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by Don Vandergrift

Coach Art Walker’s Tigers will open the 2007 season on Friday night against the Bethel Park Blackhawks in front of the home fans at Newman Stadium.  Last year, the Tigers won the Northern Five Conference title and advanced to the WPIAL semifinals before losing to eventual WPIAL and PIAA Champion Upper St. Clair, 24-3.  After a slow start in 2006, Bethel Park finished with a 3-2 conference record and a 6-4 mark overall.  Woodland Hills knocked the Blackhawks from the WPIAL playoffs in the first round by a 31-17 score.  Last year, NA overwhelmed Bethel, 35-7, in the season opener at Bethel Park.

Blackhawk Head Coach Jeff Metheny enters his 22nd year as a head mentor and has a tough job ahead in the upcoming season.  Bethel lost their leading passer, rusher and receiver to graduation and will rely on a number of inexperienced players to step up.  On offense, junior quarterback Erik Olson (6-3, 195) will lead the attack.  Olson started one game last year and completed nine of 21 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown.  Joining Olson in the backfield will be junior tailback Lyle Marsh (6-1, 215) and senior fullback C.J. Seitzinger (5-11, 210).  Olson will have a number of senior wide receivers to throw to including Alex Tarr (5-11, 175), Zack Hay (5-11, 165) and Jon Schademan (5-11, 176) along with senior TE Rich Doolin (6-1, 225).  The offensive line will be built around offensive left tackle Bill Bair (6-2, 250).  Senior Justin Minton (5-10, 205) will start at center, senior Derek Hussek 6-0, 195) and junior Brian Vukela (6-1, 156) will be the guards and senior Jordan Reynolds (6-5, 290) will be the other tackle.  Senior Ethan Talbott (5-9, 165) returns as a quality place kicker for the Blackhawks.

On defense, senior Alex Tarr (5-11, 175) anchors the secondary from his cornerback position.  Tarr led the Blackhawks in interceptions last year and was a first team all-conference player.  On the defensive line, senior NG Bill Buckley (5-7, 245) , Bair, Reynolds, and Doolin give the Blackhawks some size in the middle with senior Ryan Brucker (6-2, 200) and junior Rock Vomer (5-10, 195) at the ends.  Seitzinger and sophomore Adam Lazenga (5-11, 210) will start at linebacker while Hay will team with Tarr at cornerback.  Schademan will start at free safety with Marsh at the strong safety position.

The Tigers enter the 2007 campaign coming off a successful 2006 season.  Three Tiger returnees were selected as All-Conference performers last year.  On offense, Coach Walker will build his offensive line around senior guard Austin Fedell (6-2, 265).  Senior Scott Linkowski (6-4, 215) will take over at center, with returning starter senior Mike Passodelis (6-3, 220) at left guard.  A pair of juniors moved into the tackle slots with Ryan Schlieper (6-6, 260) on the left side and Mike Vuono (6-3, 275) on the right.  Senior Mark Pegher (6-3, 235) will also see time on the offensive line.  In the backfield, junior quarterback Mike Locke (6-2, 180) returns along with senior signal called Geoff Greco (6-4, 210).  Both will see time under center with Greco also playing wide receiver.  Last year, Locke completed 27 of 48 passes (.583 pct.) good for 471 yards and 8 TDs.  Greco led the team in total offense with 446 rushing and 181 passing yards.  Junior Brian Austin (5-9, 155) returns as the Tigers’ big play threat.  Last year, Austin caught 17 passes for 375 yards and a pair of scores with an impressive ypc average of over 22 yards.  Senior starter TE Mike Fuhrman (6-1, 200) is back again with sophomore Rob Walchak (6-0, 200) also slated to see action.  Senior Dan Hoover (6-1, 170 returns at split end with senior Curtis Belcastro (6-4, 190) also in the mix at wide receiver.  In the backfield, the Tigers return leading rusher senior Carl DeCiantis (5-11, 185) who gained 525 yards on 96 carries (5.5 ypc) along with scoring four touchdowns, one on a 77-yard scamper.  The Watts brothers, Corey (6-0, 210) and Zach (6-0, 210), will both see action at the fullback position.  Another newcomer who could see varsity time is freshman running back Alex Papson (5-8, 165) who was impressive in the scrimmages.  The punting chores will be handled by Greco who was named to the Class AAAA AP All-State team as the punter.  The place kicker will be either senior Justin Facer (5-8, 155), from the NA soccer team, or junior Nick Jovonovich (5-11, 200).

The Tiger defense should be strong again in the upcoming season.  Last year, the Tigers held opponents to an average of 11.5 per game, among the tops in the WPIAL Quad A.  Fedell is scheduled to see more time on the defensive line this year and will team up with senior Kyle Johnson (6-2, 215) at tackle.  Sophomore Ben Balzer (6-3, 265), senior Nate Verner (5-9, 215) and Passodelis could also see action there.  At the ends, Zach Watts and Linkowski return.  At linebacker, leading tackler Corey Watts, a four-year starter, leads the way on the inside along with returning starter senior Alex Calder (6-0, 215) with junior Mario Posteraro (5-9, 185) also available.  On the outside, seniors Teddy Connolly (6-3, 190) and Ty Dixon (5-11, 165) will share time with juniors Mike Zelik (5-11, 165) and Wes Henderson (6-2, 215).  Seniors Kyle Butson (5-11, 170) and Christian Totera (5-8, 160) return as the starting cornerbacks with junior Kurt Devlin (5-9, 170) starting at safety.  Two additional players who saw playing time on both offense and defense in the scrimmage were junior Jackson Boyd (6-1, 185), a wide receiver and defensive back, and junior Jorden Kraus (5-11, 180), a running back and linebacker.

It should be a good test for the Tigers after two impressive showings in pre-season scrimmages.  Although NA beat Bethel convincingly last year, the Blackhawks had a streak of three consecutive wins against the Tigers and has won three of the last four.  Bethel leads the overall series, 16-12.  The weather forecast looks great for Friday night.  If you cannot attend or want to listen to the archived broadcast of the game, remember that the North Allegheny Sports Network will be there for the entire 2007 season to broadcast all Tiger football games LIVE on the internet.  Join Don Vandergrift and Rick Meister as they return for another season of broadcasts over the MSA Sports Network.  The pre-game show is set for 7:15 pm and game time is scheduled for 7:30 pm.


Any questions or comments should be directed to Athletic Director Bob Bozzuto at:  bbozzuto@northallegheny.org


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