Decision to stay in place, Leechburg looks to rebound

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:56 p.m.

Just when a move to District 6 seemed imminent, Leechburg decided to stay in the WPIAL.

Now the Blue Devils hope to make the most of their change-of-heart decision.

After finishing 1-8 overall and 1-7 in the Class A Eastern Conference, Leechburg will turn to a potentially strong running game to try and turn things around.

Handling the carries in the Wing-T offense will be a group of four seniors, led by Kris Smith, who rushed for a team-high 348 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. Joining him in the backfield will be Alex Kalmar, Taylor Oberdorf and Matt Rzewnicki. Each have done their share in the offseason to get better, third-year coach Mark George said.

“The expectations will be for them to be productive and help the team,” George said. “Since I've been head coach of the varsity team, we've always had to rely on ninth and 10th graders. We will have a senior-led backfield. My expectations are high. I expect them to produce, and I think they expect themselves to produce. I see potential for a couple of different backs to gain a lot of yards this year.”

Despite the graduation of Devin Dunmire and Matt Ward, depth and experience loom on the Blue Devils' offensive line, led by senior guard Brandon Bish, senior tackle Jake Kromka and junior tackle Jordan Cominos. Junior R.J. Rich, a starter at tight end since he was a freshman, also will bring experience to the line.

Leechburg lost its biggest offensive threat in Jacob Iellimo.

“It's tough to replace a kid like Jake,” George said. “He was probably 40 percent of our total offense last year. You don't try to replace him. With the kids we got coming back, we will look for someone to step up and have a few players pick up that production.”

Looking to step in at quarterback is senior Alex Sipolino.

“He worked hard in the offseason,” George said. “He played basketball, and as soon as that was over, he was in the gym at 8 at night throwing and working on his throwing motion. He hasn't played in a game yet, but he has really improved.”

Leechburg will sport a 5-2 defense, occasionally switching to a four-man front.

In past years, Leechburg lacked a large number of juniors and seniors. This year, however, is a different story: there are expected to be more than 20 upperclassmen.

The Blue Devils return eight starters on offense and seven on defense.

“I think the kids are positive,” George said. “They just feel good. They feel comfortable with everything they're doing. Things are coming easier, and they're feeling confident.”

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