Making playoffs no longer enough for Frazier
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Times are changing for the Frazier football team.
Gone are the days of the players being happy to make the playoffs.
The Commodores were playoff participants the last two seasons, that won't be good enough this year.
Just ask fourth-year head coach Mike Steeber.
“Two years ago we were the 15th seed, and last year we were 16th and had to face Clairton in the first round,” he said of the eventual WPIAL and PIAA champions.
“Our upperclassmen don't want us being seeded that low again, and they know we have to remain focused.”
The focus was evident during the offseason, Steeber said.
“I was happy with the (offseason) and we had good numbers and participation,” he said. “The older players have been good leaders and have made sure the younger kids have been around.
“We have strong freshmen and sophomore classes and the older players have made them work.”
The Commodores will run multiple offensive sets, including pro and spread formations.
Frazier returns seven starters on offense from a team that averaged 32 points per game during a four-game winning streak that ended the season and earned the Commodores a playoff spot.
Six of the seven returning starters are seniors.
Charles Manack is back at quarterback and will be joined in the backfield by Chaise Bertocci and Zachary Mastowski.
Last year, Bertocci rushed for almost 500 yards and Mastowski was near 400.
Returning flanker Michael Luce was second in receptions a year ago.
Joe Hela and Dan Leonard are both back at the guard positions, while the seventh returning starter is junior tight end Nate Zurich.
One plus Steeber and his staff have is depth. Despite being a Class A school, Steeber said Frazier can plug in a lot of players.
“We have a lot of young kids who have worked hard and are pushing for time,” he said.
The other starters on the offensive line include senior center Jacob Girvin and a pair of junior tackles in Darren Osborne and Todd Pellick. Sophomore Nick Smith also sees time at tackle.
Juniors Michael Fartini and Nick Smalich will also see time in the backfield.
Five other receivers will see time: Dakota Hixson, juniors Tim Carson and Ethan Weiser and sophomores Caleb Cox and Hunter Patterson.
Frazier returns six defensive starters.
Bertocci and Mastowski are the inside linebackers in Steeber's 4-4 system, while Leonard returns at defensive end and Hela at defensive tackle.
Zurich returns at outside linebacker and Luce is back at safety.
Frazier will show position flexibility, especially on the defensive line.
Joining Leonard and Hela up front will be senior Travis Sanner, a trio of juniors in Fartini, Osborne and Pellick, and sophomores Joe Horvath and Nick Smith.
Manack and Patterson will see time at outside linebacker while Girvin and a pair of sophomores, Bret Poling and Cameron Roebuck, will all get a chance at inside linebacker.
Smalich will see time at safety behind Luce. Hixson and Carson are the starting cornerbacks with Weiser and freshman Alvin Ross also seeing time there.
Freshman Josh Cox will handle the kicking duties, while sophomore Caleb Cox is the punter.
With plenty of experience back and the upperclassmen expecting the team to do better, Frazier is aming higher.
“We want to put ourselves in the position to be a playoff team each year,” Steeber said. “That was the goal the last two years but we want to improve on it this year.
“If we stay focused and go game to game, we will build off of what we have done the last two years.”
Frazier opens the season with two home conference tilts in the Tri-County South at home as it hosts Geibel and then Carmichaels.
Steeber feels the conference will be competitive.
“Good teams battle every year in the conference,” he said. “We just have to do our thing and we will be in a better position at the end of the year.”
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.
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