Bobcats seek Heritage three-peat
Don't expect Ab Dettorre to tell you how good his Blairsville football team could be this fall. No need.
"Everybody else says it for me," Dettorre cracked. "We're told all the time how good we are. But I'm a realist. You have to perform. You make mistakes, you have fumbles and interceptions, all of a sudden someone not as talented is just as good.
"It's not like we just have to show up and collect a score. We have to play football. Our kids have to keep that in mind."
Other coaches would like to have Dettorre's worries. Blairsville went 10-1 two seasons back and 9-2 last year. The Bobcats return seven two-way starters among 23 lettermen.
They've won the Heritage Conference the past two seasons and are an early pick for a three-peat.
As if the wealth of returning talent wasn't enough, Blairsville also added a new offseason weight program.
"The bigger, stronger, faster system," Dettorre said. "I don't know if we're any of those yet. On paper, we look good."
Not that the coach doesn't have holes to fill.
"We have some key kids to replace," he said. "We lost multiple athletes like Mike Gaston, a middle linebacker who was one of the best ever to come out this league. Steve Wilk, my son Nick, Kevin Garland, who was an excellent kicker. These are big shoes to fill."
Now, for the good news.
Two-way starting lineman Justin Snyder, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior, is back, along with running back/linebacker Matt Strope and two-way linemen David Doak and John Shoenfelt.
"They're four dominant seniors we're going to count on for leadership," Dettorre. "And we have underclassmen who I expect to step up."
That would include junior quarterback Adam Highberger, who is a returning starter, along with junior running backs Zack Sabella and Nick Stone.
Sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Andy Ostach, who lettered as a freshman, is an intriguing player at 6-4, 185.
"He's a split end who's a big target," Dettorre said. "He played all over the country this summer with AAU basketball, and that didn't hurt him at all. He's more confident. We expect a lot out of him."
It is on defense that Dettorre is mildly concerned about the Bobcats.
"We have two big voids to fill at linebacker, and if you're running a 4-3, you'd better have good guys," he said.
Phil Christopher, a 5-11, 205-pound sophomore, is being projected as Gaston's replacement at middle linebacker.
"Having the core of experienced inside tackles, Justin Snyder and Dave Doak, will allow Phil to make some mistakes," Dettorre said.
Montez Miller, a senior who has not played linebacker but was described by Dettorre as ''athletic and strong," will play one outside linebacker. Strope, a three-year starter, is the experienced linebacker.
Senior wide receiver/defensive back Andrew Stewart and juniors Bob Martin, an offensive tackle/defensive end, Tommy Gaston, a defensive end and Jerome Nadeo, a tight end, also were mentioned by Dettorre as expected contributors on either side of the football.
Goals are familiar for the Bobcats.
"They never change," Dettorre said. "We want to get to the last game in December. We want to play as far into the season as we can, and where we end up, we end up.
"We have a great opportunity. Everything is in front of us, but we can't take anything for granted."