Highlands has keeper in junior quarterback Leri
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Last year proved to be a learning experience for the Highlands football team.
With just five rostered seniors, it was up to the underclassmen to quickly become acclimated to the rigors of Class AAA football.
One player who developed rapidly was quarterback Blake Leri. As a sophomore, he passed for 815 yards before his season ended with two torn knee ligaments.
“Luckily, it was the last game of the season,” Leri said. “Recovery time fit perfectly with the offseason. There were some rough times during the recovery process.”
Leri expects to be ready Aug. 30 when the Golden Rams play Hollidaysburg in the season opener.
Despite missing the WPIAL playoffs, Highlands improved as the season progressed.
“It seems like we jelled more throughout the season,” Leri said. “We got more comfortable with each other, and we started clicking around the fifth game of the season.”
Highlands' 2012 season could nearly be divided into halves. The Golden Rams lost their first four games, won their next four then fell to Knoch in the season finale.
“He really impressed me as a playmaker as a sophomore,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said of Leri. “He reminds me a lot of (former Highlands standout) Jeff Sinclair and (Freeport's) Luke Westerman, (Butler's) Tim Nunes. Anytime we have kids who are a run-throw threat, you become pretty good offensively.”
The late-season success raised expectation levels for this year.
“We have almost every back, but the other teams are returning a lot of people, too,” Leri said. “We're not trying to get too high, but we know we have a lot of good people coming back.”
Running a Sam Albert offense can be fun for many players, what with sets designed to confuse the opposition.
“It's a lot fun running the ‘confusion,' just because you don't know what you're going to do with the ball,” Leri said. “It's just like backyard football — you make a play, and it's fun.”
“We call Blake ‘Johnny Football,' ” Albert said with a laugh, referring to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. “We just told him to stay away from the autograph thing. He's a great kid, a good student, and he's very coachable.”
Albert is also happy with how quickly Leri picked up offensive schemes last year.
“What really helps is when you have an honor student at that position,” Albert said. “It makes it so much easier. He even comes up with ideas on his own.”
On defense, Leri played safety last year. Indications are, however, that the coaching staff will use Leri sparingly on defense this season, particularly as he continues to recover from the serious knee injury.
Leri is also aware of the athletic tradition in his family. His great uncle, Dan Leri, was an Associated Press first-team all-state player for Freeport in 1974.
George Guido is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- HS highlight reel: Central Catholic’s Joseph commits to PSU
- Monessen’s Rullo tabbed Player of Week
- Highlands wins thriller over Apollo-Ridge
- Alle-Kiski Valley HSFB notebook: Top Level AAU helps form competitive bond
- Offensive line making strides for Franklin Regional
- High school roundup: Highlands edges Apollo-Ridge in Allegheny
- High school roundup: Chartiers-Houston boots Bishop Canevin
- Winning takes center stage for Quaker Valley football
- Valley keeps McGrath in check to key win over Deer Lakes
- Plum rolls past Kiski Area
- Hampton pulls away from Knoch for 5-0 start