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Northgate hoping to avoid transition letdown

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Northgate's Romello Snyder works out Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, in Bellevue.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Northgate's Romello Snyder works out Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, in Bellevue.
Northgate quarterback Johnny Camello works out Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, in Bellevue.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Northgate quarterback Johnny Camello works out Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, in Bellevue.

New Northgate coach Brandon LeDonne has not been around the program long, but he already likes what he sees.

“I'm very impressed by the caliber of kids,” he said. “I can't say enough good things about the kids.”

LeDonne, a former assistant at Aliquippa and Moon, is getting his first crack at running his own team. He took over a Northgate squad that went through a resurgence the past two seasons under former coach T.J. Wiley, including the Flames' first trip to the playoffs since 2003.

However, the Flames missed the playoffs last season after losing four games down the stretch. They also lost their coach, who now is coaching at Deer Lakes.

In stepped LeDonne, who wants to avoid the dreaded transition year.

“We had a nice spring where we got the kids out and running around a little bit and seeing what positions they can play,” he said. “We're very optimistic about the season.”

Perhaps the biggest issue for LeDonne is who won't be running around for the Flames this season. Replacements will be needed for do-everything quarterback Cody Walter and tackling machine Mack Quinn. The graduates were two of the best players in the conference last year.

Returning is leading receiver Mark Lodge. Opposite him will be up-and-comer Romello Snyder. The battle to replace Walter at quarterback will be between Alex Marusic and Johnny Camello. Clearing a path will be sophomore lineman John Lenowski (6-foot-2, 220 pounds).

LeDonne said there is not a star player on either side of the ball like the Flames had last year, but that doesn't bother him.

“I'm a big advocate of playing a lot of guys,” he said. “It keeps people fresh, keeps the kids competitive, keeps people motivated.”

There won't be much time to get acquainted in the competitive Eastern Conference. Last season, the Flames lost by four points or fewer in three of their defeats.

“I keep telling the kids every game's going to be meaningful,” LeDonne said. “Whether it's the first game or the ninth game, a win could be the one that puts us in the playoffs.”

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