South/West Xtra: Langley closure a boost for Brashear
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It all started back in April.
That's when more than a dozen student athletes from Langley High School began traveling by bus from the West End and up Crane Avenue to Brashear High School.
Because of enrollment issues and huge financial problems, the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Education decided to close both Langley and Oliver high schools at the end of the school year.
With students from Oliver being assigned to Perry Traditional Academy, Langley students were placed at Brashear. To ease the transition for Brashear's football team, between 15 to 20 players from Langley's defunct team were able to join the Bulls during spring workout sessions.
"Everything was planned out well by the administration," Brashear coach Rick Murphy said. "They allowed the Langley kids to participate in our spring drills back in April and May.
"Everything has worked out well. We've moved on from the situation."
Murphy, who enters his fifth season as the Bulls head coach, hasn't had any issues between his returning team and its new players, either.
"Anytime you bring in kids who have been together for a number of years and now they're the new players, that can always be a challenge," said Murphy, who added former Langley assistant coach Rich Sterling to his staff. "But everyone has been excited about the change.
"Our team has accepted all the new guys without any issues, not that we ever expected there to be an issue."
Despite making a rare playoff appearance in 2008, Langley never won a City League football championship and struggled to field a competitive team for the past 20 years. The Mustangs went winless against the league last season and finished 2-8 overall.
"Hopefully, with the success our program has had the past couple of years, we'll be able to keep getting guys to participate and come out to be a part of what we're trying to do here," Murphy said. "The process will take a few years. We know there have always been athletes in the West End and we hope to continue to get them involved in the program."
Brashear has played for the City League title five of the past seven seasons and last won back-to-back championships in 2007-08.
The Bulls finished last season with a perfect 7-0 run against league opponents. They were knocked out of the City League playoffs, however, following a 6-2 loss against Allderdice in the semifinals.
Brashear finished its campaign 7-3 overall while outscoring opponents, 17.6-12.2, on average.
"We lost a lot of skill guys," Murphy said. "Replacing those guys is going to be a challenge, but we bring back a strong offensive line."
One of the most notable losses is quarterback Adam Lynch, who threw for about 700 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. Murphy expects either junior Angelo Reed (5-10, 160) or senior Russell Page (6-1, 170) to earn the starting job out of camp.
"Guys are stepping up into those skill spots," Murphy said, "and we hope that even though you can't teach experience they're able to grow fast."
Senior Jamal Smith (5-9, 175, WR), Deshaun Roberts (6-1, 200, OLB) and junior Diondre Faulk (6-1, 205, LB) are a few key returning starters for the Bulls. Seniors Derrick Caldwell (5-9, 190, LB) and Antonio Rosa (6-4, 290, OL/DL) are two returning veterans from Langley.
"We're looking for skill guys to step up," Murphy said. "With Jamal and Deshaun, we are looking for them to be leaders and bring the team together.
"Our line is going to be our strength. We need our line to jell together and open holes to allow our skills guys to be successful."
Sophomore Jeff Arnold (6-4, 240) will anchor the offensive line at center, while All-City tackle/defensive end Scott Evans (6-3, 230, Jr.), Jordan Maben (5-10, 260, Jr., OT/DL) and Joe Nicholas (5-10, 210, Jr. (OL/DL) will start on both sides of the ball.
"For the past 10 to 15 years, we've been strong defensively," Murphy said.
First Published August 23, 2012 12:00 am