Kittanning wide receiver should flourish in new spread scheme
Earlier this week, Kittanning senior Sterling Henry reminded some football teammates about his exceptional athleticism.
Several Wildcats sat around outside the David “Red” Ullom fieldhouse before their evening practice on Wednesday and watched as players tried to hit pitched tennis balls with a wooden broomstick.
The first two boys barely made contact with pitches. Then Henry, who stopped playing baseball more than a year ago, cracked a hard grounder with his first swing. He sent the second ball sailing into the tennis courts more than 50 yards away.
Henry will look to wow teammates, fans and opponents a few times this fall from his wide receiver position. The 6-foot-4, 185-pound second-year starter is a primary threat in Kittanning's spread offense. And he's hoping his decision to stick with football rather than focus solely on his best sport, basketball, as a senior will prove wise.
“I think we have a good shot this year to make it to the playoffs, which is something we haven't done for a while,” Henry said. “And we have new coaches, which I think is a big step, too.”
First-year Wildcats coach Frank Fabian wanted as many players at offseason practices as possible. But he wondered how often he'd see Henry, who belonged to two AAU basketball teams during the summer.
In the end, basketball barely interfered.
“We were ecstatic to have him here for the majority of the summer,” Fabian said.
Those offseason months allowed assistant coaches Chris Hooks and Brad Bowers to work with Henry on an area in need of improvement — dealing with double coverage and physical pressure at the line of scrimmage.
“We anticipate a lot of press cover for him, maybe some help over the top,” Fabian said, “(We have) really been working with him on releases and route running.”
Henry dealt with a fair share of double teams a season ago. Kittanning's top and sometimes only downfield threat, he had 14 catches for 271 yards and two TDs.
Henry wants to reach the 1,000-yard mark this season. He's confident he can navigate his way upfield after grabbing the short passes — slants, curls and screens — that thrive in the spread system.
Fabian is familiar with the knock against lanky receivers with basketball player builds — they're great in 7-on-7 scrimmages, but they're less effective once the pads come into play.
“I look at him as a talented wide receiver,” Fabian said. “We always say we want to play a little basketball in the grass. It's kind of a saying we have, and he fits into that well.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-543-1303, Ext. 1321.