Shady Side Academy to face Ford City
Shady Side Academy is one of the teams many people think will contend for the Allegheny Conference title this season. The Tribune-Review News Service ranked the Indians as the No. 9 Class AA team in its preseason WPIAL rankings, one spot higher than the two-time reigning Allegheny Conference champion Ford City Sabers.
Shady Side Academy coach Dave Havern calls the hype surrounding his team “rash.” But, with several three-year starters on his roster, Havern also said that his team “is out of excuses.”
If Shady Side Academy (1-0) is going to take the next step and finally make the playoffs out of the Class AA Allegheny Conference, a victory over Ford City (1-0) will help its cause.
The Indians will get their shot at the reigning section champions at 7:30 p.m. Friday, when they travel to Ford City.
Shady Side Academy started nine sophomores two seasons ago. Havern said his team had “18 players and a place kicker” that year. This season, the Indians have 38 students on their roster, including quarterback Dan Rooney.
Ford City's defense sacked Rooney five times for minus-48 yards en route to a 34-14 victory last season.
“We've taken it on the chin the past couple years playing younger kids,” Havern said. “We're bigger and stronger. But, our main concern is — more than anything else — them believing in themselves.
“When you lose for a while, it's a little bit of a habit to break.”
To break that habit Friday night, the Indians can't have a repeat performance of last season, when the Sabers rushed the ball for over 300 yards.
Carter Haponski, who broke loose for a score on the opening kickoff of Ford City's victory over Wilmington last week, had an impressive 14-yard touchdown run against Shady Side Academy last season.
“We've seen him before, believe me,” Havern said of Haponski.
Haponski's special teams touchdown was not a fluke, according to Ford City coach John Bartolovic.
“We work hard on special teams every day,” he said. “Joe Stivason is our special teams coach, and he does a good job. We don't throw a bunch of sophomores on special teams. We put our best players out there, and in the last five or six years, we've returned a lot of kicks.”
Shady Side Academy and Wilmington are similar in that each team has bigger linemen than Ford City. The Indians are led by two-way tackle Mike Farrell (6-foot-7, 285-pounds).
However, Ford City won the battle in the trenches last week, which Bartolovic described as a pleasant surprise and attributed it to his team's speed.
As successful as Ford City's offensive linemen were, Bartolovic still sees a lot of room for improvement.
“I don't think we ran the ball well inside,” he said. “The line made a lot of mistakes. But, the type of team we won against, I think we did a good job.”
For Ford City to improve to 2-0, the Sabers will have to stop sophomore running back Brian Nickel, who rushed for 67 yards and two touchdowns in Shady Side Academy's 16-3 victory over Freeport last weekend.
“Our kids know how big this game is,” Havern said. “We're anxious to see what we got.”