Saltsburg's goal for 2002 is to stay fresh
SALTSBURG--They snapped a three year losing streak last year, (a 20-13 win over Ligonier) but that's all the Trojans accomplished in a 1-8 season.
While the offense played well, defense continued to be the problem, as the Trojans allowed 31 points and 318 yards per game.
One answer to the defensive woes for 2002 is to try to keep fresh players on the field. "My emphasis is on defense," said Saltsburg Coach Glenn Richards. "Now we have more kids and they can spell each other. Maybe I won't have to play kids both ways every game."
Offensively the Trojans will emphasize ball control over passing, which will also help the defenders by keeping them off the field.
'"We're going to compete with everybody, I'm not afraid to say that," Richards said. "But Blairsville, Homer-Center, Laurel Valley, Marion Center and Northern Cambria, those have to be the top five teams in the league, based on what they've got coming back.
"It's hard to say how well we'll do, but I guarantee you, this team will be out there (trying.) There's a whole new attitude this year.
"We're not going to mess around this year. Any kids who think they're that good and don't want to give me 100 percent, they're going to sit."
Richards has been the head coach since 1992 and has had only one winning season. "I'm running out of opportunities here," he said.
Richards has won only 20 games in 10 seasons; three seasons were 0-9. His only winning season was a 5-4 record in 1996.
Starting linemen returning include center Brandon Barnes, guard Greg Ewing and tackle Jeff McManis.
Corey Adams also started at tight end.
Offensively, with 16 lettermen returning overall, Richards feels confident that he can play two deep at the skill positions, but the line remains in flux going into tonight's home opener against United.
After a shutout loss to the Lions last season, the Trojans need a big game and a morale-building win to have a chance for a big season.
Offensively the Trojans would seem to have some weapons. Quarterback Rick Spallone threw for almost 500 yards last year.
Richards said, however, that he wants to use sophomore Marty Steele as quarterback, so Spallone will move to split end and back up Steele.
He hinted that he has a "Slash" role in mind for the talented Spallone, one of the few players from the Trojans' fine basketball teams to also play football. Could there be some option passes in the Saltsburg playbook?
Senior Dan Speal, a fullback, is the leading returning rusher, with 115 yards. Dave Wells, a senior who hasn't played for a few years, is another running back candidate, as is junior Luke Poloff.
Mike Clawson caught 10 passes a year ago, and Adams nine.
Defensively Speal, Poloff, senior Marcus Williams, Adams, McManis, Matt Ritenour, safety Mike Dunlap and tackle Rhett Filkosky all started last season.
That experience needs to pay off big time.
"In the past, other teams have been able to score on us at will," Richards said. "The defense will hopefully tighten up this year."
The Trojans also have a freshman on the roster, Ryan Nagy, whose role is very defined: "He can kick," Richards laughed. "I'm tired of not getting the extra point. He can also kick off pretty deep for a ninth grader."