Ford City confident it can remain among conference elite
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Even in years when they don't hear their team's name at the top of the list of Allegheny Conference favorites, Ford City's players are confident they'll find a way to enter the discussion.
The Sabers, playoff qualifiers eight of the last nine years, begin this season without much buzz. But they're an experienced team and eager to convert doubters, two qualities that coach John Bartolovic believes can lead to a breakout season.
“I think we have some nice athletic potential,” Bartolovic said. “It might just come down to whether a couple plays go our way or not.”
About half of Ford City's starters are proven at the varsity level. Arguably none provide more versatility than senior Devan Willyard, who was named first-team All-Allegheny Conference as a defensive back, rushed for 850 yards and two touchdowns on 126 carries as a running back, caught 27 passes for 362 yards and two scores, and returned kicks and punts.
Also back for the Sabers as two-way threats are seniors Dave Lattanzio and Ben Young.
Lattanzio started at quarterback and had two interceptions as a defensive back last season. He hopes to improve his offensive production — he completed 42 of 71 attempts for 496 yards and one touchdown — and believes new schemes introduced by Bartolovic give him a better chance to thrive.
“You'll just have to come to the game,” Lattanzio said when asked about the specific changes. “It's a big surprise.”
Young, meanwhile, scored three touchdowns as a ball carrier and earned first-team all-conference honors at linebacker. He'll move into the fullback spot and serve as the Sabers' battering ram.
“Ben Young, I believe, has a lot of potential,” said Bartolovic, who noted that Young missed an entire season two years ago with a broken ankle. “It's almost like he played his sophomore year in his junior year. So I think he could have a great season for us. And some of those linemen could be sleepers.”
Many of the boys charged with blocking for Ford City's ball carriers are second-year starters. After playing at 150 pounds a season ago, senior Gino Peluso gained enough weight to become a formidable presence. And seniors Cody Atherton, Ken Bowers, Seth Frazier and Jake Scoccimerra grew familiar enough with Ford City's playbook and with each other that Bartolovic began adding new wrinkles weeks before anyone suited up in shoulder pads.
A sense of trust among players and coaches actually is one of Ford City's greatest strengths. Young said squabbles between players in the huddle, prevalent a season ago, no longer appear.
“We pick each other up when we make mistakes instead of yelling at each other,” senior wide receiver and defensive back Justin Retzer said.
“We've still got talent on our team; however, I think the key to this team is chemistry,” said junior kicker and punter Tyler Blaniar, who will replace all-conference special teams star Andrew Huska. “I believe chemistry can overcome talent.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Strong run game lifts Thomas Jefferson into WPIAL AAA title game
- HS highlight reel: Pair of title games to be on tape delay Saturday
- Jeannette junior Swinton says ‘football is my life’
- PIAA Class AA first-round preview: Karns City vs. Bedford
- Gorman: Thomas Jefferson quarterback Kelley savors run after injuries, illness
- Seneca Valley football team hopes to improve in offseason
- Central Valley edges Mars in Class AAA semifinal slugfest
- South Fayette, Aliquippa form unique traditions for Thanksgiving Day