Experienced Yough lineup motivated by missing out on postseason
Chandler Daniel and other members of the Yough football team didn't waste much time after the conclusion of the 2012 season to begin getting ready for 2013.
Spurred by last year's heartbreaking ending, the team is working harder than ever to end a four-season playoff drought.
“Literally a week after the last game, we were hitting the weight room again,” Daniel said. “I've seen incredible improvements.”
Yough came within two points of qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs in 2012. The Cougars missed out on the fourth and final playoff spot in the Interstate Conference after losing, 14-12, to Greensburg Central Catholic last October.
“A loss is hard, but a loss like that — it sticks with you through the offseason going into this season,” said Daniel, a senior offensive and defensive lineman. “Little things like that are going to motivate us to get to where we need to be.”
Fourth-year coach Mark Crovak put it more bluntly: “Literally, we fumbled the playoff spot away.”
The Cougars, who finished in fifth place in the conference last year, are counting on a deep group of seniors to carry them to the postseason.
“With age comes wisdom, and we have plenty of age on this team,” Daniel said.
The experience begins up front on offense and defense as three senior linemen — Daniel, Jake Brundage and Sean Phillips — are some of the team's key leaders.
Brundage was an all-conference selection last season on the offensive line, and junior Tom Sever was selected for his work at nose tackle.
“Lines win games,” Daniel said. “We don't get our names in the papers, but we're still grinding it out.”
Tyler Donahue, an all-conference selection a season ago, will return for his senior season at quarterback. The four-year starter passed for 1,254 yards and 11 touchdowns a season ago.
“It's nice having him in the system for four years, knowing what we want, knowing our terminology,” Crovak said. “It's nice having experience.”
Donahue will be complemented in the passing game by junior Clay Waldron, an all-conference selection as a utility player last year after tallying 398 receiving and 342 rushing yards, and senior Joe Pleva, who caught three touchdown passes last year.
Crovak said Waldron hit the weight room hard in the offseason and will be counted on to fill a large role in the team's offense this season.
“He's a kid that we can line up anywhere on the field,” Crovak said. “Offensively, he can play every position for us except line. Defensively, he'll play every position for us except line. He's so versatile with what we can do with him and what he gives us. We're very happy that we have him.”
Waldron, Sever and sophomore Noah Lee likely will split time as Yough attempts to replace graduated running back Christian Williams, who rushed for 493 yards and five touchdowns last season.
With a conference schedule that includes Greensburg Central Catholic, Jeannette, Mt. Pleasant and Washington, Yough likely will need a marquee win or two to qualify for the playoffs. But with four returning all-conference players, Crovak believes the talent is there for the Cougars to compete for the postseason.
And with the way the 2012 season ended, Yough's motivation isn't lacking, either.
“Three years ago when we started this, we had more coaches than we had kids in the weight room sometimes,” Crovak said. “I think the lowest number we've had (this offseason) is 38 kids for a workout. So they're pretty hungry.
“They realize they're close, and they want to push it over the end zone. They want to get in there.”