Share This Page

Highlands to rely on freshman, sophomore starters

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 7:36 p.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Highlands' Zach Mazur runs the ball during practice at Golden Rams Stadium on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
Highlands' Allan Cratsenberg throws a pass during practice at Golden Rams Stadium on Wednesday August 15, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
Highlands head coach Sam Albert talks to his players during practice at Golden Rams Stadium on Wednesday August 15, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

Highlands coach Sam Albert has seen some young teams during his 30-year coaching career.

But never any as young as this year's Golden Rams.

With only five seniors in camp, Albert will be counting on some awfully young players to make varsity contributions.

“We'll have a freshman and sophomore-dominated lineup,” said Albert, who's entering his ninth season at Highlands. “You just hope to improve each week.”

One strong point for Highlands will be its linebacking corps.

Returning are all-conference starters Allan Cratsenberg and Zach Mazur, both juniors. Wes Bernath saw considerable playing time as a freshman last season.

“You've got to build around them,” Albert said. “My kids'll do anything they're asked.”

Cratsenberg was the 2011 Valley News Dispatch Defensive Player of the Year, leading the Golden Rams with 100 tackles.

Albert likes to run a 4-4 defense but will switch to a 3-5 and other alignments to keep teams off-balance.

At tight end, Cratsenberg caught 15 passes for 249 yards. This season, he might get some looks at quarterback, as Albert always has liked getting the football into the hands of a top athlete as often as possible.

The kicking game also is in good shape with the return of fourth-year letterman Michael Masarik.

Masarik had eight field goals and 14 extra points last season.

Only two starters return on offense and three on defense, so Albert won't get into the speculation game on who might be the front-runners for various positions.

“You have to wait until you get the pads on and see who's committed,” Albert said.

One returnee who will be counted on is guard Kalvin Hines. Last year, 11 seniors contributed to a third-place finish in the Greater Allegheny Conference.

Defense was the strong suit for the Golden Rams as Highlands outscored its six conference opponents only by a 101-91 count. But the Highlands defense limited powerhouse teams such as Indiana to 13 points and Mars to 11 points.

Albert also sees an tough conference this season.

“Franklin Regional and Greensburg Salem are big, and Mars and Knoch are both loaded this year,” Albert said.

There was some speculation that Highlands might drop to Class AA because of dwindling enrollment, but the Golden Rams missed the Class AA barrier by three students.

Highlands opens the season at Hollidaysburg, a new conference team. It will be the farthest the Golden Rams have traveled for a game since the early 1970s when Highlands was in the All-West Conference with Altoona.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.