By Chris Rossetti
As we embark on the first day of fall practice in football tomorrow (Monday, Aug. 12), six things caught our eye recently.
1. SIX HEAD COACHES ENTER 2013 SEASON WITH 100 WINS
Six of the 25 head coaches in District 9 enter the 2013 season with at least 100 wins led by Clearfield’s Tim Janocko, who holds the District 9 record with 216 (216-85-3 entering his 29th season). Janocko is one of just two D9 coaches to record 200 wins, as Coudersport’s Paul Simcoe had 204.
Joining Janocko in the 100-win club are Clarion’s Larry Wiser, who is 166-73-1 going into his 25th season, Karns City’s Ed Conto, who is 150-105-3 entering his 24th year, St. Marys’ Joe Schlimm who sports a 124-106-4 record, Curwensville’s Andy Evanko, who is 105-40 in his 13th year, and Brookville’s Chris Dworek, who is 103-90 in his 19th season. Conto, who has 115 of his wins at Karns City, Schlimm, who has 45 of his wins at St. Marys, and Dworek, who has 99 of his wins at Brookville, have all had stops at at least two schools. Conto is a remarkable 115-39 in 13 seasons at Karns City with six District 9 Class AA titles and 10 title-game appearances.
2. FIFTEEN D9 HEAD COACHES HAVE WINNING CAREER MARKS (Updated 8/14)
Fifteen of the 25 head coaches in District 9 enter 2013 with a winning overall career record.
3. FOUR NEW HEAD COACHES DOT THE D9 RANKS (Updated 8/14)
There are four new coaches this season in District 9 after five new head men last year.
Former star offensive lineman/linebacker Dave Eggleton takes over at his alma mater, Clarion-Limestone, for Jason Kundick, who won just two games in three years, while Michael Kunes takes over at Cameron County for Mark Morelli, whose team went 2-8 last year and 12-19 in his three seasons in Emporium. At Moniteau, Cecil Blauser takes over for Jeff Campbell, who stepped down earlier in the summer citing fatigue. Campbell, whose team was 1-8 last year, was 40-8 in six seasons including a D9 title in 2011. And at Elk County Catholic, Tony Gerg takes over for Travis Skrzypek, who remains as an assistant coach. Skrzypek, who was 32-20 in five seasons, had added responsibilities at work that forced him to give up head coaching.
4. COULD HAVE REPEAT CHAMPIONS IN CLASS AA & CLASS AAA
Two of the three District 9 champions from a year ago – Karns City and Clearfield – seem poised to take the titles again this year. The Gremlins return their starting quarterback, Tyler Kepple, as well as their top eight rushers from last year’s team that featured only eight seniors. Clearfield, meanwhile, returns stud quarterback/linebacker Christian Lezzer, who has already committed to Boston College. Lezzer is one of six starters on offense and six on defense back from last year’s title team. In Class A, this may be the season Clarion breaks through for its third District 9 title and its first since 2009. The Bobcats, with seven offensive starters including quarterback John Katis, and five defensive starters including DL Ian Corbett and Destin Strauser, look like a good bet to make their third straight title-game appearance and their fifth in the last six years. Two-time defending champion Port Allegany must replace 10 starters on both sides of the ball with only senior Brandon Raymo returning. That includes all-everything quarterback Matt Bodamer, who set the Pennsylvania career record for yards thrown for (10,948) and touchdown passes (137) including a state-record 3,951 yards and 52 touchdowns last season. Brockway, a semifinalist, last year, should be right in the mix with quarterback Alec Shaffer-Doan, while Curwensville returns leading rusher Zach Tibbens, who ranked third in D9 in rushing a season ago.
5. RIDGWAY/JOHNSONBURG COOP LEAVES AML A TEAM SHORT
The AML is short a team this year, as Ridgway and Johnsonburg are cooping in football opening up a spot on many teams’ schedules in the AML. St. Joseph’s Academy from Boalsburg, near State College, a first-year program, has filled a lot of those gaps but a couple of teams will have bye weeks because of it. Speaking of the coop, the team will be known as Ridgway because the school district is the host of the coop, although in many instances expect it to be referred to as the Ridgway/Johnsonburg Coop. The team, however, will go by Elkers and wear Ridgway’s uniforms. The Ridgway coaching staff led by Mark Heindl remains in place with some of the Johnsonburg assistants joining the ranks of the staff. Two of the team’s home games – Aug. 30 vs. Otto-Eldred and Oct. 11 vs. Curwensville will be played in Johnsonburg. The remainder will be played in Ridgway. There is a good chance this is the only year the AML will be short a squad, as Eisenhower is looking to rejoin the AML. The Knights, a District 10 team, last played in the AML as a District 10 squad in 2003. Eisenhower, which may move all its sports teams to District 9, won AML titles in 1995 and 1996 and was AML runner-up in 1990, 1994 and 1997. Nothing has been set in stone on the move yet. Here is a link to a Warren Times Observer story about the potential move.
6. MVP RACE COULD BE WIDE OPEN
The MVP race should be a wide-open affair with four of the top six passers from last season returning and three of the top four rushers. Lezzer would have to be the front runner having passed for 1,445 yards and 20 touchdowns and ran for 1,445 yards and 21 scores last year while leading the Clearfield defense. But Shaffer-Doan threw for 2,472 yards and 27 touchdowns in his first-year as the starting quarterback at Brockway, while DuBois’ Gabe French won Rookie of the Year honors after throwing for 1,546 yards and 17 touchdowns. Katis, in his first year at the helm of the Clarion offense, threw for 1,638 yards and 22 touchdowns, while Tibbens ran for 1,462 yards and 20 scores for Curwensville. St. Marys’ Alex Feldbauer rushed for 1,705 yards and 25 touchdowns as a junior.