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Seneca Valley QB one of several stepping in for injured stars in Week 2

| Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, 9:36 p.m.
Louis Raggiunti | Trib Total Media
Seneca Valley's Corbin Kessler practices earlier this summer.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Mars running back Ori Rinaman runs through the Knoch defense for a first down in the second quarter at Knoch Stadium in Jefferson Township on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013.
Barry Reeger | Trib Total Media
Mt. Pleasant's Chris Wagner celebrates an interception during the Westmoreland County Coaches Association seven-on-seven football tournament at Franklin Regional High School on July 17, 2014, in Murrysville.

When the Seneca Valley coaching staff told him to get ready to go in at quarterback late in the season opener, junior Corbin Kessler still had receiver gloves on his hands and tape wrapped around his wrists.

Kessler hardly looked like a quarterback at that moment, and mentally, he didn't feel like one, either.

Consider Kessler transformed.

Kessler and several other players around the WPIAL are prepared to step up in Week 2 and replace one of their respective teams' injured skill-position standouts. A sprained knee ligament caused senior T.J. Holl to exit with a couple minutes left in the fourth quarter of Seneca Valley's 14-0 loss to North Allegheny and created the need for Kessler, who last served as a starting QB in eighth grade, to take snaps.

“I was in receiver and safety mode, and I had to get out of it and into QB mode,” said Kessler, who completed 2 of 8 passes for 24 yards. “That was the hard thing: Being a receiver and safety, I didn't really have the QB mentality. But this week, I do have that quarterback mentality. ... I just have to show people that just because one person goes down doesn't mean that a team can't win.”

Aside from Seneca Valley, which believes Holl can return near the end of this month, a few other teams hope one week of practices will allow them to thrive with one of their go-to ball carriers on the sideline.

Last Friday, Mars RB/LB Josh Schultheis, who rushed for 1,645 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior, broke a leg bone, an injury that led senior Ori Rinaman to take over Schultheis' spot and rush 18 times for 94 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-26 loss to Indiana. Schultheis possibly will miss the rest of the year.

“Josh was a huge part of our offense, but we're probably going to keep doing the same thing,” said Rinaman, who moved to fullback from the left wingback spot in Mars' offense. “Josh has about 50 pounds on me, so I'm not going to be plowing kids over, but I'm going to try my best. I probably have to get to the outside, and that's where I'm at my best.”

Franklin Regional senior RB/LB Brett Zanotto, a Maryland recruit, suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter of the Panthers' 22-7 loss to Knoch. His status for Week 2 is questionable, so rushing duties might fall on juniors Santino Birty and Jacob Ross, who combined for 19 carries for 60 yards, as well as senior Dom Giannangeli, who is recovering from an injury.

And Mt. Pleasant junior fullback Jake Adamrovich, the Vikings' top returning rusher, left just after halftime of the Vikings' 45-39 win over McGuffey, so sophomore Chris Wagner shouldered much of the offensive weight in the second half and finished with 11 carries for 83 yards and one touchdown. Adamrovich might return to practice next week, so Wagner gets at least Week 2 to fulfill the battering-ram role in the Vikings' wing-T system.

“I gained some confidence after the first couple of plays,” Wagner said. “I think the coaches will try to find another spot for me when Jake comes back. I'm trying to prove something.”

Teams replace running backs by using a committee approach or asking more of the second-string option. When a quarterback goes down, the temptation to overhaul entire offensive systems exists, but Seneca Valley will not stray from its spread attack.

“I know every single play, so it's just putting everything together,” Kessler said. “I just have to step in and be the man.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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