Brentwood to face 4,000-yard rusher in first-round matchup
This playoff thing has become second nature to the Brentwood Spartans.
The Spartans are participating in the WPIAL Class A playoffs for the fifth straight season, and sixth time in the past seven years.
The Spartans, who are ranked No. 7 in Class A in the Trib Total Media high school rankings, advanced to the playoffs as the third-place team out of the rugged Black Hills Conference.
“I don't care who we play. Our focus is now on just getting better,” Kevin Kissel, Brentwood's head coach, said. “We want to play our best football of the year in the playoffs,”
The Spartans (6-3) will play Springdale (6-3) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Fox Chapel in the first round of this year's WPIAL playoffs.
Springdale, the No. 8 seed, finished tied for second place with Apollo-Ridge in the Eastern Conference, behind champion North Catholic.
The Dynamos, who are making their 11th consecutive trip to the WPIAL playoffs, featured more changes this year than in any season in the last decade.
Dave Leasure replaced Chuck Wagner as head coach, after Wagner retired following 50 seasons as a high school coach, including the last 19 at Springdale.
Wagner rejuvenated what was a doormat program and guided the Dynamos to the WPIAL Class A title in 2003.
Leasure, who had spent most of his 17-year coaching career as an assistant, admitted there was pressure to succeed this year. The Dynamos advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals last season.
“People expect us to be in the playoffs,” Leasure said. “I understand that. I want to do the little things right and coach to the best of my ability.
“I think the kids like being around me and have bought into the staff, but the bottom line is you have to win.”
Leasure installed a variation of the wing-T offense that allows for more passing than usual from that formation.
Previously, Springdale enjoyed great success using the shotgun zone fly attack, which relies heavily on sweeps and quarterback runs.
Offensively, the Dynamos feature running back Sean Dugan, a 5-foot-11, 194-pound senior. Dugan eclipsed the 4,000-yard mark in his team's 28-6 win against Riverview last week.
Dugan has accounted for 1,637 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, and owns 4,151 career rushing yards. He scored on runs of 52, 6 and 15 yards last week.
“He's a very good runner. He's been playing for four years,” Kissel said. “We've watched film of them. He's a hard runner with good break-away speed. He's a tough guy to stop.
“They feature him in their offense. They run an I (formation); they pitch the ball to him, they hand the ball to him, and sometimes they run the Wildcat with him.”
Springdale's starting quarterback is 5-9, 155-pound senior Jacob Helman, who has thrown only three touchdown passes this season.
The Dynamos were the top defensive team in the Eastern Conference, allowing just 9.4 points per game in 2012, and the third-best in Class A behind only Beth-Center (5.1 ppg) and Clairton (6.9 ppg).
The Dynamos, who are averaging 22.6 ppg offensively, have given up only 85 points this season.
Springdale won its final two regular-season games, and four of its last five.
“Our focus is completely on Springdale. They play very good defense,” Kissel said.
“The last three weeks, we've been playing better. Our offensive line has been playing good, and we've been playing good defense. But I'm still looking for us to play a good, complete game.”
Brentwood, the No. 9 seed, has won three in a row and five of its past six games. The local squad hammered California last week, 61-19, in its tune-up for the playoffs.
The Spartans, who led 34-0 at the end of the first quarter, had two players eclipse the century mark in the rushing department.
Justin Vickless, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound junior, and Patrick Carr, a 5-8, 140-pound freshman, combined for 269 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Vickless rambled to 169 yards and scored three times on 12 carries, while Carr tacked on 110 yards and scored twice on five attempts.
Vickless has been the Spartans workhorse offensively this season, and ranks with the leading rushers in the WPIAL. He has run for 1,317 yards and 15 touchdowns on 192 carries, averaging 146 yards per game and close to 7 yards per carry.
In a two-game stretch against Monessen and Imani Christian early in the season, Vickless carried the ball 78 times and picked up 381 yards and three touchdowns.
“Looking at Springdale (on film), they look like us a little bit, the way we feature Justin,” Kissel said.
Vickless has followed the blocking this year of offensive linemen Jeremy Cenci, a junior center; seniors Joe Farah and Robert Domer, at guard; senior John Schmitt, junior Josh Gallagher and sophomore Brendan Mulholland at tackle; and senior Mike Kish, from his tight end position.
Another leading player offensively is senior quarterback Chris Shortley, who has completed 66 of 131 passes for 895 yards and eight touchdowns.
Shortley has connected with eight different players in 2012, including Vickless, who leads the team in receiving with 14 receptions for 116 yards and two scores.
Other aerial targets have been sophomore Bill Madeja (11-89), senior Mike Andrews (8-170), senior Zach Sniadach (8-149), junior Ryan Shortley (8-107), Kish (7-107), senior Brian Jowers (6-136) and senior Justin Bauer (5-75).
Bauer, a 6-foot, 200-pound running back who also starts on the defensive line, has proven to be an offensive force late in the season for Brentwood, scoring four times in the last three games.
“He might be the fastest player on the team,” Kissel said.
Bauer is joined in the trenches defensively by Schmitt, Gallagher, Andrews and Kish.
The linebacking corps consists of Chris Shortley, Ryan Shortley and Cenci, while Sniadach, Madeja, Vickless and junior Jack Murano make up the secondary.
Brentwood is averaging 31.6 ppg offensively and 15.8 ppg defensively.
Springdale averages 22.6 ppg offensively and 9.4 ppg defensively.
The winner of the Brentwood-Springdale game will play the winner of the Clairton-Frazier matchup in the WPIAL quarterfinal round.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.