Conference defenders.

Expected to be leaders on defense this year are Hudson, who will play safety, and Cromerdie, who will play cornerback.

Also, senior Justice Smith (6-1, 205) is a returning starter at linebacker.

Norwin

Long-time Norwin assistant Dave Brozeski takes over for Art Tragesser as head coach this season at a program that has gone 4-23 over the previous three seasons.

Brozeski inherits four returning starters on offense and six on defense.

Junior Nick Amendola (6-0, 215) is a returning starter at quarterback but he is competing with senior Sean Bowen (6-1, 170).

A major focal point for Brozeski is the offensive line where second-team all-conference selection junior Dante Rizzo (6-2, 255) returns. Other key members of the line are Anthony Melocchi (5-11, 240, Sr.), Corey Chrisman (6-1, 210, Sr.), Hayden Rice (6-0, 260, Jr.), Tyler Klass (6-2, 230, Jr.) and Joseph Papp (6-0, 270, Sr.).

Senior Logan Deri (6-0, 170), a second-team all-conference receiver a year ago, has been moved to H-back in the new-look Knights offense. Brozeski anticipates him also seeing time at tight end and fullback.

Penn-Trafford

After a run to the WPIAL semifinals last season, Penn-Trafford returns seven starters on both sides of the ball as the Warriors look to challenge for the Foothills Conference title.

All-conference running back Devin Austin (5-9, 175, Sr.) is one of the top rushers in the WPIAL. Last season he had 214 carries (second in Class AAAA) for 1,275 yards (third in Class AAAA).

Penn-Trafford is expected to have a more balanced offensive attack with junior quarterback Brett Laffoon (6-2, 185) and junior wide receiver Timmy Vecchio (5-10, 170) returning. Vecchio was an all-conference selection at wide receiver last season.

Senior linemen, Donovan McNelis (6-2, 265, OG) and tackle Dan Sich (6-0, 250, OT) are two returning starters on the line.

Chris Stanford (6-4, 255, Jr.) and Trey Blandford (6-3, 260, Sr.) are two returning starters at defensive end. Blandford was an all-conference defensive end last season and a starter at guard while Stanford started at tight end on offense.

Other returning starters on defense are senior linebackers Sam Guzik (6-0, 205) and Lance Burk (5-10, 215), defensive backs Zack Queen (6-1, 195, Sr.) and Jonah Lisbon (5-11, 195, Jr.) and junior defensive tackle Andre Guest (6-3, 255).

Plum

Plum hopes a change of scenery will help this season.

After losing 22 consecutive games in the Southeastern Conference, the Mustangs will try their hand in the Foothills Conference this season under returning coach Matt Morgan.

Plum returns experience at key positions this year, including quarterback where senior Will Fuhrer (6-2, 180) returns.

His top returning receiver is junior Patrick Crossey (6-2, 175) and the team's three top rushers from last season return, Kevin Brown (5-10, 165, Soph.), Zach Martin (5-10, 165, Sr.) and Andrew Soxman (5-10, 155, Sr.).

Sophomore offensive tackle Jacob Tecak (6-5, 345) will lead the offensive line.


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