Young, yet experienced Fort Cherry flying under the radar
Fort Cherry coach Jim Shiel admits his team is young, but what might surprise people is how much experience is returning for the Rangers.
“I like flying under the radar,” Shiel said. “We were young last year, and we're coming back strong. Some of those other teams (in the conference) have to rebuild.”
The Rangers only lost two starters to graduation from last year's 3-6 squad and return last year's leading passer, rusher and receiver in Matt Heslin, Koltan Kobrys and Zach Dysert, respectively. But the true strength is in the trenches.
“We hit the weights pretty hard this year and feel up front we're going to be pretty strong,” Shiel said.
Sophomores Trevor McIntyre, Brian Carnegie and Jake Shulz and senior Brandon McGurk are returning starters.
At fullback, John Findling (5-foot-10, 242 pounds) is described as a “guard in the backfield.”
“They're all good-sized kids, strong, putting up a lot of weight in the weight room, and they move pretty well, too,” Shiel said.
Catching Heslin's passes will be Dysert, Alex Babirad and freshman Scott Miller. Garret Whalen returns at running back after filling in last season when Kobrys was injured.
Defensively, Christian Schaub (6-2, 270) will anchor the front four, and Carnegie, Shulz and McGurk rotate in. Junior Radan Orenbaun (6-3, 343) has been a goal-line/short-yardage specialist, giving the Rangers even more size on the line.
“We hope to have a revolving door on the D-line,” Shiel said. “We have some big boys.”
Whalen and Findling will clog the middle while Dysert and Jesse Cook cover the edge. Providing pass coverage and extra run support will be Miller, Babirad, Dan Barley and Logan Ellek.
Shiel said having experienced youth will help Fort Cherry's chances of competing with the formidable Clairton, Monessen and Bishop Canevin, among others.
“A lot of the powerhouse teams were senior-heavy last year,” Shiel said.
Embracing the underdog role, Shiel added: “I expect to make the playoffs this year. I expect to surprise some people.”