North: Pine-Richland football to test Seneca Valley
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For Pine-Richland coach Clair Altemus, the Rams' football game Friday at Seneca Valley isn't just a conference matchup against a WPIAL Class AAAA top-five team.
It is a homecoming.
Altemus played high school football for the Raiders and is a former defensive coordinator at the school. He said he always enjoys going "home."
"I always look forward to going back to Seneca Valley," Altemus said. "It's different from when I went there. Coach [Don] Holl has done a great job with that program."
Both teams enter the game 1-0 overall and in the Northern Eight Conference. The Raiders beat Butler Area, 24-9, while Pine-Richland took down Fox Chapel, 28-5. For the Rams, it was their fourth consecutive win dating back to last year, the longest current win streak in the WPIAL's largest classification.
The streak started Oct. 21, when a 1-6 Pine-Richland team went into the Wolvarena and took down then 6-1 Woodland Hills, 26-7. The Rams went on to win their next two games by a combined score of 100-21 to finish the season 4-6. The team didn't qualify for the playoffs, but Altemus said the finish was used as motivation.
"We used it in the weight room all offseason," Altemus said. "We graduated a few key players from last year's team, but we returned a lot of kids. We're hoping they carry that same momentum through this season. Only time will tell."
The way the Rams have played has caught the attention of the Raiders head coach.
"They have some talented players," Holl said. "They have a pretty physical defense. They tackle well. Offensively, they have some threats. They are a very formidable opponent."
One area where Pine-Richland is inexperienced is at quarterback, where sophomore Ben DiNucci made his first career varsity start last Friday. DiNucci finished 9-of-17 passing for 115 yards and two touchdowns and Altemus was very pleased with how his young quarterback handled the pressure of playing in front of a large crowd.
"Last year he was in ninth grade and probably playing in front of 40 or 50 people and then he comes out Friday and is playing in front of 5,000," Altemus said. "And it was also our first conference game of the season. I think he handled it very well. I anticipate he'll get better and better."
While Pine-Richland's quarterback situation was a question mark coming into the season, there were no such concerns for Seneca Valley. Jordan Brown returns for his senior season after leading the WPIAL in passing yardage in the regular season last year, including a 324-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 29-21 win over the Rams. He also had a rushing score in that game.
He started off this season strong, throwing for 191 yards and two touchdowns while adding a rushing score in the season-opening win.
"I like how he's progressed since last season," Holl said. "He's obviously a very good athlete, but he's also a heady player. He's gotten faster, stronger and quicker this offseason, but also is a better mental player. I'm pleased with where his game is."
Last year, Altemus said he tried to take away Seneca Valley's then-junior running back Forrest Barnes, who had more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage last season. This year, Altemus plans on relying on his offense and deception on defense to try and contain Brown, Barnes and the Raiders.
"I don't think you can stop a guy like Brown," Altemus said. "We just have to try and keep the ball away from him with long offensive drives. Then when he has the ball, we have to play good defense.
"We'll try and disguise what we're running and hopefully throw some things at him that he hasn't seen. And it's early in the season, so maybe they won't be running on all cylinders yet."
Kickoff for Friday's game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Rams at Raiders
• What: Pine-Richland at Seneca Valley.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Where: NexTier Stadium.
• Skinny: Both teams won their openers.
First Published September 6, 2012 12:00 am