Defending conference champion Penn-Trafford to rely on just 4 returning starters
Penn-Trafford ended a decade-long conference title drought last season. The goal now is to make the wait for the next one much shorter.
This year's Warriors are a largely inexperienced group compared to last year's club, but with the bar set high last season, third-year head coach John Ruane's first priority is to avoid a step backward.
“I think after last season, the goal now is to play at a high level at all times, regardless of who is here or who graduated,” Ruane said. “We have the players here to do it.”
Ruane's group has plenty of talent, he said, but many will be showing that talent off Friday nights for the first time this season. The team has just four starters, all seniors, returning this season.
Tight end/linebacker Brian McDonough, lineman Eric Swope and defensive backs Dom Cima and Dorian Stevens return from last year's WPIAL quarterfinalist, and a fifth senior, linebacker Zach Diable, returns after missing the second half of last season with an injury.
While those players will provide leadership for a team trying to replace its quarterback, top two running backs and top two receivers from last season, the Warriors likely will have some other standouts among the first-time starters.
Senior Matt Arzenti will be in the mix to replace graduated All-Conference quarterback Zach Emerick.
“Our attendance in the offseason (workouts) has been outstanding, and these guys want to carry us forward,” Ruane said. “I think we still have a lot of leaders in this group, but they don't have the on-field experience that last year's team did. In high school, experience is as important as anything, and they're going to have to get theirs quickly.”
Depth is an area Ruane said his team needs to improve to approach last year's success.
Last year's Warriors had the luxury of a second starting-quality running back, Joe Fiasco, to spell all-conference selection Manny Simpson.