High school football notebook: Springdale silencing its critics
Despite lower numbers and, apparently, outside expectations to match, Springdale has secured its 11th straight trip to the WPIAL Class A playoffs.
The Dynamos are 5-3 overall and 5-2 in the Eastern Conference. A win Friday against rival Riverview could seal second place and give them a home game in the first round.
And this program is down?
“The faces have changed — that's all,” said senior running back/linebacker Sean Dugan, who broke the school rushing record last week and is nearing 4,000 career yards. “We heard people saying that we're not the same powerhouse we used to be. That gets our adrenaline going.”
A new coaching staff came in after the departure of Hall of Famer Chuck Wagner and his staff in November. New coach Dave Leasure knew Dynamos fans expected a certain standard.
Maintaining the Dynamos' Alle-Kiski Valley-record streak of playoff appearances was enough pressure, but doing so with a somewhat depleted roster helped stack the odds.
“Things have changed for sure,” Leasure said. “We dressed 22 kids last week. ... The thing that is the same about this team is that we have hard-nosed kids who do what it takes to win.”
Dugan has been productive despite losing two key linemen to injuries — junior guard Robbie Korzon and senior tackle James Murray. Leasure said he has tremendous respect for Wagner and his coaches. He still consults with Wagner and former defensive coordinator Don “Pappy” Boulton.
“We invited them to a senior dinner the other night,” Leasure said. “They'll always be a part of this program.”
Six A-K Valley teams have clinched playoff spots heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Knoch has qualified in Class AAA. Freeport, Burrell and Valley are in the Class AA playoffs. And Apollo-Ridge and Springdale are Class A qualifiers.
Friday will determine whether bubble teams Kiski Area (Class AAAA), Highlands (AAA) and Kittanning (AA) advance.
The top five teams in each Class AAAA and AAA conference qualify, as do the top four in Class AA and A.
Kiski Area advances with a win at Latrobe and still could be in contention for the 16th wild-card spot, which goes to the best sixth-place team. Highlands needs to beat Knoch and have Hollidaysburg lose to Indiana. The winner of Shady Side Academy at Kittanning advances out of the Allegheny Conference.
The top two teams in each conference and two third-place teams in Class AAAA and AAA host first-round games.
Fun at the Alberts'
One might expect tense moments at the Alberts' dinner table this week. Not the case.
Highlands coach Sam Albert said he and his son, Adam, haven't talked much about their teams' matchup.
Adam is a junior wide receiver and defensive back for Knoch, which visits Highlands on Friday in a game that could determine Highlands' playoff fate.
Some Knoch players stayed overnight at the Alberts' house last weekend.
“I told the kids, ‘Hey, the coaches are coming over in the morning to study film. Now, get out of here. We have to get ready to play the Knights,' ” Sam Albert said. “It'll be a hard-fought game as always. Adam is lucky to be coached by that staff.”
Not that all family rivalry talk has been kept at bay this week.
“Now my wife,” Sam said, “that's a different story. She told me, ‘You leave No. 14 alone.' I said, ‘We're game-planning to go right at No. 14.' It's all in fun.”
Sizing up Highlands linebacker
Highlands junior linebacker Allan Cratsenberg has all the traits Division I colleges look for. He's 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, has speed and covers substantial ground.
So why no scholarship offers yet?
“It's like with (former Highlands quarterback) Jeff Sinclair,” Sam Albert said. “I still can't believe bigger schools didn't come around. They missed out. Now, if schools don't come after (Cratsenberg), something is really wrong.”
There has been interest from Pitt, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Maryland but no offers yet.
Tough to leave
Knoch's Ben Tackett and Dakota Bruggeman lingered on the field last week long after their 20-14 win over Indiana at Knoch Knights Stadium.
“We've been playing on that field for 11 years — since we were in second grade,” Tackett said. “That very well could have been the last game on it. Just had a lot of memories in my head. I just wanted to take it all in.”
Knoch has a slim chance to get a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or firstname.lastname@example.org.