Lake Fong, Post-GazetteHampton quarterback Bob Bartley has something to prove this season.
To see the pregame ritual where the entire high school squad packs into a 10-yard area and jumps up and down in unison in the last moments before kickoff is to realize the sport is the epitome of a team game.
From the knee-knocking nervous sophomore who covers kickoffs to the cucumber-cool senior receiver whom the cheerleaders swoon over, football is about everyone pulling together.
So, forgive Hampton senior quarterback Bob Bartley if he's looking to make an individual statement this year. After all, this is his future on the line. His football existence and whether it will ebb or flow after this season depends vastly on what he'll do -- individually -- this year.
At 6 feet 3, 195 pounds and utilizing a quick release and a potent right arm, Bartley threw for 1,725 yards and 28 touchdowns last season in helping Hampton to a 9-2 record and the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals.
But there was one offshoot that didn't spawn from that performance.
"None," Bartley said. "I don't have a scholarship offer yet. Lots of colleges want to see what I do this year and have said that they are on the verge of offering and it depends on if I play well. Right now I realize that I have to have the mind-set that I have something to prove.
"I know that it is my responsibility to lead the offense and make it go, but this year, there is even more on my mind. I know that what I do on Friday nights will dictate whether or not a college might offer. It isn't pressure, it is more of a challenge."
Among the colleges interested are Akron, Toledo, Ohio, Kent State and Buffalo.
Admittedly, Bartley didn't fare as well as he would have liked during the spring college recruiting combines. There was good reason, though, as he battled mononucleosis for the entire month of April and lost a few pounds, along with even more stamina.
"It is frustrating a little bit to see some of the guys from around the WPIAL who have scholarship offers," Bartley said. "I wasn't at my best because I was sick, but thought I did as well as the other quarterbacks at the camps, but I guess some people didn't think so."
Now, Bartley is back at full speed, and games aren't won and lost in shorts and a T-shirt, but on Friday nights in the fall.
Hampton senior running back/linebacker Steve Paskorz -- a Notre Dame recruit coming off a 1,291 yard season -- knows who he wants taking snaps for the Talbots.
"He's a big part of this team," Paskorz said of Bartley. "It is not only me in this offense."
Paskorz went on to qualify that statement a little further, commenting on Bartley's understanding of Hampton's playbook -- especially after the huddle breaks.
"Not only does Bob need to read the defenses, but we have an offense where he calls plays at the line of scrimmage," Paskorz said of his backfield mate. "He has to be able to make the right calls and he'll be doing that even more this year."
And if all goes well, Bartley will showcase himself enough for a Division I college to extend the scholarship offer that has eluded him to this point.
GREATER ALLEGHENY DATA
TEAM TO BEAT
Hampton Seniors Steve Paskorz and Bob Bartley would rev up any offense, and they are the main reason the Talbots are No. 3 in the Post-Gazette's WPIAL preseason rankings. Paskorz rushed for 1,291 yards on an ankle that was tender most of last season; it's healthy now. A Notre Dame recruit, he's only 522 yards shy of 4,000 for his career. Bartley threw for 1,725 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2005. Two-way lineman Derrick Gooden (6-3, 260) also is back.
Franklin Regional The Panthers won WPIAL and PIAA championships last fall. But commencement day had a significant impact, particularly on defense, where eight starters have to be replaced. Franklin Regional has enough talent to justify its preseason No. 5 ranking. Senior A.J. Strum (6-5, 300) is a Division I-caliber offensive tackle. The pivotal player will be senior Lenny Gallo, who, with minimal preparation at quarterback, replaced injured Brad Phillips during the PIAA playoffs and thrived. Gallo has been getting sufficient prep time since.
Pine-Richland Jake Long (5,736 career yards passing) and a number of top-notch players graduated from a team that was a conference champ or co-champ the past four years. Spencer Whipple (6-2, 195), son of Steelers quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple, is the new quarterback. An interesting switch by coach Clair Altemus: all-conference lineman Ben Scherer (6-1, 285) to fullback.
Indiana David Watters, Zach Smith and Chris Kuhar -- who accounted for 22 of the Indians' 28 touchdowns last season -- graduated. Junior running back Jason Snyder showed promise last season with three touchdowns.
Knoch The Knights lost two stalwarts to graduation: quarterback Jordan Shoop and linebacker Bill Elliott. But they have seven starters back on offense and defense, including junior running back Alex Whisler (6-2, 210).
Highlands Seniors Jeff Graham (6-0, 215) and Derek Hubert (6-0, 215) give the Golden Rams quality players on the offensive line and at inside linebacker. Matt Ostrowski (6-7, 310) is a sizable blocker. Jimmy Nagle passed for 336 yards after becoming the starting quarterback at midseason.
Greensburg Salem A transplant from the Keystone Conference, the Golden Lions will try to rebound from their first non-playoff season in eight years. Senior Derek McMahan, a first-team all-conference offensive lineman, and senior Joe Paduncic, a two-year starter on both lines, will lead the way.
FIVE TO WATCH
Steve Paskorz, Sr., Hampton, RB/LB, 6-2, 220; A.J. Strum, Sr., Franklin Regional, OT, 6-5, 300; Bob Bartley, Sr., Hampton, QB, 6-3, 190; Lenny Gallo, Sr., Franklin Regional, QB/DB, 5-9, 170; Matt Ostrowski, Sr., Highlands, OL-DL, 6-7, 310.
GAME OF THE YEAR
Franklin Regional at Hampton, Sept. 22.
Colin Dunlap can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1459.