Experience a strength this season for Western Beaver
With most of its starters returning, prospects are bright for Western Beaver.
“With only three seniors, we were very young last year,” coach Matt Gray said. “This year, we have experience.
“We're in a conference (Big 7) that's difficult from top to bottom. The key will be staying injury-free.”
The Golden Beavers return most of their skill-position players, including quarterback Steve Robison.
At 6-foot, 145 pounds, Robison is a senior who started at quarterback after Hunter Roknich, the team's top passer a year ago, got hurt late in the season.
Roknich, a 5-9, 165-pound junior, will move to running back.
“Being a pitcher on the baseball team, I have a pretty accurate arm, but I'll play wherever they put me,” said Robison, who began last season at wide receiver.
Senior Nick Miller, the Golden Beavers' top receiver a year ago, also returns. At 6-2, Miller is Western Beaver's tallest player.
Seniors Billy Drear and Ed Doyle will return to play fullback and wide receiver, respectively.
The offensive line of center Ken Gailey, guards Anthony Ward and Matt Girting and tackles Nick DeDominicus and Zach Paine also returns intact.
All are seniors except Ward, who is a sophomore.
DeDominicus (240 pounds) and Paine (250 pounds) are Western Beaver's largest linemen.
Bob Halvin, a 5-10, 180-pound junior linebacker, joins the lineup defensively.
With 28 to 29 players expected for opening night at Neshannock, depth isn't expected to be a problem for the Golden Beavers.
“We have a lot of kids,” Gray said.
Western Beaver has qualified for the WPIAL Class A playoffs nine times in 13 seasons, including 2010 and '11, when the Golden Beavers were eliminated in the first round.
Robison said he thinks it will help that he and other players were on the Western Beaver baseball team that won the WPIAL Class A title this past spring.
“It gives us confidence,” Robison said.