BP needs to rely on young players in order to beat Central Catholic in season opener

Russell Finelsen, Editor-in-Chief

Last year, BP suffered a devastating 27-17 loss to Altoona in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs despite a 6-4 record overall and a 5-2 record in section play. And, with the multitude of great players graduating, BP will need to rely on some players that did not play that much last year to be able to do well this year.

BP’s opener for the 2015-2016 season is against Central Catholic at home. Last year, BP lost big, 41-0. This year, BP must rely on former bench players in order to have a chance.

Future senior quarterback Levi Metheny returns to lead the team on the field. Last year, Metheny was 92 for 161, a 57% completion rate. He threw for 1,156 yards and ten touchdowns, along with only four interceptions. He was as good on the ground. He rushed for 92 yards on 80 carries and scored eight touchdowns. He will be the leader on this young squad.

Even with a great quarterback, BP has some uncertainties on the receiving end. Wide receiver Jake Lewis (26 receptions, 388 yards, two touchdowns), halfback Alex Minton (18 receptions, 234 yards, one touchdown), wide receiver Chris Papalia (eight catches, 139 yards, one touchdown), wide receiver Spencer Hayes (three catches, 67 yards, one touchdown), and tight end Connor McGinnis (10 receptions, 102 yards) all graduated this past June, and were the team’s leading receivers.

However, BP has several great receivers to try to fill that gap. Rising senior running back Charlie Davis started last season off hot, but cooled off. Still, he caught eight passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns, which led the team.

Rising senior tight end Jake Dixon should also be a constant target for Metheny. Dixon caught ten passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns last year.

However, after that, there is not much depth. The next best receiver is rising junior Terron Murphy, who is actually a running back. In addition, last year, he caught only four passes for 44 yards with no touchdowns. This year, BP will need to find new receiving talent in order to compete, especially against Central Catholic’s stellar pass defense.

Lack of running backs is also a huge problem. Minton (227 carries, 1,237 yards, 12 touchdowns), McGinnis (27 carries, 157 yards, one touchdown), and halfback Lucas Fondeleir (ten carries, 79 yards, one touchdown) leave a huge gap to fill. This hole will be partially filled by Metheny and Murphy, who scored three touchdowns and rushed for 275 yards on only 23 carries, an outstanding stat. BP also does not have depth in the running game. This will be a big disadvantage for the Black Hawks in the season to come.

Kicking is also a big part of the game, and for next year, BP has a big disadvantage. Matthew Monte, who kicked 28 PATs (point after touchdowns) and six field goals, graduated in June. Metheny and sophomore fullback Shawn Halligan are the only other players on the team that scored via the kick last season; but, they kicked four PATs combined. BP must find a new full time kicker in order to make touchdowns seven points instead of six, as that extra point could mean the difference between a victory and a loss, especially against a team like Central Catholic.

Rising junior Jeremy Wodarek leads a defense that has lost much manpower. Former seniors Minton, Lewis, Papalia, and Chiante Pryor combined for six interceptions last year, while Wodarek only had one. Thus, the whole team must step up in order to win games and beat Central Catholic, which excels on both sides of the field.

Last season, Central Catholic started the season with a seven-game wining streak, and did not allow more than 14 points in eight of nine games. They finished 8-1 in regular season play and 6-1 in conference play; their only loss was against Pine-Richland. In the WPIAL Class AAAA Championships, they lost to Pine-Richland again. This upcoming season, though, they will vie for a title a few key players short.

Central Catholic quarterback Michael Navarro returns for his senior year to lead the offense from behind the center. Even though he attempted a mere 67 passes, he completed 45 of them for 581 yards and eleven touchdowns and no interceptions. In addition, he rushed for 81 yards on 26 carries. He scored an additional three touchdowns on the ground. However, the main source of yardage is gained on the ground.

Last year, Central Catholic rushed for 3,186 yards and 46 touchdowns. This was at least four times the yardage gained via the pass (746 yards) and almost four times as many touchdowns scored through the air (13). Even though running backs Grant Foster (118 rushes, 729 yards, 16 touchdowns), Brian Totten (53 rushes, 513 yards, three touchdowns), and WR John Petrishen (57 rushes, 443 yards, two touchdowns) graduated, the team has plenty of great players to take their places. These include rising seniors Vinny Emanuele, Ronnie Jones, and Bradley Meyer. Last year, Emanuele rushed 96 times for 605 yards and seven touchdowns, while Jones rushed for 470 yards and five touchdowns on 58 carries, and Meyer rushed for 4 yards on eight carries. He also scored one touchdown.

Central Catholic also has a couple of young stars in the running game. Rising juniors David Marshall and J.J. Younger did well last year as backups. In their sophomore years, Marshall rushed for 34 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, while Younger rushed for 65 yards on 12 carries. These players are bound to be even better this year, and should be trouble for BP’s defense, especially in five receiver sets.

One of Central Catholic’s only weaknesses is their receivers. Their leading receiver was Petrishen, who accounted for 40% of the team’s passing yards. Last year, he caught 297 yards and seven touchdowns on only 18 receptions. However, he graduated last year, along with wide receiver Hunter Praksti, who caught six passes for 54 yards, and tight end Graham Adomitis, who caught seven passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

This gap is partially filled by Emanuele and rising senior defensive back Damar Hamlin. Last year, Emanuele caught seven passes for 51 yards and one touchdown, while Hamlin caught five passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

Nonetheless, with little depth in the receiving department, Central Catholic will have to depend on the run. This means that if BP can stop the run, the Central Catholic offense could be shut down in the opening quarters.

Central Catholic is also at a disadvantage in their kicking game. Like BP, their best kicker, Mitchell MacZura, graduated this summer. He kicked 61 PATs and four field goals. Unlike BP, though, Central Catholic has a backup kicker by the name of Ben DeSabato. Even though he kicked a lone PAT last year, he has the leg strength and accuracy to be able to take MacZura’s place for every game, including the season opener against BP.

Central Catholic’s defense should be the game changer. Even though Petrishen (four interceptions), wide receiver Joe Tindal (two interceptions), and fullback Cullen Buckley (two interceptions) graduated in June, Central Catholic’s defense still is pretty good. Rising senior Bricen Garner had four interceptions last year, while Hamlin had three. Central Catholic also has young defensive stars. Rising juniors Kurt Hinish and David Adams each had an interception last year, and are expected to be in the starting lineup this year. This talented group will pose troubles for any pass heavy team, like BP, due to their lack of running backs.

Final result: Black Hawk fans should hope for their team’s season to brighten up after the season opener. Due to lack of running, kicking, and defending experience (which Central Catholic all has), Central Catholic should win in a landslide. 29-6, Vikings.