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With foundation in place, 2nd-year Leechburg coach looking for improvement

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 7:39 p.m.
Leechburg's Jake Iellimo completes blocking drills at Leechburg High School football stadium on Monday August 13, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Leechburg football coach Mark George watches over practice at Leechburg High School football field on Monday August 13, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

The last time Leechburg had a football team finish above .500, the Pirates just clinched their second consecutive division title, the Steelers were in the final year of the Chuck Noll era and the Penguins were just beginning their run to a second Stanley Cup.

Second-year coach Mark George knows a return to that caliber of success won't happen overnight.

Like building a house, success is achieved from the bottom, up.

“Last year, what we wanted to do was build a foundation. We had to start at square one,” George said. “I think they are picking things up a little quicker. They've already had a year under the system.”

The Blue Devils finished 0-9 last season, 0-8 in Class A Eastern Conference play.

Filling out the offensive lineup presents a challenge George is glad to deal with in his run-heavy Wing-T system.

In the offensive scheme, three players will see time in the backfield.

There are four players George is eyeing to make significant contributions: senior Joey Strellec and juniors Taylor Oberdorf, Matt Rzewnicki and Alex Kalmar.

George said the player who does not crack the starting lineup won't have to worry about standing on the sideline for too long.

“We want to keep the legs as fresh as possible back there,” George said.

Seniors Tyler Dubovi, Jake Iellimo and junior Alex Sipolino are the frontrunners at quarterback.

Dubovi took snaps under center last year, when numerous injuries forced a shuffle in personnel, but the job was not necessarily his heading into this season.

“I'm trying to keep an opening mind,” George said. “(During a passing scrimmage), all three did very well.”

The two who do not win the starting job should shift to the receiving corps as all three have demonstrated an ability to make plays on the outside.

Though not considered a flashy position, the offensive line could be considered the most important unit, especially in Leechburg's gameplan.

Devin Dunmire, a returning Class A Eastern Conference first-teamer, anchors a line returning four of five starters.

“(Dunmire) was very consistent last year and did a very good job,” George said. “Like any football team, we hope that is our strength.”

Gone from last year's squad are five starters from both sides.

The biggest blow was the loss of starting running back and defensive back D.J. Oberdorf.

“Were definitely going to miss D.J.,” George said. “I don't know if you can replace a kid like that, but we have some kids who are pretty versatile.”

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