Bishop Canevin running backs running hard for Crusaders
Bishop Canevin's Jim Tersak is no stranger to the fields of the WPIAL.
Tersak was a starting offensive lineman and defensive end for the Crusaders in 2011, helping record a 11-1 mark and reach the WPIAL Class A semifinals.
Tersak was one of the top returning players for Bishop Canevin from last season's team. But instead of returning to the line, he was moved to fullback.
“As soon as last season ended, we realized we had a lot of linemen back but not a lot of skill-position guys back,” Bishop Canevin coach Bob Jacoby said. “We didn't have the big fullback we like to have. We knew we would have a young tailback and we needed the extra blocker.”
When Tersak made his debut at fullback in Week 1 against Imani Christian, blocking was the least of what he did. The bruising back ran for 100 yards and three touchdowns in the 21-6 win.
“It felt amazing to have a night like that,” Tersak said. “I didn't know what to expect. I just got the ball and had a great night.”
Tersak said being in the position in practice was much different than in the game. In addition to being on a different spot on the field, the physical toll was also different.
“It is a very different look in the backfield,” Tersak said. “We would run some quick plays and I was would start breathing (hard) but I knew I had to keep going. I learned to adapt my game.”
Jacoby said what helps Tersak in the fullback position is his strength. His runs against Imani Christian weren't full of jukes or great speed. A lot of them was just the senior running people over.
“He was the best athlete on the line we had coming back,” Jacoby said. “He just has this sheer strength. He was dragging tacklers (against Imani Christian).”
Tersak is not the only running threat the Crusaders can turn to. Sophomore Giovanni DeMarzo gives Bishop Canevin a quick back option.
The youngster recorded 98 yards against Imani Christian in Week 1 and 94 against Chartiers-Houston in Week 2.
“The key to him is he looks like a quicker back,” Jacoby said. “But he has good strength, too. Against Imani, he had trouble breaking away because they had such great speed and he ran through a couple of people.”
The sophomore played wide receiver last season and got snaps as a backup quarterback.
The coaching staff noticed his skill set would allow him to fill in at running back well and made the move this season. Jacoby said the big question for DeMarzo entering the season was if he would be able to carry a bulk of the carries.
After running the ball a total of 47 times in the first two games, he has proven he can be an every-down back.
“It is tough but I love it,” DeMarzo said. “I felt I could've done better but we got the win and that is what matters.”
The duo replaces the successful backfield of Casey McCaffrey and Bobby Gustine, who combined for more than 1,500 yards last season.
Much like the pair last season, Tersak and DeMarzo's “thunder and lightning” combination will try to run past their opponents and continue the success of the Bishop Canevin ground game.
“Hopefully wether we face a power defense or a quicker defense, it will help us find success,” Tersak said. “We can attack with his speed and me up in the middle and find success.”
“I think we will be able to throw teams off,” DeMarzo said. “Throw a little quick at them and then a little power.”
The Crusaders will look to run past Carlynton Friday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Dormont Stadium.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.