Springdale seeking 11th straight playoff berth
Springdale senior Sean Dugan said he and his teammates felt like there were many skeptical eyes staring at them, anticipating a sign, even a flicker, that the model-of-consistency program was about to experience a power outage.
Then the Dynamos, seeking their 11th consecutive trip to the WPIAL Class A playoffs, steamrolled Apollo-Ridge, 24-0, last Friday.
To be sure, things have changed at Springdale. A new coaching staff has plugged many first-year starters into new offensive and defensive alignments. And player turnout took a sharp downturn, with the Dynamos dressing only about 25 players last week.
Still, Springdale (4-2, 4-1) could extend its postseason streak with a victory at rival Avonworth (3-3, 3-2) in a key Class A Eastern Conference game at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“I think a lot of people questioned our reputation (before last week's win),” said Dugan, a standout running back/linebacker. “They thought we were going downhill. We were able to quiet some people. We're contenders for the playoffs and still fighting.”
First-year Springdale coach Dave Leasure took on the task of replacing Chuck Wagner, who retired in fourth place on the WPIAL's all-time wins list. Leasure believes the victory over Apollo-Ridge, where he served as defensive coordinator last season, made a strong statement.
“Leading up to that game, it seemed like no one was giving us a chance,” Leasure said. “We used that as motivation. The days of rolling up in bus with 50 kids appear to be over. We have 25 kids, but they're still Springdale kids. They don't want to be the group that ended the Springdale glory days.”
Avonworth coach Duke Johncour was in a similar situation to Leasure last year. Johncour served as an assistant at Avonworth for about a decade before being named head coach in 2011. The Antelopes advanced to the semifinals two years ago and just missed a return trip after losing a 26-22 heartbreaker to Rochester in last year's quarterfinals.
“I was familiar with the kids, so it was a little different for me,” Johncour said about his first year as head coach. “Coming in fresh is a very difficult situation. Dave's done a great job. Chuck ran a real wide-open offense, with jet sweeps and options off of that. That's what Springdale was known for. For Dave to do his own thing is a big undertaking.”
There's little doubt Johncour and his staff will pay special attention to Dugan. The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder carried the ball 39 times for 236 yards and two touchdowns last week. Dugan also played outside linebacker or safety and contributed on special teams.
“Last year, he was very good,” Johncour said. “This year, he's even better. The big focus will be to try to contain him.”
Dugan and Leasure give a lot of credit to center Tyler Igo, guards Zach Metkler and Hunter Stiehler, tackles Rob Korzon and James Murray, and fullback Austin Kline.
While Dugan carried the majority of the offensive load for Springdale last week, Avonworth tends to be more balanced.
“They might have the edge in skill players in depth,” Leasure said. “And, occasionally, they line up in the Wildcat. Defensively, we'll have a heck of a time.”
Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-224-2696.