New coach, schemes in place at Baldwin

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

The Baldwin football program hasn't had a winning season in almost a decade.

Pete Wagner, Baldwin's energetic rookie coach, is looking to change the team's fortunes in 2013.

“It's amazing, it really is,” Wagner said about the nine-year streak of losing seasons. “We want to build from the past and work toward the future. I want these kids to focus on today.

“Football is football; it comes down to blocking and tackling. It's the little things that make the big things count. Football is structure, putting kids in leadership positions. We're looking for some kids to step up so we can get some balance.”

Baldwin ended up seventh in the Quad Central Conference last fall, finishing 2-6 in league play and 3-6 overall.

Since 2004, the Fighting Highlanders have generated a 23-62 cumulative record and have advanced to the WPIAL playoffs three times.

Wagner and his staff have been aiming to build confidence and re-kindle a positive attitude throughout the program.

“Our staff has put in a great deal of time and effort to install all new schemes. We started the installation process with the kids in the early spring,” said Wagner, who was hired in February to replace Jim Wehner.

“Offensively, we will have a very balanced approach that will fit our skill sets and will be adjustable depending on our needs. Defensively, we will be focused on playing sound, fundamental football.”

One of Baldwin's go-to players this year is senior Nick Barca, who virtually never left the field during the 2012 season.

Barca started out last year as a wide receiver/defensive back, but was switched to running back/linebacker due to his aggressive style.

He led Baldwin defensively with 82 tackles, including 50 solo stops and 4.5 tackles for a loss. He also had two interceptions, and forced two fumbles.

Barca will concentrate on offense this year and will be joined in the backfield by senior Jake Elk and junior Donald West, among others. Junior quarterback Doug Altavilla also returns to lead the offense.

“Doug has two years as a varsity starter under his belt. He has progressed beautifully this offseason, and it is his responsibility to lead the offense,” Wagner said. “He is a mature, well-rounded quarterback. He brings many leadership intangibles to the table that are needed to run a cohesive offensive unit.”

At wideout, senior Luke Smorey will be joined by seniors Gary Jackson, Bill Howley and Alex Tambakis and junior C.J. Taylor.

“Luke is a fantastic athlete, a great competitor. He is expected to be an impact player for us in all three phases of the game,” Wagner said. “We're doing a lot of different things with (Smorey). He's really going to be an offensive weapon. We've got to get the ball in his hands.”

The tight end position will be manned by the Zinsmeister brothers — Justin, a senior and Josh, a junior. Elk and West will play supporting roles at tight end.

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