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Deer Lakes to go as far as running backs can carry it

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Deer Lakes linebacker Cody Keenan returns an interception during practice at Camp Bacoco near Slippery Rock on August 14, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH
Deer Lakes lineman Mike McGraw goes through agility drills during practice at Camp Bacoco near Slippery Rock on August 14, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch

An effective running game is a good recipe for success for any team.

After finishing 2-8 last season, Deer Lakes will look to lean on its rushing attack in hopes of repeating the success it had in 2010.

The backfield will be led by senior Cody Keenan, the team's leading rusher in 2011. Joining Keenan in the backfield in the Lancers' wing-T offense will be seniors Tyler Seitz and Ian Biernacki and sophomore Ryan McGrath.

“Our running backs are the strongest they've been in two years,” Lancers coach Todd Hazlett said. “We were strong in 2010 with Brian Palmiere and Mark Wesolek. We have four quality individuals we can put in the backfield and compete that are just as big of a threat to catch the ball as they are running.”

Balanced, unselfish football is Hazlett's goal. Despite not having a primary running back, having four who can run the ball at any time can cause problems for opposing defenses.

“I make a lot of comparisons to the seasons past with Palmiere and those guys,” Hazlett said. “We won't have one single 1,000-yard rusher. We will have three or four guys that will run for 300 or 400 yards. With this group of guys I mentioned, it can be any of their nights. Someone may rush 100 yards one week and may not do it until week six, but the others will pick up the slack.”

After starting a lot of underclassmen last year, the Lancers return 13 starters, including leading passer Josh Plocki, a junior.

Paving the way for Keenan and company will be an experienced offensive line. They will be anchored up front by Mike McGraw, who started every game at center last year but moved to tackle.

Senior tight end John Grebinoski will be expected to catch more passes due to the graduation of leading receiver Jordan Fragapane.

Junior Anthony Sammartino will be called upon make an impact opposite McGraw at the other tackle position.

“Our offensive line will have some returning guys that are just juniors this year,” Hazlett said. “I think it will be a good positive for us. The focal point of the offseason is getting people comfortable snapping the ball at center.”

Things in the Allegheny Conference won't be getting easier for the Lancers with the return of Kittanning and Valley and the addition of East Allegheny. Despite the conference realignment, Hazlett is still confident the Lancers can stay competitive.

“Just as it's been in every year past, we want to go out and compete,” Hazlett said. “We want to be a strong team. We don't want to have the episodes of the past. We want to make it a physical game.”

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