Chartiers Valley offense all about balance
When talking about the offensive attack of the Chartiers Valley football team, phrases like smashmouth, air raid and high octane are not being thrown around.
It is all about balance with the Colts.
“We have a very balanced attack,” Chartiers Valley coach Chris Saluga said. “We have demonstrated our ability to throw the ball to multiple receivers and run the ball effectively, as well. We have several threats on offense.”
The Colts have had veteran runners leading the charge on the ground. Athletes such as senior running back Michael Boulos and senior fullback Joe Ragni have given Chartiers Valley a running attack that has kept defenses honest.
Boulos has nearly 300 yards and nine touchdowns. Ragni has more than 150 yards and two scores.
While the ground game has seasoned veterans, the passing attack has some youth and inexperience, especially at the quarterback spot.
Quarterback Josh Lapiana has thrown for 686 yards and four scores. While it is a good start five games into the season for a first-year starting quarterback, 2012 is actually Lapiana's first year playing varsity football.
The junior transferred to Chartiers Valley from South Side Beaver, where he focused on baseball particularly pitching. But when he transferred into the Chartiers Valley School District, Lapiana talked to coach Robbie Butts — the Colts' co-offensive coordinator — and was persuaded to come out for the team.
“It never really worked out before, but I really liked what Coach Butts said and decided to give it a try,” Lapiana said.
When he entered camp in August, junior Andreo Coury was taking snaps with the first team, and a quarterback competition ensued. The coaching staff made the decision to make Lapiana the quarterback and move Coury into a receiver/running back role.
“Coming from mainly a baseball background, (Lapiana) has a really strong arm,” Saluga said. “We felt it enhanced the passing game. (Coury) could do more and play other positions.
“It opened up our passing game and improved the receiver quality.”
During the Colts' 53-19 win over Ellwood City, Lapiana made one of the most surprising plays of Chartiers Valley's season. While he is seen as more of a pro-style quarterback, he showed his ability to scramble on a 74-yard touchdown run.
“We didn't think he would be a mobile quarterback,” Saluga said. “Everyone was a little surprised to see him make a run like that. It is good to see him have the ability to run if he needs to.”
Lapiana has thrown five interceptions, but his coach said he is becoming more experienced with every snap and the mistakes are beginning to dwindle.
“It is just a lack of experience,” Saluga said. “He really didn't start with us until August 1. He has only played a few games and he has learned from each of them. He learns from his mistakes and he doesn't make the same one very often.”
“I am still working on my footwork,” Lapiana added. “I knew I had the arm strength coming in but I need to still work on my foot work, moving around in the pocket and pre-snap stuff.”
Moving Coury to receiver/running back was not a knock on his ability — it was actually more of a compliment. The junior was considered to be more of an athlete with the ability to make plays across the field.
“The coaches are just trying to utilize the talent on the team,” Coury said. “What better way to do that then move me to a skill position? And we have a guy now who can really throw the ball at quarterback. I don't mind the move at all.”
Coury has nearly receiving 300 yards and is averaging nearly 16 yards per catch. He has six touchdowns.
“I wouldn't even say I am the best receiver on the team,” Coury said. “I have just been able to make plays. When you have some speed, you just have to get open.”
In addition to Coury, the team has gotten production in the receiving game from junior receiver C.J. Beatty, senior tight end Spencer Casson and Boulos and Ragni.
“They make each other better,” Saluga said. “They have been catching the ball and running sharp routes. ”
The Colts also expect to see an increase in production from junior Anthony Voss. The running back/receiver hurt his shoulder in camp. He returned to action in the Week 2, a 34-33 overtime win over Hopewell but injured it again.
As the team moves forward and looks to claim one of the five playoff spots in the Parkway Conference, Saluga wants to see his team become more consistent.
With a 1-3 conference record, the Colts are in a pile up of six teams fighting for the fourth and fifth spots.
If the offense can show up like it has in several games this season, Chartiers Valley should expect to make it to its second straight WPIAL playoffs.
“We need consistency,” Saluga said. “We have had flashes of greatness and some sustained drives. We need it to come together for a longer period of time. If we are going to be a good football team, we need to be more consistent series after series.”
The Colts return to the field Friday when they host Montour. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.