CV prepares for return to Parkway Conference
As the Chartiers Valley football team makes its trek through the 2012 season, the Colts faithful will be logging some miles on the Parkway West.
The Colts return to the Parkway Conference this season. They called the conference home in the 1990s but made the jump to the Big Seven conference starting in 2000.
The move back comes as a result of the WPIAL consolidating Class AAAA and Class AAA from four conferences each to three. The Parkway Conference also will include Ambridge, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Hopewell, Montour, Moon, New Castle and West Allegheny.
"The competition will definitely be stronger," Chartiers Valley coach Chris Saluga. "We know that we will be going into a quality conference. Every Friday night we will play in front of a packed stadium against a well-coached football team."
The move from four conferences to three also changed how the playoffs will be laid out. Five teams from each conference - along with a wild-card team - will make up the 16-team playoff field.
"It will still be the same amount of teams," said Saluga, who became the all-time winningest coach at Chartiers Valley in 2011. "It is just a different formula.
"Our goal is to be one of those 16 teams. We have been to the playoffs eight out of the last nine years and we expect to be there this season."
To reach their goal, the Colts will rely on some strong returning athletes along with several newcomers.
"We are challenging this team to be great team players and competitors," Saluga said. "We might not have the most Division I players on the field every Friday night but we think we have the ability to become a great team."
A battle for the starting quarterback spot will play out during the opening practices as juniors Josh Lapiana and Andreo Coury compete for the starting spot.
Saluga said each quarterback brings his own unique ability to the field.
"They are both good leaders and good competitors," Saluga said. "(Coury) is a flashy, speedy kind of quarterback. (Lapiana's) strength is that he has an outstanding arm. Both can run the ball and throw it."
Saluga said whoever doesn't get the starting nod at quarterback still will be worked into the offense. For example, Coury could be used as a running back or slot receiver due to his speed and elusiveness.
Whichever way the staff decides to go, there will be plenty of weapons for the quarterback to throw to. Juniors Anthony Voss and CJ Beatty will step into the receiver roles, and senior tight end Spencer Casson will provide a big target with his 6-foot-7 frame.
"Casson will primarily play at the tight end spot but will split out on occasion," Saluga said.
Michael Boulos returns as the Colts' most experienced running back. The senior ran for 619 yards and five touchdowns last season and will be the main running threat for Chartiers Valley in 2012.
Seniors Joe Ragni and Nick Gillot also will get time in the backfield as fullbacks. Ragni recorded 84 yards and four touchdowns on the ground last season.
"They are all seniors," Saluga said. "They have been here.
"They know what it takes to be successful at a high level and proved they can perform."
The returning rushers are expecting a big season but admitted their performance will be boosted by a strong offensive line.
"Our line will be one of the best parts of the team," Ragni said. "It will definitely help us in the run game."
Three seniors return to the line in 2012: guards Dom Giuntini and Tyler Golden and center Mitch Zajicek. Zajicek and Golden received All-Big 8 postseason honors for their play on the offensive line in 2011.
The team also will use Ben Kumpf and Hunter Steele, two talented and large juniors, on the line.
"We have a lot of big guys on the line this year," Giuntini said. "And there is a lot of power. We should be able to really help the offense this season."
Saluga said the offensive line could be one of the strongest he has had since taking over leading the Colts in 2001.
"We have the potential to have a very good line this season," Saluga said. "We are still working with them and we are challenging them to be one of the better lines we have had."
Many athletes on the offensive line will see time on the defensive line. Kumpf, Casson and Giuntini saw time at defensive end last season, and Zajicek filled in at defensive tackle.
"We have up to eight guys who can play on the defensive line and hold their own," Saluga said. "We like to substitute a lot so we can keep the line fresh. We have high expectations for the line."
The linebacking corps returns plenty of talent in 2012. Gillot is back after receiving All-Big 8 first team honors in 2011. Ragni also returns after receiving honorable mention on the all-conference team.
Senior Connor Lindsay returns after picking up experience in 2011.
"(Senior) Nico Scarfone will fill in as an outside linebacker," Saluga said. "We think these guys can really play. We like the talent we have at linebacker."
The defensive secondary will be lacking starting experience, with Boulos returning at cornerback as the lone returning starter.
"I am definitely going to try and be a leader in the secondary," Boulos said. "Whether we are in a game or practice, I want to give them pointers to help them get better."
Saluga said the team will be looking at players throughout camp to fill the other spots with Beatty, Coury and Hans Hauge all named as potential starters.
The Colts won't be lacking in the kicking department in 2012, returning both placekickers used in 2011.
Senior Kristina Coyne received first-team All-Big 8 honors last season for her kicking abilities. Coyne typically would handle PATs and short field goals, and junior Tom Kovach handled kickoffs and long field goals.
While the players share their coach's sentiment that the playoffs are a priority, they expressed their intention of taking it one step further. The players said the ultimate goal is to end up playing at Heinz Field in November for a WPIAL title.
"We want to win a championship," Ragni said. "Anything else is a bust."