Hopewell's Shell leads Trib's All-Preseason Team
The following team was selected by high school sports editor Bryan Black in consultation with Trib staff writers and selected Western Pennsylvania high school football coaches.
This is the first such team selected for the Pittsburgh area by Black, who for many years selected an all-preseason team for The Virginian-Pilot in the recruiting hotbed of South Hampton Roads (Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk). The following team was selected with a finite number of players — 30 offensive players (4 quarterbacks, 8 running backs, 6 wide receivers, 2 tight ends, 10 offensive linemen) plus 2 kickers and 30 defensive players (10 defensive linemen, 10 linebackers, 10 defensive backs) plus 2 punters. No player was put on the team at more than one position, so a player who stars at running back and linebacker, for example, could make the team only at one spot.
Quarterbacks — Dillon Buechel, Montour, 6-4, 175; Christian Brumbaugh, South Fayette, 6-4, 200; Wayne Capers, Chartiers Valley, 6-1, 190; Johnny Matarazzo, New Castle, 6-3, 215.
• Know this: Fans will get to enjoy three of these four for two more seasons. Brumbaugh is the only senior among them. Dozens of quarterbacks were candidates to make the final four, but, in the end, these four stood out above the rest.
Running backs — Mike Caputo, West Allegheny, 6-2, 190; Bre Ford, Bethel Park, 5-11, 205; Montay Green, Fox Chapel, 5-11, 230; Jordan Maddox, Keystone Oaks, 5-7, 185; Damian Jones-Moore, Central Catholic, 5-7, 170; Matt McCann, Keystone Oaks, 5-11, 190; Rushel Shell, Hopewell, 6-0, 220; Delrece Williams, Steel Valley, 5-11, 185.
• Know this: Led by Shell and Caputo, this is an extremely stout group and one that was exceedingly difficult to cut down to eight. Caputo has committed to Wisconsin, where he'll likely play strong safety. McCann recently committed to Villanova, where he'll likely man a defensive position. Then there's Shell, just a junior and one who already is one of the most highly recruited Class of 2012 running backs in the country.
Wide receivers — Tommy Berexa, Pine-Richland, 5-9, 175; Christian Bryan, Norwin, 5-10, 175; Trenton Coles, Clairton, 6-3, 185; Anthony Nixon, Central Catholic, 6-2, 185; Steve Schmitt, Hempfield, 5-11, 175; Devin Wilson, Montour, 6-3, 170.
• Know this: Who is the best of this bunch of wideouts• Difficult to say. We'll have to see how the season unfolds. If Coles proves to be as good on the football field as he is as a sprinter, he could separate himself from this crowd, too.
Tight ends — Rob Kugler, North Allegheny, 6-3, 240; Paul Lang, Mt. Lebanon, 6-5, 235.
• Know this: This was probably the easiest position to select. Both of these guys are slam-dunk selections. Kugler has committed to Purdue, and Lang has committed to Michigan State.
Offensive linemen — Andrew Bennett, Erie McDowell, 6-6, 250; Adam Bisnowaty, Fox Chapel, 6-6, 280; Tim Cwalina, Mt. Lebanon, 6-7, 295; Austin Heter, Montour, 6-5, 250; Kekoa Hillen, Southmoreland, 6-2, 280; Zach Hooks, Aliquippa, 6-5, 280; Vinny Nerti, New Castle, 6-3, 280; Marquis Norris, Clairton, 6-4, 295; Bernie Sarra, Greensburg Central Catholic, 6-2, 310; Joe Sullivan, Greensburg Central Catholic, 6-1, 300.
• Know this: Yes, when it comes to offensive linemen, size does matter. And, as should be expected, this is a very large group of young men. Cwalina has committed to Virginia, and other Division I commitments are sure to follow from this group of extra-big fellas whom John Madden would absolutely love.
Kickers — Sam Scifo, Woodland Hills, 5-9, 145; Michael Wainauskis, Thomas Jefferson, 5-11, 170.
• Know this: There weren't a lot of kicking candidates to choose from, but these two emerged as the consensus best around.
Defensive linemen — Sascha Craig, Gateway, 6-1, 220; Justin Haser, North Allegheny, 6-5, 235; Desimon Green, Clairton, 6-5, 230; Dezon Hall, Jeannette, 6-4, 240; DeMond Haynes, Gateway, 5-10, 225; Dan Heinauer, North Hills, 6-1, 245; Quinton Jefferson, Woodland Hills, 6-5, 220; Matt Sasson, Fox Chapel, 6-2, 275; Delvon Simmons, McKeesport, 6-5, 275; Matt Vogel, Mohawk, 6-4, 240.
• Know this: There's loads of Division I talent in this bunch. Green, who also plays quarterback at Clairton, recently committed to Pitt. Simmons and Jefferson are pretty sure bets to put their names on Division I deals come signing day. It won't be a surprise if several others among these 10 land nice scholarship packages as well.
Linebackers — Ben Baird, Norwin, 6-2, 210; Mike Caprara, Woodland Hills, 6-0, 195; Branden Jackson, McKeesport, 6-5, 225; Ejuan Price, Woodland Hills, 6-0, 235; C.J. Revtai, West Allegheny, 6-1, 220; Deaysean Rippy, Sto-Rox, 6-2, 210; Brandon Small, Clairton, 5-11, 200; Nolan Toran, Gateway, 5-9, 185; Garrett Wild, Baldwin, 6-1, 210; Armstead Williams, Gateway, 6-2, 215.
• Know this: Similar to the running backs, there were dozens of players who were candidates at linebacker. So, cutting down to 10 linebackers was beyond difficult. Three major Division I-caliber seniors — Jackson, Price and Armstead — head this talented bunch. Rippy, a junior, is primed to be at the head of this list next year.
Defensive backs — Jasson Adamson, Rochester, 6-0, 175; Cory Bauer, Brentwood, 6-0, 180; Nick Bolias, Monessen, 6-0, 175; Dontez Ford, Sto-Rox, 6-2, 190; Matt Green, Belle Vernon, 6-0, 195; Brian Jones, Gateway, 5-9, 180; Nick Kwiatkoski, Bethel Park, 6-2, 215; Lafayette Pitts, Woodland Hills, 6-0, 180; Taylor Schmidt, North Hills, 5-10, 170; Connor Scott, Upper St. Clair, 6-0, 180.
• Know this: A number of these guys are two-way stars for their teams. Adamson, Bauer and Schmidt, for instance, also are standout quarterbacks. Green and Pitts, for example, are top-shelf running backs. Pitts has committed to Pitt, and Kwiatkoski has committed to West Virginia. It's also important to note that Gateway's Dondi Kirby would have led this group of 10 defensive backs — and knocked someone off the list — but he is out for the season due to a knee injury.
Punters — A.J. Anderson, Fox Chapel, 5-10, 145; Andrew Huska, Ford City, 5-7, 135.
• Know this: Like the kickers, there weren't a lot of punters to choose from, but these two were the consensus selections.
Preseason Player of the Year: Rushel Shell, Hopewell
• Know this: Mike Caputo was the 2009 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Player of the Year after leading West Allegheny past Shell's Hopewell team in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game. This year, Shell will get a chance to show how much he can do largely on his own. A good bit of that 2009 Hopewell team graduated last spring. Shell is a special player who one day could wind up being known as the greatest running back ever produced in Western Pennsylvania.