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Graduation losses don't faze Beaver Bobcats

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Beaver quarterback Alex Rowse works out Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, in Beaver.

Beaver has made the WPIAL playoffs nine of the past 11 years, including the past six in a row. A seventh straight playoff berth might look like a bit of a stretch, because coach Jeff Beltz will be replacing more than 1,400 yards and 33 touchdowns in the backfield after the graduation of Darian Bradley, Anthony Fidurski and Anthony Keriots.

But Beltz has seen this before. Panic? Throw out that “R” word. Rebuild? Not Beltz.

“I think we kind of get to this same point most years,” Beltz said. “Athletes have to mature through the system. We have some confidence with our next generation.”

Fortunately for Beltz, he has an experienced quarterback. Alex Rowse was under center a year ago until Austin Ross returned. All Rowse did was keep the Bobcats undefeated. Beaver remained spotless, in fact, until the regular-season finale against eventual WPIAL champion Aliquippa.

Certainly Beltz expects Rowse to be more poised and mechanically sound with a half-season of experience under his belt. But Rowse's biggest contributions may not show up in the stat sheet.

“We've got a quarterback who was undefeated, so that's not a bad starting point,” Beltz said. “It's rare these days, but everything with Alex starts with leadership. He has unique leadership qualities that you don't find in people anymore.

“But that's not to downplay his athletic ability. He was a starter on the basketball team that went to the WPIAL semifinals. He played second base on a baseball team that played for the state championship, so those experiences in big games in other sports can only help him in football.”

Julian Vandusen and Jordan Yates return in the backfield, but the X-factor could be freshman Darius Wise. Wise has plenty of natural ability, but Beltz hesitates to put too much pressure on him.

Though Beltz will have a variety of players carrying heavier loads, he's not conceding the Bobcats are going to struggle early. He prefers to focus on what he can control, namely Beaver's conditioning and attitude.

“Is there a work in progress? Sure,” he said. “It's OK to be uncomfortable at the beginning. But if we have the right attitude and the right conditioning, we'll combat all that.”

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