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Replacing Manack key for Frazier

| Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Trib Total Media
Frazier's Nathaniel Zurich carries during a practice session on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 in Perryopolis.
Barry Reeger | Trib Total Media
Frazier running back Nick Smalich carries during a practice session on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 in Perryopolis.

When Mike Steeber was hired as Frazier's coach in 2010, making the playoffs was a worthy goal.

After all, he was taking over a program that had not made the WPIAL playoffs since 2002 and had not seen a .500 record since 1999. But in the past four seasons, the Commodores have gone 26-10 with three playoff appearances — all first-round exits.

“The expectation at this point is beyond simply making the playoffs,” Steeber said. “Obviously, we want to secure a playoff berth first before looking past the first round, and I think the kids understand that. But the kids are past the point where a loss in the first round is acceptable.”

If Frazier is to exceed last season's 7-3 mark in the Tri-County South, it will have to find a way to replace graduate Charlie Manack, who threw for 3,590 yards and 48 touchdowns in his two seasons as a starter.

“That's the challenge,” Steeber said. “We lost a number of key seniors from last season, but Charlie was a special player and our offense leaned heavily on him.”

The Commodores also must replace last year's top receiving threat, Dakota Hixson, leading tackler Zach Mastowski, and Chaise Bertocci, a starter at running back and linebacker who missed a majority of last season with a knee injury.

On the bright side, seniors Nick Smalich and Ethan Weiser and sophomore Alvin Ross saw plenty of action filling in for Bertocci, giving Frazier a solid core of experienced running backs. Senior Nathaniel Zurich, a third-team all-state selection at tight end, was second on the team with 29 receptions and led the squad with nine touchdown catches. He's also a three-year starter at outside linebacker.

“We have a number of good backs returning,” Steeber said, “so we will need to determine if we have to depend on the ground game this year or if we have someone capable of running the passing game that we displayed the past few seasons.”

Steeber mentioned junior Hunter Patterson — a two-year starter at receiver — and sophomore Christopher Pierce as possible replacements for Manack.

On the offensive line, starters Joey Horvath and Darren Osborne return, and Steeber mentioned Cameron Roebuck and Bret Poling as returning impact players defensively.

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