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2008 LHAC Section 1 Preview

Teams are in order of my projected finish for them within their respective section. 
 
Please note, not all coaches responded to my inquiry but if I get any additional information I'll post it. 

FOREST HILLS:

Coaching staff: Don Bailey is entering his 35th season as Head Coach of the Forest Hills Rangers. His record entering the 2008 season is 280-80-8. Bailey is assisted by Rick Ruddek, Bob Petrunak and Tony Bambino.

Key Returning Starters: Scott Mehall, RB, Zack Glessner QB, John McCarty NG/OT, Colin Gdula LB/OT, Tyler Rosenberger WR, Robert Oshaben DE, John Kmetz DT/G/FB, Jason Shope LB, Josh Paulson WR, Dustin Geyer DB/WR, Chris Lazaration S/RB

Key Losses to Graduation: Jared Kostan FB, Justin Serre OT, Brad Keller DB, Nick Hinderliter LB

Varsity Newcomers to Watch: Jason Kostan RB, Nick Dudukovich FB/LB, Jeff Meier S/SB, Jared McCombie WR/DB, Erik Ondrejik G/DE, Dan Crowell DE, Kody Johnson DB/WR, Mike Peters WR/DB

Games to mark on the calendar: The Rangers host Johnstown Week 2 and will look to avenge a 38-17 loss to the Trojans a year ago. The following week, section play begins and the Rangers take on rival Bedford. Later in the season, when non-section play hits again, father and son face-off as Forest Hills play Richland in Week 9. Although it’s probably old hat for those two, it’s always an interesting story when a father and son coach against each other.

Comments from coaching staff: Coach Don Bailey remarks: “We are cautiously optimistic. We are returning some outstanding skill players with experience. The key to our season will be how the offensive and defensive lines develop. We have to improve our turnover ratio and learn not to beat ourselves.

Analysis: A 4-6 season was quite the anomaly for the Rangers but that is what they suffered a year ago. I look for the Rangers to be back on top of the section after last year’s minor rebuilding season. Zack Glessner has a year of experience behind him and will only continue to get better, in turn becoming one of the better quarterbacks in the LHAC.

 

CENTRAL CAMBRIA

Coaching staff: Ken Bussard is entering his 21st season as Head Coach of the Central Cambria Red Devils. He coached CC from 1986-2004 and from 2007 to the present.

Key Returning Starters: no response

Key Losses to Graduation: Mitch Blackwell DE

Varsity Newcomers to Watch: no response

Games to mark on the calendar: Week 1 has the Red Devils traveling the short trip to St. Francis to take on their Catholic neighbors Bishop Carroll in a game that many in Ebensburg will watch with interest.

Comments from coaching staff: no response

Analysis: The Red Devils will battle for the section title on the heels of their lines on both sides of the ball. The front four looks to be a force in the conference in stopping the run while the offensive line, while not especially big but plenty tall, will provide balance on the other side of the ball. If the rest of the offense, mainly the WR corps, can play up to their potential, good things can happen in Ebensburg.

 

BISHOP GUILFOYLE

Coaching staff: Marty Georgiana is entering his fifth season as Head Coach of the Bishop Guilfoyle Marauders. His record entering the 2008 season is 20-22. He is assisted by Dave Trexler, Craig Andros, Tom Bussman, Bill Beard, Gene Ehredt and Chip Conrad.

Key Returning Starters: Chris Brown QB/DB, Nick Johnston OL/DL, Sully McConnell RB/LB, A.J. Kitt RB/DB, Huey Ehredt RB/DB, Kyle Kessler LB, Brian Sweeney OL/LB, Nate Rossman OL/DL, Richie Zelnosky DL, Thad Trybus OL, Alex Shaffer WR/DE, Amanda James K

Key Losses to Graduation: Jim Sommers RB/LB, Logan McDannell WR/DB, P.J. Valent OL/DL, Luke McConnell WR/DB, Anthony Kuny WR/DB, George Bodzniak WR/DE

Varsity Newcomers to Watch: Matt Franco WR/DB, Chet Kowalski WR/DE, Chris Damiano RB/DB

Games to mark on the calendar: Week 2 has the Marauders hosting Bishop McCort. Although a non-section game, this could be a preview of a 6-A playoff contest later down the road.

Analysis: The Marauders were slow out of the gate last year and still managed to advance deep into the 6-A playoffs and I expect the same to happen in ‘08. Although two thirds of what I called the triplets are gone (Logan McDannell and Luke McConnel), Chris Brown returns at QB. His veteran leadership as well as some new players stepping up will see BG battling with other 6-A teams come postseason play.

 

PENN CAMBRIA

Coaching staff: Ernie Fetzer is entering his fourth season as Penn Cambria. His record as coach of the Panthers is 18-13. Fetzer has also coached at Somerset, Westmont, Johnstown Vo-Tech and Ferndale.

Key Returning Starters: Josh Gallagher QB/WR, Zak Newton QB/RB, Mark Sanford OT, Matt Glass OG, Josh Vargo C, Taylor Molnaird DE, Matt Teeter DE, Nate Eckenrode OLB, George Schwaderer ILB

Key Losses to Graduation: no response

Varsity Newcomers to Watch: Matt Glenn, SE

Games to mark on the calendar: After tuning up the season with two non-sectional games that are both very winnable (Richland and Westmont), week three will show if the Panthers have what it takes to hang in Section 1 as they will hit the road and take on the Central Cambria Red Devils.

Coaching staff comment:  Veteran Coach Fetzer says he has a "team of good size and good speed.  Staying away from injuries is key as well as finding success early."

Analysis: If any coach can make a two quarterback system work, it’s Ernie Fetzer. Fetzer had some success a few years ago in Cresson switching and that looks to be the case in ‘08 as well. Look for the Panthers to improve on their 3-7 season from a year ago and be in the hunt for a District 5/6-AA playoff spot.

 

BEDFORD

Coaching staff: Dan Smith is entering his first season as Head Coach of the Bedford Bisons

Key Returning Starters: Josh Krupa C/DL, Mike Short QB, Paul Detwiler RB

Key Losses to Graduation: Matt Henry FB

Varsity Newcomers to Watch: Tyler Nicodemus OT and Zach Hess WR

Games to mark on the calendar: Week 3 and home against Forest Hills in one of the best rivalries in not only the LHAC but District 6.

Coaching staff comment:  First year man in charge Dan Smith states, "Last year was a down year, going 2-8.  'Getting Back To It' is our motto along with 'Team Bison'". 

Analysis: It could be growing pains for the Bisons and first year coach Smith as they could conceivably lose their first games (although I don’t see that happening). They should win more than the two games they did a year ago, but not many more than that. Fear not Bedford faithful, Coach Smith is laying the groundwork for the rebuilding of the program to its Max Shoemaker days.

 

CAMBRIA HEIGHTS

Coach: Justin Myers is entering his second season as Head Coach of the Cambria Heights Highlanders. His record entering the 2008 season is 0-10 He is assisted by Darren McLaurin, John Eckenrode and Lee Stanek.

Key Returning Starters: Jeremy Priester RB, Bryan Stanke WR, Andrew Gause C, Caleb Vescovi QB

Key Losses to Graduation: Dan Anna C, Donald Miller G

Varsity Newcomers to Watch: Nick Dubyak FB, Brant Beck TE

Games to mark on the calendar: Weeks 2, 6, 7 and 10 (Somerset, Penn Cambria, Bedford and Richland respectively) offer the Highlanders a few shots at pulling off surprise wins.

Comments from coaching staff: Myers states, “We hope to become more consistent and improve as a team each week.”

Analysis: One thing I will guarantee and that is that the Highlanders will not go winless this season like they did in ‘08. Priester and Vescovi are excellent players and another year older and wiser to Coach Myers’ system. Ask any LHAC coach and they would probably agree that no one played tougher in the first half a year ago than CH. Myers also adds former Westmont coach Darren McLaurin to his staff which will pay great dividends. Look for CH to surprise a few people and win two, maybe three games this season.

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