HSFB preview by position: Prolific pass-catchers return at wide receiver
One of the best wideouts in the WPIAL might become only a part-time receiver this season.
Clairton's Aaron Mathews will move to quarterback a year after catching 50 passes from 3,000-yard passer Ryan Williams, who was a senior last fall. Mathews saw time at quarterback as a sophomore in 2013, making his position switch a little easier.
But the Bears could use a few of his teammates at quarterback this season as well, allowing Mathews to shift back to his natural position at times.
“We've got a lot of versatility here,” Mathews said. “When I'm not playing quarterback … we'll go to Plan B, and I'll be at wide receiver.”
Including Mathews, the WPIAL and City League could return at least a dozen receivers who caught 40 or more passes last season. Among them are Freeport senior Dylan Hochbein, South Fayette senior Nick Ponikvar and Riverside junior Ricky Wass who all surpassed 50 catches. Pine-Richland senior Anthony Battaglia, who caught a touchdown in the Class AAAA state final, is among those with at least 40.
1. Aaron Mathews
Clairton, sr., 6-5, 190
Mathews scored 18 times last season with his longest on a 72-yard punt return. He caught 50 passes for 815 yards and eight touchdowns. He rushed for nine more. Pitt, West Virginia and Maryland are among the schools recruiting him. Rivals ranks him No. 17 overall in the state's 2016 class.
2. Aidan Howard
Gateway, sr., 6-4, 184
Howard verbally committed to Virginia in June. The wideout had only three touchdown catches last season but one came with 23 seconds left to beat Knoch, 8-7. Howard was chosen for the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl next January in Daytona Beach, Fla. Rivals ranks him No. 16 overall in the state's 2016 class.
3. Tim Vecchio
Penn-Trafford, sr., 5-10, 175
Vecchio tied for the WPIAL lead with 15 touchdown catches last season. He caught 43 passes for 1,022 yards and returned an interception for a touchdown. As a sophomore, Vecchio reached the end zone 12 times. He verbally committed to Robert Morris this summer.
4. Tim Jackson
Allderdice, sr., 6-2, 180
Five of Jackson's 10 touchdowns last season covered more than 50 yards. The longest were a 99-yard interception return, a 75-yard punt return and a 66-yard catch — one of Jackson's 42 receptions. Rated by Rivals at No. 19 overall in the state, Arizona State and Temple were first to recruit him.
5. Dylan Stapleton
Indiana, sr., 6-4, 190
Stapleton made 32 catches for 438 yards and scored nine touchdowns last season. His brother Riley (with 69 catches in 2014) is at James Madison, leaving Dylan as the team's primary target in the passing game. Stapleton also starred for Indiana's basketball team that won the WPIAL Class AAA championship.
One to watch: Kenny Robinson
USO, jr., 6-3, 205
Pitt, WVU and Cincinnati are among the schools that already have offered scholarships to the young City League star. Ranked by Rivals at No. 14 in the state among 2017 recruits, Robinson had eight touchdown catches as a sophomore with a 72-yarder included. He also returned a fumble for a score on defense.