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New coach wants to bring balance to Mt. Lebanon offense

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 8:26 p.m.
Mt. Lebanon's Troy Apke hauls in a pass during practice on Monday August 13, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Mt. Lebanon's coach Mike Melnyk huddles with his players during practice on Monday August 13, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

Mike Melnyk didn't know what to expect at Mt. Lebanon, other than that he was inheriting a program with a proud tradition of winning WPIAL championships and running the football.

He wants the seven-time WPIAL champion Blue Devils to do more of the former and less of the latter.

Melnyk comes from Manheim Township, where he was 75-63 in 13 seasons, winning two Lancaster-Lebanon League titles. He replaces Chris Haering, who was 111-71 in 17 seasons at Mt. Lebanon, with 13 playoff appearances and a WPIAL Class AAAA title in 2000.

“They were very good at running the football. That jumps out at you when you look at tape,” Melnyk said. “I'm going to play to the strengths of my kids. We're going to try to build on what they were good at, which is running the football. We probably will throw the ball more than six times a game, though. I'm going to try to keep people off balance and be good at what we do.”

Where the Blue Devils last year relied heavily upon graduated tailback Luke Hagy, the school's all-time leading rusher, they are expected to throw more this season with senior quarterback Tyler Roth, an all-conference cornerback also regarded as one of the WPIAL's top punters.

“Last year, we ran the ball a lot, and it worked for us. We pounded the ball down people's throats,” Roth said. “This year, we're going to be a lot more balanced. It gives a lot more freedom for me and all the skill guys.”

Where 6-foot-5, 295-pound junior tackle Alex Bookser is the only returning starter on the offensive line, the Blue Devils bring back most of their skill players, including twins Tim and Michael Briercheck at fullback and receiver, and receiver-return specialist Dmitri Orfanopoulos. The most dangerous weapon appears to be junior receiver Troy Apke, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder who has a Pitt scholarship offer.

“We've tried to raise the bar, tried to make some changes and ask the kids to try to do some things a little bit differently,” Melnyk said.

“(Haering) did a great job, and we want to try to elevate the program and take it to another level.”

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