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Ambridge ready to start fresh after forgettable 2011 season

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Ambridge's Stefan McGinnis catches a pass.

Schedule

Coach: Neil Tkatch

2011 record: 1-8, 0-7

Date Opponent Time

9.1 Aliquippa 8

9.7 at West Allegheny* 7

9.14 at New Castle* 7:30

9.22 Moon* 12:30

9.28 at Montour* 7:10

10.5 at Hopewell* 7

10.12 Chartiers Valley* 7:30

10.19 at Central Valley* 7

10.26 Blackhawk* 7:30

*conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing Nick Santiago

48-111, 592 yards, 5 TDs

Rushing Kody Nichi

93-349 yards, 2 TDs

Receiving Nichi

10-106 yards, 2 TDs

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 7:56 p.m.
 

Ambridge coach Neil Tkatch has just one question for his Bridgers about last year's one-win season: “Can they put it behind them?”

He believes so.

“They got their nose beat in a little bit,” Tkatch said of an injury-filled season that included lopsided losses of 41-0, 42-0 and 49-0.

“That's why our motto is: ‘This year is our turn.' We're going to punch some people in the nose.”

The key will be staying healthy. The Bridgers began last season with 21 starters but lost almost a dozen by midseason, Tkatch said. Among those injured were lineman Brett Balkovec (6-foot-4, 295 pounds) and linebacker Dan Zajac (6-0, 185), two standouts who return healthy this year.

“When you go down the line, we lost a lot of players,” Tkatch said. “It was unbelievable. It was freakish.”

Bennie Thompkins was the starting quarterback when he fractured his collarbone in an August scrimmage and missed the entire season. His injury-shortened junior season might best epitomize what the Bridgers endured.

Optimism dashed before the season had barely begun.

“It broke my heart, for real,” he said. “Watching from the sidelines was bad when you're getting beat by 40 points every week.”

Yet Thompkins and the Bridgers have rebounded. Either he or senior Nick Santiago will start at quarterback. Santiago started last season, and Tkatch said he'd consider using both.

Junior running backs Kody Nichi, Khalil Harvey and Tim Estep will see carries, but standout sophomore Stephon McGinnis also should play a key role. McGinnis was a star for Ambridge's freshman team that finished 7-1, Tkatch said.

“We're going to try to get him in space,” he said.

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