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Shady Side Academy left to replace leading skill players from championship team

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 6:14 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Shady Side Academy quarterback Matt Granato. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Shady Side Academy will be looking to claim its fourth Allegheny Conference championship in five years this season but will have some gaping holes to fill, including spaces left by the Indians' leading passer, rusher and receiver.

“We lost our leading rusher and passer in Reggie Mitchell, and we've got to find replacements for Andrew Geisler, Jake Ellis and Ryan Reynolds,” coach Dave Havern said. “Reggie started 28 games for us, Andrew started 41, and Jake and Ryan started 26 each. That's a lot of experience that we lost. Those four guys had fine careers at SSA and helped us win a lot of games. We have to replace their considerable playing ability and have some people step up to replace the leadership. That's one of our big questions.”

Mitchell played offense and defense and is now at Wisconsin, while Geisler was twice an all-conference center and Ellis also played two ways and made the all-conference team twice.

Senior Matt Granato will be taking over at quarterback.

“He got a chance to play last year when Reggie was injured, and he did fine,” Havern said. “It's tough to replace an athlete like Reggie, but we're not worried about the QB position. Matt has shown that he can get the job done.”

Despite the key losses, the Indians will return 14 starters. Included among them are outstanding junior running backs Jared Brevard and Dennis Briggs, who each topped 700 yards last year.

“I've said it before,” Havern said. “I think that we have the best pair of running backs in WPIAL Class AA. Having running backs like that will take a lot of the pressure off of Matt.”

Other seniors returning are wide receiver Chad Wallace, lineman Jake Farrell, lineman-linebacker Josh Loper, lineman Joe Bray, tight end-linebacker Chris Bush and tight end-linebacker Aaron Horne.

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