Monessen isn't talking 'rebuild'
What does a coach do when a large number of talented players graduate and move on?
Most will talk about rebuilding or reshaping.
But you won't hear that from Monessen football coach Andy Pacak, even though he lost a large group of three- and four-year starters.
The 11th-year mentor refuses to use the ‘R-word' when he talks about his 2014 Greyhounds.
“We're young and we have very little depth, but for the coaches the expectations never change here,” said Pacak. “And I have let the players know that as well. I would never tell a senior who has busted his butt for three years that now we are rebuilding. No way. What I tell our underclassmen is that they owe it to the seniors to bust their butts and perform for them.”
The Greyhounds went 10-2 and won the rugged Black Hills Conference last season. They also ended Clairton's record 66-game winning streak.
Although many key players are gone from a year ago, Pacak says he likes what he has to work with this season.
“We do have a bunch of kids who have played in big games and played well for us,” he said. “And for what we have, we have worked really hard and I'm confident we are in shape.
“If we don't get any key injuries, we can compete. We expect to compete. However, absolute health will be the biggest key to our season.”
The Greyhounds have eight returning starters from a year ago, including all-conference performers Noah Rullo (quarterback), Brandon Lenhart (fullback/linebacker), Lavelle Rush (wide receiver/defensive back) and Rashawn Ford (offensive/defensive line).
“Having a quarterback who threw for over 1,000 yards a year ago and playmakers like Rush, Lenhart and (Demond) Jordan to work with, we definitely have the big-play capability,” Pacak said. “We are extremely young up front and once the line shapes up, we should be OK.”
The Greyhounds will use a multiple set offense, and Pacak said the team can either run or pass, depending on what the opposition plays defensively.
Monessen's offensive starters include senior Tyler Mikita at tight end, senior Ford and sophomore Marc Gibson at tackle, senior Zach Wheeler and sophomore Hunter Telegraphis at guards and junior Nate Ciepley at center.
Rullo will be handing the ball off to the trio of Rush, Lenhart and Jordan. Jordan, a junior, is the only underclassman of that group.
Senior Mark Blatnik will play wide receiver, while sophomore Jaden Altomore will see action at the position.
On defense, the Greyhounds will use mostly a 4-3 alignment with Wheeler and Ford at tackles, Baker at one end and Ciepley, junior Tariq Windom and freshman Antonio Rhome all vying for time at the other end.
Mikita will play middle linebacker, while Lenhart will man the strong side spot and senior Jervante Carlock will be the weak side linebacker.
In the secondary, Rush and junior Andrey Bolton will be the corners with the trio of Jordan, Altomore and sophomore Jaron Youngblood battling for the two safety spots.
“This group has done everything all off-season that we have asked of them,” Pacak said. “While we are not very deep, it's a close group because of that.”
Monessen was placed in Class A's new super conference, the Eastern, along with perennial power Clairton, former Class AA powers Jeannette and Greensburg Central Catholic, and other traditionally strong Class A programs Springdale and Riverview.
“Just look at it from top to bottom,” Pacak said of the new conference. “Just looking at us, Clairton and Jeannette you have over 1,800 wins all-time there. That's a story in itself.”
Pacak said that on paper the Bears wear the favorite's shirt in his eyes, but he was quick to add that one of a number of teams can finish in the top spot.
As for the Greyhounds?
“Of course we expect to be in the mix, even with that group,” he said. “They all have pride and tradition and so do we. I think it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.