Keystone Oaks looks to soar past competition in Century Conference

Nathan Smith
| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

The only thing separating Keystone Oaks' two-win campaign in 2012 from a winning record was a three-game losing streak decided by a total of 17 points.

“I still have nightmares over those close games,” second-year coach Matt Taylor said. “Our record could have and should have been better.”

Taylor is hoping to be on the other side of those games this year.

Helping that cause will be Kobe Phillippi, who returns for his second season at quarterback after throwing for 12 touchdowns last year. The junior lost his top target from 2012 — Cory Sevacko — but returns second-leading receiver Braydon Griffiths, who had 146 receiving yards and a touchdown last year. Senior Tyler Chiocca also returns, and Phillippi described him as a big-play threat.

“My left tackle (Chris Grecek) and center (Declan Hartnett) are both really good,” Phillippi said. “They should give me some really great protection.”

Junior Jimmy Canello will get a bulk of the carries after playing fullback last season and being a second option to graduate Dale Klobuchir.

“(Canello) was an undersized linebacker and fullback last season,” Taylor said. “It speaks a lot to his toughness and character. We feel when we get the ball into his hands, good things will happen.”

Canello is the top returning tackler after recording 64 last season. He will be joined with Griffiths returning at cornerback. Chiocca is expected to take over at the other corner spot in a higher-paced defense.

“We want the defense to be a little more exciting and cause more havoc,” Taylor said. “We feel we have the athletes to fly around instead of sitting back. The kids are excited about the tweak to the defense.”

The defensive line will be bolstered by the return of sack leaders Grecek (3.5) and Hartnett (2.5). Sophomore Leo Palmer, a backup quarterback and tight end, also could play linebacker.

“We have a new linebacker in (senior) John Beveridge,” Taylor said. “He last saw playing time as a sophomore. He has the leadership capabilities to be the quarterback of the defense.”

Taylor was adamant there will be no easy games in the Century Conference this season, but he expects the Golden Eagles to improve from last season.

“We want to compete from play one,” Taylor said. “Last season, it took us a few weeks to start hitting on all cylinders. We want that to happen this season in Game 1 against Steel Valley.”

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