Uniontown banking on youth to lead team to postseason
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Uniontown's John Fortugna isn't worried about his team mastering Xs and Os.
But Fortugna is concerned about how quickly his team is going to mature as it attempts to snap a two-year playoff drought.
“This is probably one of the youngest teams I've ever coached,” Fortugna said. “Young kids are going to play, but when will they grow up? We're going to put a lot of young kids in the fire.”
Uniontown won just two games and finished near the bottom of the Keystone Conference standings last season.
Turnovers plagued the Red Raiders, which needs to change, the coach said.
“We're going to be fundamentally sound; we work on that all the time,” Fortugna said. “But turnovers are something you can't have.”
After taking over as starting quarterback late last season, junior Xavier Ellis is back to lead the offense.
“Xavier made some sophomore mistakes when we put him in the last two games as a starter,” Fortugna said. “But he handled the job well. He did a lot of good things, and he grew up really quick. Xavier is a very good athlete, and he has a lot of things that you can't teach.”
Senior Doug Lewis and junior Tristan Sandrosky are expected to lead a crowded group at running back.
“Doug didn't start right away, but we put him in for the last couple of games,” Fortugna said. “He got better and better. Then he broke his collarbone before our last game. Tristan started the whole year on defense, and eventually worked his way into the starting lineup on offense.”
Fortugna said he expects senior Jucqui Taylor and junior Bru Martin to see playing time at wideout.
The Red Raiders are undersized and inexperienced up front.
“We're probably going to start a lot of underclassmen,” Fortugna said.
On defense, Fortugna expects a lot of new faces as well, but he said the unit will be anchored by Sandrosky and senior Joe Linderman at linebacker.
One area Fortugna expects to be strong is special teams, with seniors Flyzell Williams at kicker and Jonathan Hagar at punter.
Despite all the uncertainty at several positions, Fortugna can't wait to start another season.
“You have to be hungry, and it was my job to make the kids hungry,” Fortugna said. “I put them through some hell in the winter program and they responded. The ones that didn't are no longer here.”
Uniontown will compete in the Big 9 Conference, although the section has a new look after offseason realignment.
Uniontown will battle Albert Gallatin, Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Laurel Highlands, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson, Trinity and West Mifflin.
“It's a new conference, but we know Thomas Jefferson will be good,” Fortugna said. “West Mifflin will be good. Ringgold will be back. And we open with Belle Vernon, and that will be a big test.”
Uniontown has won just four conference games over the past two years after advancing to the WPIAL quarterfinals in 2009.
“We played in a tough conference last season, but that's not an excuse,” Fortugna said. “We had some bad breaks. We had a lot of turnovers and there were games we should have won that we lost. The kids worked hard, but it just didn't happen for us. If you have turnovers, you know what's going to happen.”
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.
- Reversing the field: Pirates continue to raid Yankees for hidden skill
- Injuries to Penguins’ Ehrhoff, Letang force defense to pick up slack
- Former Pa. Gov. Corbett: From pension critic to collector
- Pirates notebook: Locke the choice to be 5th starter
- Steelers’ Tomlin, Pirates’ Hurdle share similar philosophy
- Five is enough for Penguins’ defensemen
- Body pulled from river in Charleroi
- Pgh. International leader strives to inject Pittsburgh flavor into airport
- Police search for armed prisoner after hospital escape
- Blaze guts South Greensburg home, kills 2 dogs
- Laurel Mountain Ski Resort discusses planned revival