In just four years as a program, Central Valley and coach Mark Lyons have made some significant accomplishment.
The Warriors have posted a 41-10 record and made two appearances in the WPIAL Class AAA title game in the school's first four years of existence.
Last season, the Warriors placed second in the Parkway Conference and advanced to the WPIAL title game before dropping a 16-6 decision to West Allegheny.
Starters are back at 15 positions, including four two-way starters: Jordan Whitehead (6-0, 180, Jr., TB/CB), John George (5-9, 165, Sr., QB/S), Preston Johnson (5-11, 205, Sr., FB/OLB), and Luke Kusler (6-0, 230, Sr., OG/DE).
Whitehead, an NCAA Division I recruit who has his choice of almost any college in the country, has rushed for 1,592 yards on 188 carries the past two seasons. George became a starter late in the season and threw for 703 yards and rushed for 403.
"John is our version of 'Johnny Football,'" said Lyons, referring to Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy last year at Texas A&M. "Jordan is one of the best athletes I've ever coached."
The other four starters returning on offense are Zeke May (6-2, 303, Sr., OT), B.J. Powell (6-3, 175, Sr., WR), Jeremy Steffine (6-0, 195, Sr., TE) and Dante Lucci (5-8, 155, Sr., SB).
The other three returnees on defense are Ryan Roberson (5-9, 175, Sr., OLB), Rocco Martini (5-11, 190, Sr., ILB) and Isiah Breen (6-0, 165, Sr., CB).
"We have a nice group of kids returning on both sides of the ball," Lyons said. "Getting back to Heinz Field is our goal, but it's never easy in the Parkway Conference."
Coach Dan Bradley replaces Neil Tkatch, who had a 11-34 record in his six years at the helm. The Bridgers posted a 2-7 record last season and haven't been to the WPIAL playoffs since 2005.
Bradley comes to Ambridge after leading Sto-Rox to the WPIAL Class A title game the past three years.
"We are both inexperienced and young," Bradley said. "Almost everybody on our roster was playing on either the junior varsity or junior high last year. We have to mature quickly and stay healthy."
Only five starters return for the Bridgers. The top returnee is Stephan McGinnis (5-8, 150, Sr., WR/CB), who has moved from quarterback to wide receiver. Last season, McGinnis, who is also a standout on the basketball squad, threw for 453 yards and rushed for 656 yards.
"We can better utilize Stephan's abilities and versatility as a slot receiver," Bradley said. "Austin French will be taking over as our quarterback."
The only other returnee on offense is Matt Cunningham (6-0, 187, Sr., WR/DB). McGinnis, Cunningham and Keenan Baker (6-5, 220, Sr., OLB) are the three returning starters on defense. Baker will be moving to defensive end.
First-time starters to watch are Quamie Alston (Jr., TB/DB), Tariq Jones (Fr., FB/LB), Jack Marotti (6-5, 225, Jr., LT), Dean Calderone (5-8, 176, Jr., ILB) and Tre Parker (5-9, 132, Sr., WR/DB).
The Cougars failed to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs for the fourth time in five years. They posted a 3-5 record in the Parkway Conference and finished with a 3-6 overall mark.
"We have a young and inexperienced team," said coach Joe Hamilton, who begins his 51st season of coaching. "We only have 11 seniors and 12 juniors. Fortunately, we have 25 sophomores. We will have to mature in a hurry with such a young team. That will not be easy in a conference as strong as the Parkway."
Quarterback Chandler Kincade has moved onto the University of Akron after completing 341 of 590 passes for 4,614 yards over the past four years.
"Chandler was the first four-year starter at quarterback I've had," Hamilton said. "He will be missed."
Timothy Mancini (6-1, 190, Sr., QB/SS) will replace Kincade. Mancini was a wide receiver and backup quarterback last year. He rushed for 563 yards on 104 carries and caught 17 passes for 248 yards.
"Timothy filled in when Chandler was hurt last season, so he does have experience behind center," said Hamilton, who has a career coaching record of 339-162-11.
Others returnees who either started or saw significant playing time are Austin Javens (5-9, 180, Jr., CB/TB/WR), Brandon Butcher (5-10, 230, Jr., DT/OG), Landon Hall (6-0, 185, Sr., S), Jeremy McGovern (5-9, 170, Sr., RB/WR/CB), Zack Kossin (5-11, 200, FB/DE), Brendon DeLuca (6-1, 205, Jr., C/LB) and Scott Young (6-0, 205, Jr., OT)
The Colts struggled in Niel Loebig's first season as head coach. They recorded only one victory in the Parkway Conference and finished the season with a 1-8 record.
Three starters return from that team: Mike Roper (5-11, 225, Sr., RB/LB), Jamie Pachis (5-10, 205, Sr., RB/WR), and Christo Boulos (6-0, 320, Sr., C).
"We will be young and inexperienced, but that's not always bad," Loebig said. "We have a bunch of kids who love to play football. I'm very excited about this group. We're much improved from last year. We may struggle at the beginning of the year, but our goal is to qualify for the playoffs."
Jake Collins (6-1, 175, Jr., QB) will replace Josh Lapiana, who completed 114 of 232 passes for 1,629 yards.
"Jake is very athletic and very mobile," Collins said. "His passing has improved over the summer. He's also stepped into that leadership role. He was voted as one of our captains."
Roper and Pachis will see time in the backfield, along with Delmar King (5-9, 160, Jr., RB/CB).
Others expected to make an impact are: Joe Testa (6-1, 260, Sr., RG), Anthony Egnatz (6-1, 180, Sr., WR/S), Logan Ford (5-11, 235, Soph., NG), Reed Bruggeman (5-10, 180, Fresh., S), and Steve Alzauzen (5-10, 185, Fresh., OLB).
It was a tough season for the Vikings and coach Dave Vestal.
After qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs seven of eight years, the Vikings went winless in the Parkway Conference and finished with a disappointing 1-8 record.
Vestal may find the waters a bit rough this season also, as only seven starters return.
The top returnee on offense is Tyler Ishman (5-11, 185, Sr., TB/OLB), who has rushed for 1,230 yards on 214 yards over the past two seasons. Ishman was joined in the backfield last season by DiMontae Bronaugh. Bronaugh rushed for 868 yards on 148 carries as a sophomore, but he's now living in Aliquippa and won't be playing for the Vikings.
"It would have been nice to have both Tyler and DiMontae in the backfield," Vestal said. "Tyler will have to carry the load without DiMontae."
Also back on offense are Jim McCracken (6-3, 250, Sr., OT/DT) and Shawn McMasters (5-11, 210, Sr., TE).
"One thing that helps is that we had 12 sophomores letter last season," Vestal said. "Those kids are now juniors and most of them will have starting roles."
Ishman and McCracken are two of four returnees on defense. The others are Tim Sabo (6-2, 180, Jr., ILB) and A.J. Tempalski (5-10, 165, Jr., OLB).
"Our goal every year is to qualify for the playoffs, which is no easy task in the Parkway Conference." Vestal said.
The Spartans have made seven consecutive WPIAL playoff appearances and played at Heinz Field three times during that stretch.
Last season, the Spartans placed fifth in the Parkway Conference and finished with a 5-5 record after losing in the opening round of the playoffs to Franklin Regional.
Five starters return on offense, but coach Lou Cerro must find replacements for his top two skill-position players, quarterback Tynen Greer and tailback Cole Macek. Greer threw for 1,197 yards and rushed for 748. Macek rushed for 602.
David Haseleu (5-9, 165, Jr.) will replace Macek after rushing for 265 yards on 57 carries in a backup role. The quarterback will be either Brandon Hopay (6-2, 195, Sr.) or Randall Labrie 5-10, 175, Jr.).
"We have a lot of kids who picked up experience last year while filling in for injured teammates," Cerro said. "But we do have a lack of experience at the key skill positions."
The five returnees on offense are Tyler Carswell (5-10, 175, Jr., WR/CB), Logan Devoer (6-2, 225, Sr., TE/DE), Mike Arnold (6-5, 280, Jr., LT), Zach Jablonski (6-2, 260, Jr., LG/DT) and Jordan Vicheck (6-2, 290, Sr., RT). Carswell caught 20 passes for 307 yards last season.
Hopay started at linebacker last year. He is joined on defense by five other returnees, Carswell, Devoer, Jablonski, Tommy Sylvester (5-8, 170, Jr., SS) and Jordan Farmer (5-9, 275, Sr., NT). Tyrik Jones (5-8, 165, Sr., CB) and Steve Fedyshen (5-10, 180, Sr., CB) shared a spot in the defensive backfield last year.
The Tigers made their first WPIAL playoff appearance in seven years after placing fourth in the Parkway Conference. Coach Mark Washington's squad finished with a 6-4 record after losing, 47-42, to West Mifflin Area in the opening round of the playoffs.
"We are in a rebuilding mode after losing a very talented senior class," said Washington, who is starting his fourth season at Moon. "But our goal of qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs has not changed."
Twins Nico Yaramus (6-3, 285, Sr., C/DT) and Alexi Yaramus (6-1, 210, Sr., QB) are among five starters back on offense. Alexi completed 51 of 91 passes for 690 yards and rushed for 179 yards on 37 carries last season.
The other starters back on offense are Torrin Sallis (5-10, 235, Sr., LG/LB), Sean Myers (6-3, 265, Sr., LT) and Noah Perry (5-7, 140, Sr., WB).
"Our biggest loss on offense is tailback Cole Blake," said Washington, referring to a 2014 graduate who rushed for 1,766 yards on 219 carries. "We will have a tailback-by-committee this year."
Sallas played nose guard last season, but has been moved to linebacker this year. He is one of three returning starters on defense. The others are Nico Yaramus and Ryan Otto (6-3, 210, Sr., DE).
First-time starters to watch are Ryan Vargo (6-0, 185, Sr., WR/CB), Thomas Dean (6-0, 190, Jr., FB/LB) and Chaz Huntman (5-11, 220, Sr., OLB).
West Allegheny's Bob Palko earned a spot among the hierarchy of WPIAL football coaches last year.
That's when he became the league's first coach to win eight titles.
The Indians claimed the Parkway Conference title, then recorded four victories in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs, including a 16-6 win against Central Valley at Heinz Field. The Indians finished with a 13-1 record after losing to Erie Cathedral Prep in the PIAA quarterfinals.
Don't be surprised to see West Allegheny at Heinz Field again this season, as the Indians have 11 starters returning, along with both specialists.
The top returnees on offense are: Andrew Koester (6-4, 190, Sr., QB), Chayse Dillon (6-0, 205, Sr., TB/OLB), and Tyler Scanlon (6-0, 165, Sr., WR). Koester has completed 160 of 281 passes for 2,558 yards over the past two seasons. Dillon has a two-year rushing total of 2,155 yards on 262 carries. Scanlon caught 14 passes last season.
"We have a talented group of running backs," Palko said. "Each has his own strength. They all bring something different to the table."
Terence Stephens (6-0, 190, Jr., RB) and Whitney White (5-9, 175, Jr., RB) also return in the backfield. Stephens had 420 yards on 60 carries. White had 318 yards on 48 carries.
Also back on offense for West Allegheny are: Christian Stout (6-0, 170, Sr., WR), Connor Browning (6-0, 240, Sr., OG), Sean Orsini (6-3, 225, Sr., TE/ILB), and D.J. Opsatnik (5-7, 140, Soph., PK).
Opsatnik kicked nine field goals last season.
Dillon and Orsini are among five returning starters on defense. The others are: Armand Dellovade (6-0, 220, Sr., RB/LB), Avery Rose (6-1, 245, Sr., DE), and Matt Holmes (6-1, 220, Soph., DE).
"This conference is one again the strongest of the Class AAA conferences," Palko said. "Our hope at the end of the journey is to get invited to the playoffs. Once you get there, anything can happen.
"We proved that the last two years."