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Graduation of 19 players to present challenge for 2nd-year Avonworth coach

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 6:44 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Avonworth receiver Ryan Welsh. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Avonworth running back Andrew Broadus. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

The transition last season from coach Jason Kekseo to Duke Johncour was a seamless one, as the Avonworth Antelopes continued their winning ways.

Avonworth made the WPIAL playoffs for the fourth consecutive season and improved to 38-8 during that span.

But if the recent surge is to continue, Johncour will have to adequately replace 14 starters, including quarterback Brian Vales, who passed for 1,038 yards last season. His top receiver, graduate Mike Giampole, caught 35 passes for 544 yards.

“It's tough replacing great athletes like Brian and Mike,” Johncour said. “We need people to step in and fulfill roles on both sides of the ball.”

The 2011 season ended on a tough note for Avonworth. A late touchdown in the Class A quarterfinals was called back because of a penalty, and Rochester prevailed, 26-22. Despite the loss of 19 graduates, Johncour, in his 12th season overall at the school, is looking forward to working in quarterback Matt Donovan, who piloted the successful Antelopes junior varsity squad last season. Freshman Zack Chandler, coming off shoulder surgery, also might press for playing time.

Ryan Welsh is set at one of the wide receiver positions, while Andrew Broadus returns at a running back slot.

Returning linemen include Cooper Kusbit and Tyler Knepper.

Anchoring the linebacking corps in Avonworth's 4-4 defense are Dalton Day and Anthony Tomasino.

The senior-laden defensive secondary includes Dylan McKelvey, Michael Robbibaro and Christian Kramer — with junior Jesse Zubic also ready for action.

Bishop Canevin and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart moved out of the Eastern Conference, while Apollo-Ridge and West Shamokin have moved in.

“The conference hasn't changed too much,” Johncour said. “We'll still see some familiar teams like Springdale and Northgate. We're excited about the year.”

Avonworth will open the new campaign with Rochester, the same team that has eliminated the Antelopes from the playoffs the past two seasons.

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