Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 WestPac Football Preview

1. Portage

KEY Players - Caleb Kephart (RB/LB)  Luke Dividock (RB/LB)  Michael Bryja (QB)

Coming off a 9 win campaign with plenty of talent returning, saying the expectations are high would be an understatement. Portage had another successful run under coach Gary Gouse in 2013, and this season they will have revenge on their minds. The Mustangs' season came to a screeching halt by the hands of Bishop Guilfoyle in 2013, and this group would love nothing more than another shot this year. The offense will likely be explosive. Caleb Kephart has been a mainstay in this backfield for the past two seasons, and will be looking for his third 1,000 yard season in his career. Luke Dividock is the second back, and will be entering his junior season with 1,500 career yards himself.  The running game is in good hands, and it looks like the passing game can be a real factor as well. Michael Bryja is not your average Portage Mustang quarterback, as he stands in at an imposing 6"4 and has a strong arm to go with his frame. He should be able to build upon his 1,066 yard 12 touchdown season in 2013. The Portage line will be a strength as they have tons of experience coming back, highlighted by Brandon Vocco. The defense will also be tough, and Kephart and Dividock were the two leading tacklers from last season. Kyle Davis is another name to watch on that side of the ball.

Bottom line - There aren't many secrets about this football squad. They have a deep and experienced team with the potential to have a great offense. They really will not see a ton of resistance in the WestPac, but they have an idea of what they need to improve on when facing some of the better teams in the district playoffs. Depending on how the bracket shakes out, Portage will have as good of a shot as any to take their season to Mansion Park for championship weekend.

2. Berlin

KEY Players - Braden Fochtman (RB) Tyler DeArmitt (WR/DB) Taylor Cahill (LB)

Berlin was able to make their way back to the District 5 championship game, but they were not able to defend their title. Redemption is on their minds in 2014. The offense for Berlin is paced by the league's most exciting player. Braden Fochtman put up prolific numbers as a sophomore, and we may have not seen the best of him yet. Only a junior, Fochtman has rushed for over 2,500 yards in his young career. Finding a quarterback will be key, and there are many candidates. Perhaps most likely to take a hold of the job will be junior, Brentson Harding. Outside of Fochtman, Berlin should have an array of athletes to make plays. Tyler DeArmitt stands out most, but Bryce Fochtman and Cole Booth should also see touches. The offensive line brings back plenty of experience also. Taylor Cahill had a big impact season last season, and should be the anchor of the D this year. Dante Paul is coming off a solid campaign with 7.5 sacks. Bryce Fochtman is also an impact player on defense. 

Bottom line - Berlin has the makeup of a District championship team. Also, they could be in line to win the Westpac. Fochtman gave Portage fits last season, and could do it again this year.  The quarterback situation needs to be addressed, but Berlin has one of the strongest coaching staffs in the area, and they will make due with what they have. Look for the Mountaineers to be playing late into the season. 

3. North Star

KEY Players - Zac Maluchnik (RB/LB)  Stephen Mort (QB)  Justin Holcomb (WR/DB)

North Star had a bit of a down year by their standards, but things could improve in 2014. Sure the Cougars lose some impact players, but they still have some promising athletes on their roster. Stephen Mort attempted the most passes for North Star in 2013, and should have a better grasp on the position this year. Zac Maluchnik returns after rushing for five touchdowns last year. Shawn Costas once ran for 800 yards as a sophomore, and should be back as a senior to aid in the running game. Justin Holcomb, Gus Strasisier, and Tevin Mostoller all return to form a very solid receiving trio. Maluchnik, Kyle Supanick, and Paul Tretter should form a good nucleus on the defensive side of the ball.

Bottom line - North Star has an intriguing team, and could work their way higher into the standings. The Cougars have some experience under their belt, and could make some noise under new coach, Jim Livingston. 

4. Windber

KEY Players - Jared Maurizio (RB/LB)  Jake Podrasky (QB)  Zach Toth (DE/TE)

The Ramblers lose a ton from their team in 2013, but it's Windber, they always find a way.  Windber is one of the more consistent programs in the area, and it seems they always have a "next man up" mentality. 2014 will be no different.  Jake Podrasky will be this year's starting quarterback. He is a senior with some limited experience under his belt, but it should be his team in 2014. Jared Maurizio is set to be the featured running back this year. The defensive standout is a gamer, and should be an instant impact on offense. Shadoe Smith should also see some carries on offense. Muarizio is also one of the best linebackers in the area, and should lead that side of the ball for the Ramblers.  Zach Toth is an imposing defensive end, and will also be a force on D.

Bottom line - Windber always fields a competitive team, and it should be no different in 2014.  They lose so much of their firepower from last year, but have some promising players ready to fill the void. Look for Windber to quietly surprise some people this year.

5. Shade

KEY Players - Logan Glessner (RB)  Mike Manges (WR/LB)  Baily Blackburn (RB)

After a pair of 6 win seasons, their is optimism for the Shade football program. The Panthers have a talented group returning, and another trip to the district five playoffs not only seems reasonable, but expected. Shade will turn to Chase Kiser for their quarterback this year to replace Nash Walker. Preston Broncoski could also see some snaps at quarterback, but at the very least should be another weapon in the running game. The ground game will be strong, Logan Glessner rushed for over 500 yards as the second back last season. Baily Blackburn should see his role grow, after rushing for 200 yards in a reserve role. Joe Hudak is a talented athlete, and will be the top option at receiver. Shade only loses five seniors from the 2013 team, and  talent and experience will be all over the field for the Panthers.

Bottom line - There is a lot to like about this Shade team, and they could exceed that 6 win total they have plateaued at for the past two seasons.  Shade will have a powerful running game, and they will be a very aggressive team on offense.  Look for Shade to return to the district five playoffs, and perhaps could be a team that makes some noise while there. 

6. Meyersdale

KEY Players - Riley Christner (QB)  Tim Garlitz (TE/LB) Ty Hoover (RB)

The Red Raiders had a big run in 2013 with a trip to the playoffs and a 9-3 record, and it will be tough to duplicate that success again. Meyersdale lost some key seniors from that run, and it will be an adjusting period without them. Riley Christner is back at quarterback after leading the team as a freshman. Ty Hoover and Jason Ritchey saw some carries last season, and should split the majority of them this year. Conner Christner will be the top threat on the outside after leading the team in receptions in 2013. The defense can be a strength as they return big Tim Garlitz to lead the way. He posted four sacks last year, and was second in tackles. Jason Ritchey and Ty Smith also return after having productive campaigns in 2014.

Bottom line - Ranking Meyersdale sixth could be too low for this team. They absolutely have some stud players, and could work their way into the top half of the conference. Still, they have plenty of question marks in some key places. If they can answer some of them early on, look for Meyersdale to finish higher and make a return trip to the playoffs. 

7. Conemaugh Township

KEY Players - Austin Myers (RB/DB) Makenzie Teeter (LB) Luke Maurer (WR/S)

Conemaugh Township is coming off two uncharacteristically bad seasons, and they will look to turn things around in 2014. The Indians will likely turn to sophomore, Jeff Tresnicky, for the quarterbacking duties.  He only attempted five passes last year, and will have big shoes to fill for Bruno Rosa. Austin Myers will assume the role of primary running back, after rushing for 474 yards last season. Look for Luke Maurer to be the top target in the passing attack. The Indians lose a lot up front, and will need to develop some strength in the trenches right away.  Myers is also a featured player on defense as he led Township in tackles last year. Makenzie Teeter and Trenton Troxell are also players to watch on that side of the ball. 

Bottome line - Conemaugh Township is coming off consecutive 3-7 campaigns, and a lot will have to happen to break this current streak. The Indians have had less depth and numbers than they typically do, and it is showing in their recent results.  Township has a few promising players in the program, and perhaps they can turn things around and get themselves back into district playoff contention. 

8. Ferndale

KEY Players - Taylor Kinsey (QB) Malik Ream (WR/CB) David Budash (FB/LB)

Ferndale struggled mightily last year in Chip Ryan's first season as head coach. Numbers were down, and it caused the Yellow Jackets to forfeit a game, and even end a game early at halftime. Numbers appear to be up this season, and some younger guys gained valuable experience last year and there is some optimism surrounding the team this year.  Taylor Kinsey is an athletic senior quarterback that can operate the offense efficiently. David Budash and Brad Boring are two physical blockers, but could get a chance to carry the ball this season.  Malik Ream is an athletic playmaker, and could be primed for a big year. The Yellow Jackets have good size in the trenches, and could help the offense make more of a positive impact in 2014.

Bottom line - Ferndale has more depth this season and some intriguing talent.  They should certainly improve, and Chip Ryan's coaching will show through this season.  He is giving this program more offensive innovation than in year's past and he may have the weapons this season to perhaps steal a few wins. 

9. Blacklick Valley 

KEY Players - Isaiah Scott (RB)  Nathan Smith (RB/LB)  Luke Galko (FB/LB)

Blacklick Valley is a young team, and they may take some lumps this season after only winning two games in 2013.  The Vikings should boast a solid ground game with Isaiah Scott and Nathan Smith who are both capable ball carriers. Isaac Wurm will assume the quarterbacking duties after attempting only seven passes in 2013. Derek Cesarz could be the top receiving option in 2013. Luke Galko should anchor a defense that is returning some experience. Rayce Lazendorfer and Cory Villa are also names to watch on that side of the ball. 

Bottom line - Blacklick Valley loses some key players from last season, but they still have some solid players that could make some noise. It is hard to gauge the difference between Ferndale, Conemaugh Valley, and Blacklick. All three teams appear to be at an level, and could make for some competitive games. 

10. Conemaugh Valley

KEY Players - Brandon Galasso (RB/LB)  Anthony Hutzell (RB/CB)  Kevin Roles (LB)

Conemaugh Valley struggles as much as anyone with depth and numbers, and this year will be no different. The Blue Jays are looking for their first winning season since the 2005 season, and it will be an uphill battle to get there. Conemaugh Valley can look to two veteran backs to front the offensive attack.  Brandon Galasso led Valley in rushing last year with 665 yard. Anthony Hutzell is a speed back, and can do a variety of things and will look to build upon his 258 yard junior season. Tristan Burke appears to be in line to take over as quarterback, and he is just a sophomore with one pass attempt in his career. Valley only loses four seniors from 2013, and they return all of their line on both sides of the ball.  

Bottom line - Valley has some skilled players, but again, depth will play a role for them. As I mentioned before, there is not a lot of separation between these bottom three teams and they can all play with one another. It will be hard for the Blue Jays to exceed the 2-3 win mark, but it is not impossible. 

No comments:

Post a Comment