Monessen puts focus on running game
A year ago when Monessen joined the rugged Black Hills Conference, coach Andy Pacak told anyone and everyone he thought his team was good enough to win the conference that included perennial powerhouse Clairton.
“I think people in the conference took us seriously, but I'm not too sure how many people locally did,” Pacak said.
The Greyhounds proved their mettle in the Black Hills, going 8-1 — with their only blemish coming against the Bears.
Monessen ended the season 9-2 after a heartbreaking, last-second 24-21 loss to Neshannock in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
The good news for Monessen is a talented group returns, including four all-conference selections.
The bad news is multitalented quarterback Chavas Rawlins, who threw for more than 1,000 yards and received scholarship offers from 20-plus Division I schools, graduated.
“I learned a long time ago from talented coaches that you coach with what you have,” Pacak said. “Without Chavas, we will be a different team. But we are still a talented team, and we will take advantage of what that talent is.”
Monessen returns seven players on offense and 10 on defense who either were full-time or part-time starters a year ago.
Among them are wide receiver/linebacker Justice Rawlins, running back-defensive back Javon Brown, running back-linebacker Clintell Gillaspie and lineman Jonathan Kravets, all seniors who made the all-conference team.
Other returning starters on offense include linemen Justice Tartt and Raelo Davis and receiver Irvin Green. End Kayne Jackson and defensive backs Lavelle Rush and Jevaughn Carlock return on defense.
“The cupboard is definitely not bare,” Pacak said. “Without Chavas, we will probably be more of a running team, but we certainly have the experience not only up front but in the backfield, to be successful.”
Defensively, Pacak expects the Greyhounds to be aggressive.
“We preach being aggressive and everybody flying to the ball,” he said. “With the group we have, the leadership we have, we expect to stand up and be counted.”
Of course, playing in the Black Hills with the likes of Clairton, Brentwood, Bishop Canevin and Chartiers-Houston, Pacak knows nothing will come easy.
“We know that nobody will roll over for us,” he said. “I think we like the fact that we have to earn our respect. A year ago, we did that. This is a new year, but the expectations never change. We will be as good as we want to be.”