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Riverview football has big plans for transfer Conley

Michael Love
| Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, 10:36 p.m.

Riverview sophomore offensive lineman and defensive end Zach Hanlon said the young Raiders, with numbers in the low 20s, will need to overcome adversities this season to punch its ticket to the WPIAL Class A playoffs for the second year in a row.

“We have to have a lot of guys step up,” Hanlon said. “Coach (Matt Bonislawski) talks about dealing with adversity all the time to get the job done.”

Billy Conley, one of four seniors on the roster, dealt with his adversity this summer as his family moved to Oakmont ­— his father started a new job in the area — and changed schools from Highlands to Riverview. His norms were uprooted and planted in a different location with new routines to develop.

That included getting to know a new group of teammates.

“It was tough leaving friends I've known my whole life,” Conley said.

But the 6-foot, 250-pound offensive tackle and defensive lineman has become comfortable in his new situation and quickly engrained himself in the Raiders' plans this fall.

“It was something new,” said Conley, who has earned the starting left tackle position.

“It was a tough transition at first, but everyone shook my hand when they met me and said, ‘Let's get ready. Let's go to work.' They've become my best friends before I even go into school,” Conley said. “I feel very comfortable playing beside them on the field.”

Riverview will have to navigate the challenging Eastern Conference, which again includes Class A favorites Clairton, Jeannette, Imani Christian and Bishop Canevin.

“Billy is a strong leader by example,” Bonislawski said. “He's become comfortable with everything in the program, how we practice and things like that. As he continues to progress, he will become more of a vocal leader.”

Conley's strength, size, quickness and technique has impressed coaches and teammates, Bonislawski said.

“He's very coachable and does everything we ask of him,” he added.

Until Conley's arrival, Hanlon, who played every snap on both sides of the ball as a freshman in 2016, was one of the biggest players on the team at 220 pounds.

“Billy's been great,” Hanlon said. “He was like an answered prayer. We needed some more linemen, and he has size. He knows a lot about the game. He makes the team better. That's all you can ask for.

“He challenges me every day and helps make me a better player. He has a lot of speed, so I have to work on my edge rushing a little bit. He's taken the left tackle position. It's the blind side, so you have to get your (butt) moving.”

Bonislawski said he likes the way Conley has come in and pushed the other linemen, including Hanlon.

“With his presence alone, the other guys realize he can be a leader for us, on and off the field. He realizes he can step it up a few more levels,” Bonislawski said. “He fits in pretty well with everyone. He's become one of the guys.”

The Raiders' opener is Sept. 1 at Leechburg.

Conley's team expectations for the season are pretty cut and dry: “Make the playoffs. We are setting the goals high.”

Personally, it comes down to improving every day.

“I want to work to get better at my position,” he said. “It comes down to repetitions with the plays and communicating with the other guys. By doing that, it helps the team get better.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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