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WPIAL football conference preview: Class 6A Southeastern

Bill Hartlep
| Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, 6:24 p.m.
Hempfield quarterback Justin Sliwoski stiff-arms Norwin's Nolan Brough during a game in October 2016.
Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
Hempfield quarterback Justin Sliwoski stiff-arms Norwin's Nolan Brough during a game in October 2016.
Hempfield's Braden Brose makes a catch through traffic, 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
Hempfield's Braden Brose makes a catch through traffic, during the WCCA 7 on 7 football games, at Latrobe Area Senior High School, in Unity Township, on Thursday, July 20, 2017.
Bethel Park's James Gmiter hoists teammate Charlie Davis after Davis' touchdown against Woodland Hills on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, at the Wolvarena. Woodland Hills won 28-23.
Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Bethel Park's James Gmiter hoists teammate Charlie Davis after Davis' touchdown against Woodland Hills on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, at the Wolvarena. Woodland Hills won 28-23.
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.

The favorite

Mt. Lebanon (7-4 overall, 5-1 Southeastern in 2016)

Bolstered by a pair of Division I-bound linemen and a 2,000-yard passer, Mt. Lebanon has the talent to defend its Southeastern Conference title. The Blue Devils will be led by Colgate recruit Coleman Coco and fellow lineman Colby Sorsdal, who will line up in front of senior QB James Stocker.

The contenders

Bethel Park (5-5, 5-1)

Fresh off a first-team all-conference campaign, senior running back John Doleno returns to pace the Black Hawks. Doleno ran for 265 yards and had 259 receiving yards. The Bethel Park offense will need to replace QB Cole Rogers who graduated but can lean on a solid offensive line, led by WVU recruit James Gmiter and all-conference senior guard Gavin Vargesko.

Hempfield (5-6, 4-2)

Talented skill players dot the field for the Spartans, including QB Justin Sliwoski and primary targets in senior receiver Nick DiAndreth (48-720 yards, 8 TDs), tight end Braden Brose and RB/WR Isaiah DiAndreth. The Spartans play a challenging nonconference slate that includes Central Catholic, Penn Hills and North Allegheny.

Norwin (5-6, 3-3)

The Knights return a pair of quarterbacks who shared time last season — senior Brock Dieter (94-160, 1,494 yards, 18 TDs) and sophomore Jack Salopek (21-37, 285 yards, 1 TD). The defense will be anchored by junior safety Jayvon Thrift. Tight end Gage Luptak, tackle Jake Smetak and linebacker Jon Piekut also return after earning all-conference laurels.

Canon-McMillan (5-5, 2-4)

The Big Macs finished 2016 by winning four of its final five games after a 1-4 start. Senior all-conference tackle Aaron Smith returns, along with junior DB Drew Engel and junior tailback Dave Cooper.

Peters Township (4-6, 1-5)

Running back Josh Casilli earned all-conference honors as a freshman last season after scoring eight touchdowns. Senior QB Jake Cortes returns after throwing for 2,036 yards and 19 scores.

Altoona (2-8, 1-5)

A pair of second-team all-conference defensive linemen — junior Gaige Hill and senior Javion Queen — hope to help Altoona improve on its average of 35.1 points allowed per game.

Players to watch

Braden Brose

Hempfield, sr., TE

Brose, with offers from Slippery Rock and Seton Hill, caught 21 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns while earning first-team all-conference recognition.

James Gmiter

Bethel Park, sr., DT

A 6-foot-4, 300-pound West Virginia recruit, Gmiter is a three-star recruit who was first-team all-conference.

Justin Sliwoski

Hempfield, sr., QB

A first-team all-conference quarterback, Sliwoski threw for 1,763 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. He holds offers from Columbia, Georgetown and Dartmouth.

James Stocker

Mt. Lebanon, sr., QB

The senior signal-caller threw for 2,065 yards and 19 touchdowns last season in helping Mt. Lebanon claim the conference crown.

Jayvon Thrift

Norwin, jr., RB/DB

A three-star recruit at safety, Thrift was a first-team all-conference pick last season. He has Division I offers from Pitt, Syracuse, Temple and WVU.

Games to watch

10.20 Peters Township at Canon-McMillan

Playoff positioning could be on the line between the rivals. The Big Macs won 13-10 last season.

10.27 Norwin at Hempfield

Hempfield edged Norwin in the WCCA 7-on-7 tournament finals in July, but this regular-season finale will carry a little more weight.

10.27 Bethel Park at Mt. Lebanon

Mt. Lebanon defeated its neighborhood rival 35-14 last season to seal the conference title in the regular-season finale.

Fast facts

• Altoona will travel 124 miles to play at Canon-McMillan this season, a trip the Big Macs made a year ago.

• Bethel Park will travel 3.5 miles to play at Mt. Lebanon in Week 9.

• Canon-McMillan outscored opponents 128-88 in its final five games last season.

— Bill Hartlep

Correction: Aug. 10, 2017

This story was updated to correct 2016 statistics for Peters Township quarterback Jake Cortes.

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