Carlynton football on the prowl for wins in 2013 season
If the Carlynton football team has its way in 2013, the old saying “third time is the charm” will turn out to be true.
Coach Terry George will lead the Cougars into battle for his third season this year. After leading Carlynton to a 5-5 record – the team's best since 2005 – in year one, the team suffered an injury-plagued season in 2012 and finished 1-8.
But with an experienced squad led by a large senior class, Carlynton is looking to make the one-win season a distant memory.
“I have been through the past three seasons with Coach George and this is the season I have felt most comfortable,” junior Dale Rybacki said. “Last season we had a rough ride. I feel this year we can redeem ourselves and bring winning back to Carlynton.”
The team will have two senior quarterbacks with Freddie McKissick and Kevin Schuster. Both got playing time last season but when McKissick suffered an ankle injury in addition to a shoulder injury, Schuster became the sole starter.
“It was a tough situation for a guy who was basically a first-year player,” George said. “We run a spread offense and there is a lot going on. (Schuster) made mistakes but it helped him understand the offense and he has looked good in camp. (McKissick) is a sensational runner and his arm is much better than it was last season.”
While he missed a large portion of his junior season, McKissick isn't letting that hold him back. He said the missed time is serving as motivation.
“I have been waiting for the season all summer,” McKissick said. “Being a senior, this is my last chance.”
As both quarterbacks look to finish their high school careers strong, they will get an instant boost from the offensive line. All five linemen – senior tackles Christian Franchick and Joey Martin and guards Jessie Pigoni and Michael Walkowiak along with junior center Mike Griffin – return from last season and have multiple years of experience.
“We have all seen everything before,” Walkowiak said. “We know we can play together as a group. All of us are friends so we are a pretty close-knit unit.”
While having the experienced line will benefit the quarterbacks, it will also help the running backs, including 2012's leading rusher sophomore Isiah Canton.
“We had a scrimmage the other day and the holes were like tunnels,” Canton said. “It was so open.”
While he is only in his second year with the Cougars, Canton got a wealth of experience last season after senior Nick Lang was sidelined for the season with a leg injury.
“Last year helped me learn about this level of the game,” Canton said. “But this is the 10th year I have been playing football. I am used to it. The only difference was guys are bigger and faster.”
Rybacki will provide the Cougars offense a fullback who is able to pick up yards when needed.
“(Canton) was great as a freshman and can only get better,” Rybacki said. “With the line and me there helping get blocks to get him off, we should be able to get lanes to set up scores.”
Freshmen Morgan Paolino and Brandon Rogers provide depth. Senior Evan Ban can expect to get carries as he serves as a bit running back/wide receiver hybrid.
“I like it,” Ban said. “Whatever I can do to help the team.”
In addition to Ban, the team will have a flock of receivers to use, including seniors Mike Brunner and Tyler Bly and freshman Hunter Kephart. Senior tight end Devin Miller will be mixed into the passing attack.
The biggest change for the Cougars in 2013 will be the look of the defense. While the team used a 3-4 defense in George's first two seasons, year three will welcome in a 4-3 defense.
“We knew we needed to make improvements on defense,” said George. “You need certain personnel to run the three-man front and we had kids geared more towards a four-man. With the linebackers and defensive backs we have coming back we were better suited for the 4-3.”
The linebackers will be strong as the team will look to a trio of seniors in Rybacki, Brunner and Angelo Peluso to disrupt opponent's offenses.
“I like the new defense a lot better than the 3-4,” Rybacki said. “Having four down linemen gives us more room to get our reads and get to the backfield.”
The defensive secondary will be strong with several talented athletes stepping up to stop opponent's passing attack, including McKissick, Canton, Bly and Ban.
The Cougars defense will need to be ready to go as it opens up Black Hills Conference play with games against Fort Cherry, Clairton and Bishop Canevin. While the team is not overlooking the Rangers and Bears, the Week 3 showdown with the Crusaders is one the team is looking forward to.”
“I cannot wait for the Bishop Canevin game, I can tell you that much,” Rybacki said. “Last year's game was a disappointment. I cannot wait to get another shot at them.”
Imani Christian's decision to cancel its season has led to the Cougars without an opponent in Week 5. George said Carlynton has been in talks with Westinghouse from the Pittsburgh City League as a potential opponent.
Whoever the opponent may be, the Cougars will be looking for a win. The team said the ultimate goal is to surpass the one-win total from last season. But the 16-man senior class has taken it a step further – it wants to bring Carlynton's 11-year playoff drought to an end.
“My goal is to make the playoffs,” McKissick said. “It is my last year to do it.”
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-388-5813.