Laurel Highlands looking for replacement players after graduation losses
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Laurel Highlands second-year coach Zack Just is looking for a few playmakers.
The Mustangs lost a significant portion of their offense after quarterback Jake Riddell and all-everything back Danzel Beasley graduated.
“We knew we could count on those two,” Just said. “That's two big holes to fill.”
Left tackle Shane Guthrie, left guard George Teslovich, tight end/wide receiver Keith Liptock and wide receiver Joe Pegg are all returning senior starters on offense.
Just has two candidates to replace Riddell — senior Nick Copeland and junior Raphael Cannon.
“Both have done some really good things,” Just said. “Nick is a very smart football player. He understands the game and is an extremely hard worker. His work ethic makes him a natural leader. Raphael is a great athlete, and he brings a different dimension to the position. He can run the option; we can call plays designed specifically for him to run or we can roll him out. Having an athlete like Raphael makes your offense more diversified.”
Beasley was diminutive at 5-foot-7, but he was also a threat to break a big play every time he touched the ball. His playmaking abilities earned him Keystone Conference first-team honors.
It looks like senior Brandon Williams will get the nod as the Mustangs' go-to back.
“He hasn't missed one workout, and he's shown flashes of having pretty good ability,” Just said. “I'm pleased with our new guys on offense so far, but Friday night is a lot different than summer mornings.”
With all the new faces on offense, Just believes Liptock and Pegg's experience could pay dividends.
“The fact that these guys know what it's like to play at a high level means they can give the quarterback a little bit of guidance,” Just said. “He can put the ball up and they will make a bad play turn out good.”
Laurel Highlands returns four senior starters on defense: defensive end Xavier Daniels, defensive tackle Zach Delpinto, middle linebacker Jake Kearns and defensive back Steve Deli.
The Mustangs sneaked into the postseason a year ago with a 3-4 conference mark, but defense was a concern for Just. Opponents put up 40 or more points seven times, and Laurel Highlands allowed 60 or more on three occasions.
“We struggled with some fundamentals last season,” Just said. “We weren't very good tacklers. We're really going to stress that this season. To be honest, I wasn't pleased with how we lost games last season. We want to compete week-in and week-out. We didn't do that last season. We want to challenge those top teams.
“We had a great win at Hollidaysburg in Week 8 and followed that up with another big win over Albert Gallatin to get into the playoffs, but our goal is not to be a bottom-of-the-pack team. Our goal is to play with the top teams.”
Laurel Highlands will compete in the revamped Big 9 Conference in Class AAA, along with Albert Gallatin, Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity, Uniontown and West Mifflin.
“It's going to be a very good conference, and we're excited about that,” Just said. “There are some great, great football teams. Every week you will have to be ready to play. All nine teams are going to be battling for those five playoff spots.”
Show commenting policy
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.
- Alvarez homer triggers winning outburst for Pirates
- Pirates get journeyman Ishikawa off waivers; outfielder Marte injured
- Apple Hill Playhouse takes on an updated ‘Snow White’
- PennDOT team decides what spells trouble on vehicle license plates
- Clairton summer workshop helps students improve writing skills
- Man charged with passing counterfeit bills at Rivers Casino
- Westmoreland County on pace to surpass record for drug-related fatalities
- McCutchen, Pirates hitters increasingly in crosshairs
- Woman shot at Kennywood Park in ‘freak accident’
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Padres, July 6, 2015
- Film shares tale of Pittsburgh man who turned disability into career