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Norwin aiming for elusive playoff victory

Paul Schofield
| Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, 12:30 p.m.

It's been 10 years since Norwin won a WPIAL playoff game.

That's when the Knights upset Woodland Hills, 29-14, in the opening round of the 2007 Class AAAA playoffs.

Norwin has reached the postseason four times since 2010, including the past three seasons. But the Knights made quick exits.

Things could change this season. The Knights return an experienced team that could be one of the top contenders in the WPIAL Class 6A Southeastern Conference, along with Hempfield, Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park.

Norwin finished 3-3 in the conference, 5-6 overall last season. It lost 48-0 to Central Catholic in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Knights again will run a spread offense, led by senior Brock Dieter and sophomore Jack Salopek. Both players saw action at quarterback in 2016 before Dieter took over under center.

Norwin coach David Brozeski said both will again compete for the starting job. During seven-on-seven competition, both players saw equal time during games. Brozeski likes how they are competing for the starting job.

Dieter completed 94 of 160 passes for 1,494 yards and 18 touchdowns last season with only two interceptions. Salopek was 21 for 37 for 285 yards and one touchdown.

There are holes to fill on offense. Graduation took leading rushers Kyle Turcovsky (419 yards, 4 TDs) and Aaron Carr (525 yards, 7 TDs) and top receiver Anthony DelleFemine (41 catches, 816 yards, 9 TDs), now at Robert Morris. Carr also caught 15 passes for 262 yards and five touchdowns.

The quarterbacks will work behind an experienced offensive line, as senior tackle Jake Smetak and senior guards Zac Turkowski and Noah Masten return. Also back is senior tight end Gage Luptak, a second-team all-conference selection.

“We need to find a few linemen,” Brozeski said. “We'll need other guys to step up in the skilled positions. We'll use a lot of different packages.”

Tevin Washington, who rushed for 206 yards and caught seven passes for 115 yards, as well as Jayvon Thrift and Zeke Houser will be in a three-man rotation in the backfield.

Rotating in at wide receiver are Zach Begg, Dylan Kantz, Gianni Rizzo and Billy Kerston. Brozeski said he expects them to perform like they did in the summer. Kerston caught 10 passes for 161 yards.

The defense should be the Knights' strength, with 10 players returning who saw plenty of playing time. Thrift, a junior, was a first-team all-conference defensive back and has several Division I scholarship offers, including from Pitt and West Virginia.

Others back in the secondary include Begg, Kantz, Washington and C.J. Taylor.

The returning linebackers are Luptak and John Piekut in the middle, and Rizzo and Hauser on the outside. Smetak, Franco Gaudio and Brendan Guastaferro will line up on the defensive line. Piekut and Smetak were second-team all-conference picks.

“I look for us to build on the momentum we had last year, and we've come together and built a bond as a team this summer,” Luptak said. “I believe we can take it to the next level in the section. It's going to take constant effort in practice, even from the young ones. They have to step up and keep pushing us, and we have to keep together through the ups and downs.”

Brozeski expects Mt. Lebanon to be solid, Bethel Park to be well-coached and Hempfield to contend in the Southeastern Conference.

Norwin fell to Hempfield in the Westmoreland County Coaches' Association 7-on-7 finals.

Brozeski was disappointed his team didn't play better in the finals after going undefeated in pool play.

“If we want to have a successful season, we have to come together as a team and stay healthy,” Brozeski said. “We have to be able to run the ball and be able to stop the run.

“We have to continue what we did in the summer, and that experience should help us during the season.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via twitter @Schofield_Trib.

Norwin quarterback Jack Salopek during the WCCA 7 on 7 football games, at Latrobe Area Senior High School, in Unity Township, on Thursday, July 20, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin quarterback Jack Salopek during the WCCA 7 on 7 football games, at Latrobe Area Senior High School, in Unity Township, on Thursday, July 20, 2017.
Norwin's Jayvon Thrift, during the WCCA 7 on 7 football games, at Latrobe Area Senior High School, in Unity Township, on Thursday, July 20, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Jayvon Thrift, during the WCCA 7 on 7 football games, at Latrobe Area Senior High School, in Unity Township, on Thursday, July 20, 2017.
Norwin's Jayvon Thrift reaches to break up a pass, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Jayvon Thrift reaches to break up a pass, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's Jayvon Thrift reaches to break up a pass, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Jayvon Thrift reaches to break up a pass, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Ezekiel Houser reacts after winning tug of war against Gianni Rizzo, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Ezekiel Houser reacts after winning tug of war against Gianni Rizzo, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's Gage Luptak warms up during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Gage Luptak warms up during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin tight end Gage Luptak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin tight end Gage Luptak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin tight end Gage Luptak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin tight end Gage Luptak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's John Piekut  makes a move on Jason Bevington, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's John Piekut makes a move on Jason Bevington, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Jayvon Thrift catches a pass, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Jayvon Thrift catches a pass, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's John Piekut  makes a move on Jason Bevington, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's John Piekut makes a move on Jason Bevington, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's Jake Smetak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Jake Smetak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's Noah Masten, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Noah Masten, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Ezekiel Houser faces off against Gianni Rizzo in tug of war, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Ezekiel Houser faces off against Gianni Rizzo in tug of war, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's Jake Smetak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Jake Smetak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's Jake Smetak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Jake Smetak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin tight end Gage Luptak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin tight end Gage Luptak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's Jayvon Thrift reaches to break up a pass, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Jayvon Thrift reaches to break up a pass, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter hands off to Ezekiel Houser, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter hands off to Ezekiel Houser, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin tight end Gage Luptak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin tight end Gage Luptak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Adam Horvat faces off against Aaron Bowen during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Adam Horvat faces off against Aaron Bowen during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin tight end Gage Luptak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin tight end Gage Luptak runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's Jake Smetak warms up during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Jake Smetak warms up during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's Jayvon Thrift, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's Jayvon Thrift, during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin quarterback Brock Dieter runs drills during practice at Norwin High School, on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's John Piekut during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's John Piekut during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Ezekiel Houser faces off against Gianni Rizzo, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Ezekiel Houser faces off against Gianni Rizzo, during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin's John Piekut during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin's John Piekut during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Norwin quarterback Jack Salopek during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Norwin quarterback Jack Salopek during practice at Norwin High School, in , on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
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