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Small group, big goals at Ligonier Valley

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Ligonier Valley tight end Alec Bloom makes a one handed catch during a practice session at Weller Field on Aug.14, 2013, in Ligonier.

In 10 seasons as coach at Ligonier Valley, Roger Beitel said he can't recall a smaller group of returning lettermen than with his current club. That doesn't mean 2013 will be a bust, he said.

“The good news is the guys we have coming back are going to be very important to us,” Beitel said of a team with 10 seniors and nine returning lettermen. “For our small numbers, we do have some size and experience.”

Quarterback Scott Fennell is fresh from a July trip to the Manning Quarterback Academy, where his coach was Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

Fennell will team with massive tight end Alec Bloom (6-7, 242) to form a unique passing attack that could cause matchup nightmares for opponents. Bloom recently gave a verbal commitment to Connecticut.

“Alec and Scott will be a big part of what we're doing,” Beitel said. “The guys we lost from last year were all major contributors to our football team, so we're going to need to rely on what's left.”

Part of what the Rams hope to achieve is continued success on offense, where they've been ranked either No. 1 or 2 in the Heritage Conference in seven of Beitel's nine seasons as coach.

But Beitel, who led Ligonier Valley to a 10-2 record and the second round of the District 6-AA playoffs last season, is ready to give up play-calling, hiring former Laurel Valley and Indiana defensive coordinator Scott Lewandowski as offensive coordinator.

The offensive line will be led by center Nick Boring, an “outstanding lineman last year,” Beitel said. Fennell, behind center, will attempt to better the near 1,000-yard season he had in 2012, when Ligonier Valley shared the Heritage Conference regular-season title with Penns Manor.

On defense, Ligonier Valley returns both inside linebackers — Boring and leading tackler Dereck Croyle, who set a school record last season with 130. The secondary returns two veterans in Fennell and Croyle's twin brother, Dan.

“We're going to continue to challenge our kids the same way,” Beitel said. “We have some outstanding leaders, and we need to develop some younger kids to be starters for the next couple years.”

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