Keystone Oaks football team looking to improve its mindset
TribLIVE Sports Videos
All that separated Keystone Oaks from a winning record in 2012 was a midseason stretch of three games where the final scores were decided by a touchdown or less.
It is a streak coach Matt Taylor hasn't forgotten.
“I still have nightmares over those games,”the second-year coach said. “This year we are trying to change the mindset and culture. We want the team knowing it is going to compete play in and play out.
“Instead of going in hoping we can compete, we want to go in knowing we are going to compete.”
The offense — which averaged 16.7 points per game last season — will receive an instant boost as quarterback Kobe Phillippi starts his second year under center. The junior gained invaluable experience last season, and his coach expects to see the dividends being paid in 2013.
“He got better each and every game,” Taylor said. “You could see the progress from week to week. This year we are looking forward to him going into Week 1 and being as productive as he was at the end of last season. We have high expectations of him, and he has high expectations of himself. He is that type of kid.”
Phillippi threw for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore. While it was good production for a first-year starter, the junior expects to see an increase in production after working on his skills during the offseason.
“I am better prepared,” Phillippi said. “Last year was my first year at quarterback, and the coaches have really helped me in the offseason. I am more confident.”
Phillippi's favorite target from last season, Cory Sevacko, graduated and will play this fall at Clarion. The likely successor is Braydon Griffiths. The 6-foot-1 senior finished last season with six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown.
“We think he is one of the best receivers in the conference,” Taylor said. “All the kid does is work his tail off ever play whether it is a run or a pass or even if you ask him to go pick up a cone 20 yards away.
“He'll do anything for you and do it 100 percent.”
Senior Tyler Chiocca will start opposite Griffiths and has been described as his teammates as a big-play threat due to his speed. Sophomore Leo Palmer will be a target at tight end.
“Watching the seven-on-sevens, it is so entertaining,” senior lineman Declan Hartnett said. “What (Griffiths) and (Phillippi) do together and what (Chiocaa) can do is so fun to watch.”
The running game will need to find a new go-to guy as Dale Klobuchir — last season's rushing leader with 1,043 yards — graduated and is playing at Grove City. The likely replacement will be Jimmy Canello.
The 5-7 junior was the team's fullback last season. And while he was undersized for a typical fullback, he filled where he was needed and gained praise from Taylor for his team-first attitude.
“He was a little miscast last season,” Taylor said. “But I give all the credit to him for what he did. He didn't have the power a typical fullback did, but we used him to seal edges and some other things. He never complained and was just happy to be on the field.”
Canello will lead a pack of pack of running backs including senior John Beveridge and juniors Branon Carroll and Mike Lucas. Canello expressed relief moving into the tailback role and said he is looking forward to picking up where Klobuchir left off at the end of last season.
“It is more natural for me,” Canello said. “I feel like the line has developed some depth, and I am really looking forward to running behind them.”
Three of the five starters from the line return: senior Chris Grecek and sophomores Keynon Griffiths and Joey Kazalas. Hartnett will join the line as a starter.
“We will miss the seniors we lost, but the offensive and defensive lines are probably our strengths,” Taylor said. “We return three of five starters, but we also have eight or nine guys who can come in and play meaningful snaps.”
The defense will see a change as some of the size from last year' defensive graduated and the coaching staff will look to capitalize on athletic ability. That includes moving from a five-man front to a 4-3 scheme.
“I don't think we ever got comfortable in the five-front,” Grecek said. “We had been taught the four-front for years and felt much more comfortable. It is not so much thinking but more reacting. And coaches love when you react naturally.”
Taylor said his defensive strength will be at linebacker. Canello is the team's top returning tackler as he finished with 64 in 2012. Palmer saw playing time last season as a freshman. Senior Dom Shelow got experience last season, and Beveridge will fill in at middle linebacker after taking a hiatus from the team last season.
Griffiths and Chiocca will provide the secondary experience.
“I feel like we can honestly shut down a lot of teams,” Griffiths said. “We have some big games early, but I think the defense has progressed and the new players should help. We have some new linebackers who are strong, and our corners are solid. We should be able to stop offenses.”
There will be no adjustment time for the Golden Eagles. The team kicks its season off with games against three of the Century Conference's four playoff teams from 2012: Steel Valley, South Fayette and Seton-La Salle.
It was a stretch in which Keystone Oaks was outscored, 133-7, last season. But with returning experience and a new attitude, Taylor is looking for different results from his squad.
“Our goal is to play better from the first play of the first game,” Taylor said. “For whatever reason, we didn't have things clicking on all cylinders until halfway through last season in Week 4 or 5.
“If we can play that way in our first game against Steel Valley, we will be a more competitive team and a much more dangerous team.”
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-388-5813.
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.
- HSFB preview by position: Familiar faces coaching in new places
- New coach hopes to start new tradition at Shaler
- Experienced players hope to lead Penn-Trafford to title
- Class AAAA breakdown: Trio of contenders could challenge perennial powers Woodland Hills, Central Catholic
- Class AA breakdown: Revamped Allegheny Conference among many changes
- Gorman: McNeilly Road rivalry renewed
- Dudek adds explosiveness to trio of Kittanning backs
- Century-old rivalry ending this season with Kittanning, Ford City meeting one last time
- Class A breakdown: WPIAL realignment shakes up conferences
- Led by top QB, South Fayette offense among WPIAL’s all-time best
- Class AAA breakdown: With perennial contender Gateway joining Greater Allegheny, trend of championship Parkway teams could be challenged