Rivalries reignited as South Park returns to Century Conference
As he begins his 30th season at South Park, Eagles coach Tom Loughran has seen it all — from two WPIAL and PIAA titles to last year's 0-4 start in Class AAA.
But with a new, two-year PIAA classification cycle in place, South Park has dropped to the Class AA Century Conference.
“We're excited about the opportunity to compete at the Double-A level again,” Loughran said. “We'll be again playing some teams we had established rivalries with, despite the fact that we've been away for a couple of years.”
When the Eagles return to Class AA play Aug. 31 at home against Quaker Valley, they'll find that the conference's top playoff contenders are still Seton-La Salle, South Fayette and Steel Valley.
Those three schools make up the last three games of the season.
“Those teams have been good, and we expect that to stay the same,” Loughran said of the conference grouping. “There are some new coaches in the league, so the teams' styles will change.”
The veteran coach expects to have a new quarterback at the controls this season — junior Mike McLaughlin.
In limited play last year, McLaughlin threw for 99 yards in just five completions.
Senior Jared Becker, who had 37 carries in a reserve role last year, is set to take over at tailback.
“We're putting a lot of expectations on our quarterback and tailback,” Loughran said. “We understand what it takes to be good, and we're looking forward to the season.”
Loughran is happy to have three linemen back to stabilize the lineup.
Senior Dave Martin will be at one tackle, 300-pound sophomore Robbie Wolak is a guard and senior Josh Faust will be at center.
Last year's leading receiver, Carter Grote, is back. He'll be joined at wideout by Brandon Kmonk.
The Eagles again expect to run a 50-multiple defense, employing a nose guard and an odd-man front.
Loughran will enter the season with 170 coaching victories.