Yough's progression includes playoff appearance
When teams are rebuilt, they often go through a natural progression.
Much like babies must learn to roll over before they can crawl before they can walk before they can run, the same can be said for teams.
A perfect case in point may be the Yough football program.
A closer look of the Cougars under the watch of fourth-year coach Mark Crovak could be the epitome of the natural progression of a program.
In Crovak's first season, Yough went 0-9 in 2010 before improving to 2-9 in 2011.
Last year, the Cougars finished 4-5 and had the playoffs in their grasp.
A 14-12 loss to Greensburg Central Catholic in Week 8 put the Centurions in the playoffs and left Yough on the outside looking in.
“We fumbled three times inside their 10-yard line,” Crovak said. “The payoffs were right there and the guys have not forgotten.”
Several freshmen on that 0-9 team in 2010 are now seniors. The Cougars have two players with three years of starting experience and two who have started since they were freshmen.
Quarterback Tyler Donahue and inside linebacker Lucas Richardson enter their fourth year as starters while running back and nose tackle Tom Sever and running back and junior safety Clayton Waldron enter their third seasons as starters on both sides of the ball.
Add in senior Joe Pleva, who returns as a starter at cornerback, and the Cougars have plenty of experience.
That is not lost on Crovak.
“This senior class is something else,” he said. “They lead on and off the field, including in the classroom, and the younger kids feed off of that.
“The younger kids emulate the seniors, and the seniors lead by example.”
Sever and Waldron will be joined in the backfield by sophomore Noah Lee in Crovak's spread offense.
Pleva is the lone senior wide receiver, but he is joined in the deep corps by junior John Paul Sommers and sophomores Jordan Bryan, Eric Borkovich, and Ben Baldwin.
When the Cougars go to sets with tight ends, Richardson and junior Eric Baer will both see time at the position.
Four seniors are starting on the offensive line with Jacob Brundage at left tackle, Jerry Koza at left guard, Shaun Phillips at center and Chandler Daniel at right tackle.
A pair of juniors, Tobi Kuroda and Seth Miller, will see time at right guard.
The Cougars run a 3-4 defensive set.
Sever is the nose tackle while Daniel and Brundage are the starting defensive ends. Also seeing time at end will be Koza, Phillips, Kuroda and Miller.
At outside linebacker will be Molnar, Baer, and junior Rick Jaffe.
Joining Richardson as an inside linebacker is senior Nick Payne, while Lee will also see time there.
Donahue, Waldron and Borkovich will handle the safety duties, while Bryan, Pleva and Baldwin are the cornerbacks.
Senior Dan Turnsek is the kicker and Donahue is the punter.
Yough will try to avoid the midseason swoon that hit last year. After winning their first two games by an average score of 42-9, the Cougars dropped their next four and gave up at least 40 points in each contest.
“I think it was part mental, and in the past the teams would have folded,” Crovak said. “But this group of seniors, we have not had this kind of leadership here. The guys have worked hard all offseason and I am extremely happy with it.”
Crovak said the numbers at weightlifting sessions were off the charts.
“My first year, we had more coaches than players at weight lifting,” he said. “We routinely had 30 or players for conditioning.”
It goes without saying, according to Crovak, that the playoffs are the goal this year.
“We want to be in that group of players that keep playing,” he said. “The guys want it, and they feel that they squandered an opportunity last year.”
How will Yough return to the playoffs?
“We have to take care of the little things that we can control and play our style of play,” Crovak said. “If we do the little things, everything else will fall into place.”
Yough opens its season, and Class AA Interstate play, when it hosts Charleroi Friday.
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.