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Mt. Lebanon eager to defend conference title

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Mt. Lebanon's Troy Apke works out Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, in Mt. Lebanon.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Mt. Lebanon quarterback Kellan Stout works out Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, in Mt. Lebanon.

Throughout offseason workouts, a ticking countdown hanging from the weight room wall offered a constant reminder of the start of the Mt. Lebanon football season.

It couldn't tick fast enough for the Blue Devils.

“Personally, I've never been this excited to get back at it,” senior lineman Alex Bookser said. “I'm really ready to get going again.”

“That clock has kept a nice sense of urgency for our preparedness throughout the spring and summer,” coach Mike Melnyk said. “Now, it's showtime, and we're excited about that.”

Mt. Lebanon has good reason to be so eager — roughly half its starters returned from a team that tied for a conference championship and advanced to the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals last season. At least two Division I caliber players are among them, and perhaps most importantly, the Blue Devils enter this season with a much more thorough understanding of what Melnyk expects out of them (and vice versa).

Melnyk enters his second season as coach after not being hired until spring last year, when he didn't have his staff assembled and his offseason program in place until June.

“This year, we've had a chance to get the kids training and doing what we wanted them to do by January,” said Melnyk, who previously was the coach of Manheim Township for 13 seasons. “This year we've gotten the chance to train our quarterbacks the way we'd like to train them, and we just feel like the kids are a lot more dialed into what we want to do and a there's a lot less uncertainty and a lot more familiarity. Hopefully, that will translate into the team playing with a little more confidence, especially early in the season.”

Wide receiver Troy Apke and Bookser, a two-way lineman, are reigning all-conference honorees who have been heavily recruited by Division I colleges. Apke made a verbal commitment to Penn State.

Melnyk lauded how each senior has stepped up in terms of leadership. Senior fullback Ben Marks, junior lineman Matt Hoffman and senior lineman Andrew Rabeneck are other returnees from whom big things are expected. Juniors Shane Lefever (receiver) and Jake Rolfsen (running back) figure to be significant contributors.

Tyler Roth had more than 2,500 passing yards last season but is now at Princeton. Junior Kellan Stout is in line to replace him as Mt. Lebanon's starting quarterback.

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