Bishop Canevin defense staying agressive
Coming into the 2012 season, the Bishop Canevin coaching staff thought the defense would have some problems early. The team had inexperience across the field, and it was assumed the team would suffer growing pains early on.
Turned out to be not so painful, after all.
The Crusaders held their first three opponents — Imani Christian, Chartiers-Houston and Carlynton — to six, four and no points. Since then, the team has achieved a 5-2 mark in the tough Black Hills Conference.
“We really thought we would have some problems at the beginning of the year but we actually started really strong,” Bishop Canevin coach Bob Jacoby said.
The defense is led by middle linebacker Mike Dunn. The senior — who is the all-time leader in sacks at Bishop Canevin — has recorded 74 tackles this season. He also has four sacks and an interception.
“When you have someone like that playing at middle linebacker, you are pretty solid from tackle to tackle,” Jacoby said. “Nothing is going to get past (Dunn).”
The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder — who is receiving interest from FCS programs such as Bucknell and Youngstown State — has 321 tackles for his career.
“I just like being in middle of the action and flying to the ball,” Dunn said.
Dunn is joined at the linebacker position by junior Mark Deschon and senior Alex Plutto. Deschon is one of the top tacklers on the squad with 46, and Plutto has added 30 of his own, along with four sacks.
“I feel like they came in and didn't miss a beat,” Dunn said. “They have played as well as the linebackers last year and have done what they had to do.”
The linebacker corps backs up a talented defensive line. Seniors Jim Tersak and John Bridge have been dominant as the ends. Tersak is second on the team with 48 tackles, and Bridge has 30. They have five sacks apiece.
“Those two at defensive end have done a pretty good job,” Jacoby said. “There are times we only rush four and they put pressure on the offensive line.”
Senior Jim Dlugos and junior Tanner Richardson have filled in the tackle role and combined for 54 tackles. Senior Tom Reddy has filled in as a fifth man on the line to add depth.
“Dlugos and Richardson were part-time players last season,” Jacoby said. “We thought the line would be a strength coming into the season.”
The secondary is led by Nico Dipaolo. The senior — who is also the Crusaders' quarterback — is the only returning starter in the secondary. He has recorded 40 tackles and three interceptions.
Senior Mike Tambellini — who missed last season with a torn ACL — has filled in at the other safety position. He has recorded two interceptions and two tackles. Canon-McMillan transfer
Reed Relosky has been a force in the secondary, recording 20 tackles and a sack.
Sophomore Giovanni Demarzo was originally in the secondary but recently suffered an injury to the acromioclavicular joint in his shoulder.
Demarzo played with the injury in the Crusaders' 28-21 loss to Monessen but had to sit out the next two games while it healed. Bishop Canevin is hopeful Demarzo will return to the field Friday.
In his absence, junior Tyler Reddy has stepped in and recorded 14 tackles.
Coming into the season, the Crusaders needed to prepare for a new home in the Black Hills Conference. The new conference boasts seven teams who reached the postseason in 2011, not to mention several Division I prospects.
“You never want to go into a game and directly focus on an opposing player but with guys like (Chavas) Rawlins from Monessen or (Tyler) Boyd at Clairton. It is fun to see what you can hold them to,” Bridge said. “Every week in the conference is a challenge.”
The Crusaders were unable to stop the Clairton Bears — who have won 54 straight — last week as they fell, 53-15.
Along with the loss to Monessen and the 41-9 win over Fort Cherry, the members of the defense agreed said they need to improve and get back to the way they were playing in the early games.
“We have had some slip-ups lately,” Bridge said. “We need to get back to the way we were playing at the beginning of the season.”
“We need to have the guys on gaps stay on their gaps and have the guys on man (coverage) stay on their man,” Tersak added. “As long as everyone does their job and know their teammates will be there to back them up, we should be good.”
The 5-2 mark has the Crusaders on the fast track to the WPIAL Class A playoffs. With two games left — road tests against Brentwood and Serra Catholic — the team is in line for its third straight Class A playoff berth.
And with the way the defense can play, the season might get extended for several more weeks.
“The defense has confidence,” Jacoby said. “We had a group of inexperienced players starting off. But the scrimmages gave them confidence. They played as a unit.”
Kickoff at Brentwood is 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-388-5813.