Experienced linemen to pace Kittanning offense
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The names racking up yardage will be different this year, but that doesn't mean Kittanning coach Frank Fabian has a totally inexperienced group.
The Wildcats bring back an experienced line that Fabian hopes will offset losses at other positions to make his second season at Kittanning as successful as the first.
Kittanning improved from 1-8 to 4-5 in Fabian's first season, but where his group last year had most of its experience at the skill positions, many of this year's veterans are players up front.
“Last year felt like we were inexperienced on the line, and this year seems to be the polar opposite,” Fabian said. “We lost our leading passer and top two rushers, but we've got guys up front that we're really going to lean on.”
Left tackle Logan Robb and guards Dave Grafton and Brady Kirkwood return from starting roles last year, and that trio is ready to take on more of a leadership role this season.
Their experience, plus having a year of play under Fabian's offense, has the Kittanning offense feeling good entering the season.
“A lot of us (on the line) have started for two or three years now, so we have a lot of experience,” Grafton said. “We're way ahead of where we were last year. Last year, we were still learning the plays in camp, but this year, we're weeks ahead of that.”
The team also has some experience outside the tackles in senior Nick Bowers and junior Logan Slagle, who are the top two returning receivers.
Slagle's workload picked up last season after Bowers — leading the team in receiving yards at the time — was injured early in the year with a concussion, but Slagle also suffered a season-ending injury in Week 6. Both are back and in line to be two-way contributors.
“Nick's a kid that started two ways as a sophomore. He's a really big, physical kid, and at the time of his injury, he was our best two-way player at receiver and linebacker,” Fabian said.
“Logan's also a big contributor for us at cornerback and as a slot receiver, and both of those guys have had a good year working out and in the weight room.”
Those veteran players should make life easier for junior quarterback Braydon Toy, who has stepped into the lead role behind center in workouts and seven-on-seven play.
“I like the challenge coming into that role,” Toy said. “We're coming together pretty good in practice. It's really comfortable knowing (the line and receivers) have been at the varsity level, and they know what to expect.”
The one thing Kittanning players and coaches agree upon is they want to take another step forward this year.
A 20-17 loss in the final minute of the penultimate game against Valley ended kept Wildcats out of last year's playoffs, which makes reaching the postseason the team's top goal.
“(Last season) does motivate us. I feel like we can win more games than we did last year,” Bowers said. “We've been working since as soon as school let out for summer. We want to win the first game, then keep working for each one after that.”
Slagle added: “We really want the playoffs this year. The coaches tell us to always do extra. Do anything you can to make yourself better. I think we're getting better every day and getting more comfortable working with each other.”
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.