Southmoreland hoping offseason preparation pays off on the field

| Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

The Southmoreland football team is coming off a season in which it excelled offensively but struggled mightily on defense.

This year, second-year coach Dominic Pecora is hoping that a full offseason will help fine-tune his team's offense and greatly improve the defense as the Scotties prepare for the 2012 campaign.

“Unlike what many people think, the offseason starts in November,” Pecora said. “This is my first full offseason with them, and it's like night and day compared to last year. These kids know no other way than to show up every day and work.”

The Scotties lost top receivers Asa Costelnock and Connor McKlveen to graduation.

“We'll have to alter what we do,” Pecora said. “We don't have replacements for Asa and Connor. We just don't grow athletes on trees.”

Fortunately, the Scotties do have the luxury of having returning quarterback Dakota “Bo” Datz. Datz is a dual threat to run or pass and put up impressive numbers last season, leading the team in passing and rushing.

“He broke the school record in passing in Week 6 last year,” Pecora said, noting that Datz was impressive throughout the season, even though he didn't fully grasp the new offense until the middle of the campaign. “That's my horse. That's my man on the field. He's the most important player on the team.”

For Datz, putting up great numbers is nice, but it certainly isn't his primary objective.

“I'd rather have no stats, as long as we win,” Datz said. “It's my senior year, and I'd like to make the playoffs. That's what everybody wants to do. We're stronger now, and everything is fitting together.”

Everything will have to fit together perfectly for the Scotties to be a top competitor in what promises to be a tough Class AA Interstate Conference that includes teams such as Jeannette, Greensburg Central Catholic, Washington and Mt. Pleasant.

“Last year, our conference was good,” Pecora said. “But this year it's the best in Class AA, and I don't think anybody would debate that. Our schedule is tough. There are no easy landings.”

After scoring 275 points last year, the Scotties likely will rely on the offense to put up a lot of points again. In addition to Datz, Tyler Ramsey, Jake Pisula and Kyle Cohen will carry the backfield load.

“All three have their numbers up in the weight room,” Pecora said. “They fit our system's run game. No one will run 20 times a game.”

Kevin Bundridge is expected to be one of the top receivers, while Josh Thomas and Jake McNeice stabilize the offensive line.

Defensively, the Scotties allowed 36 points per game last season, a number Pecora said must improve.

“Our numbers on offense were staggering,” Pecora said. “We were a playoff-caliber team on offense. But defensively, there were times it was embarrassing. I hope this year, we have kids that want to tackle.”

Ethan Smith and Chas King are expected to be top linebackers.

Pecora is optimistic that the Scotties will be better in all facets.

“We have new faces, which helps a lot,” Pecora said. “Fundamentally, we are better now than what we were at this point last year. If we can be a better tackling team, that will be huge.”

Pecora is proud of the effort his players put in leading into the season, and he's hoping they will be rewarded.

“I really like these kids,” Pecora said. “They've given me the offseason that I've asked for from them, and I'm excited to go to battle with them.”

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