Fort Cherry to rely on defense in move to Class 2A
In moving up to the Class 2A Three Rivers Conference, Fort Cherry coach Jim Shiel knows his team will have to be fundamentally sound on the defensive side of the ball.
Luckily for the Rangers, they return a bevy of starters on defense.
“We should be very solid up the middle,” Shiel said.
That’s where Fort Cherry returns four senior starters, including defensive linemen Aaron Baird and Brennan Shiel, as well as linebackers Zachary Vincenti and Josh Holder.
Also back are a pair of defensive ends — Joe Anderson, Brennon Smith. Senior Brady Whalen is back at outside linebacker, and junior Noah Babirad returns to the secondary.
Shiel said he has some younger players ready to fill holes in the secondary.
“I feel very good about them,” Shiel said. “Our secondary people, they’re pretty fast, they’re pretty smart. It’s just experience is going to be their thing.”
He also cited the contributions of junior linebacker Mark Permigiani and sophomore end/lineman Chase Belsterling.
The offense is looking to replace the production from graduate Ryhan Culberson, who threw for 643 yards, rushed for 1,564 yards and scored 28 times.
Whalen takes over at quarterback, where he played as a sophomore.
Vincenti returns at fullback after rushing for 677 yards and seven scores last season.
Babirad will be a playmaker at wide receiver.
“We look for some big things from him this year,” Shiel said.
Shiel has some concern with depth on the offensive line. With 37 players on the roster, only eight are linemen. Baird, Smith and Brennan Shiel return, and Permigiani is moving from tight end to guard.
Fort Cherry will face some tough competition in the Three Rivers Conference, including Seton LaSalle, Burgettstown and Serra Catholic, among others.
“We’re always going to be right there (near the cut off). We could go up or down. Last two years, we were one of the bigger single-A schools numbers-wise. Now were probably the second or third smallest double-A school.
“Depth is what concerns me the most, especially on the line. A lot of these double-A schools are going to have depth on the line, and we’re not. Wearing you down could be a factor.”
Coach: Jim Shiel
2017 record: 7-3, 5-2
All-time record: 340-232-15
Date, Opponent, Time
8.24, at Chartiers-Houston, 7 p.m.
8.31, Carlynton*, 7 p.m.
9.7, Burgettstown*, 7 p.m.
9.14, at Brentwood*, 7 p.m.
9.21, South Allegheny*, 7 p.m.
9.28, at Seton LaSalle*, 7 p.m.
10.5, at Neshannock, 7 p.m.
10.12, Shady Side Academy, 7 p.m.
10.19, South Side Beaver*, 7 p.m.
10.26, at Serra Catholic*, 7 p.m.
*Class 2A Three Rivers Conference game
Passing: Ryhan Culberson*
33-64, 643 yards, 8 TDs
163-1,564 yards, 28 TDs
Receiving: Nate Higham*
8-187 yards, 3 TDs
Bill Hartlep is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at email@example.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.