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High School Sports

Looking for leaders

| Sunday, Aug. 27, 2006

Head coach Don Schmidt is relishing the opportunity to coach a team that is predominantly junior oriented.

In his first three seasons at the helm at Allderdice, Schmidt has led the Dragons to consecutive playoff berths and knows the present and future is looking promising.

"This is probably my most experienced group in three years," Schmidt said. "I have a group of kids who have been together since ninth grade (Schmidt's first season as head coach) and now they're juniors. I'm excited about what we're working with this year and I'm going to get another year with most of (the juniors)."

Allderdice lost six starters to graduation, including Colin Patton, Russell Bush and the team leader in tackles, Jerrell Brown. Schmidt said he thinks leadership will surface from this season's seniors and a few surprise juniors.

Junior Don Fickley has started every game since his freshman year and will continue that streak as a fullback and inside linebacker. Fickley played a pair of games last season with cracked ribs and argued with the coaching staff when he was told to wear extra protective padding.

"(Fickley's) a hard-nosed kid whose presence on the field commands a lot of respect," Schmidt said.

Junior Chris Picoli will start at quarterback for the Dragons this season. He struggled as a sophomore, but Schmidt is confident that he will improve thanks to an offseason weight program and a two week experience at Pitt's football camp.

"I think the system we're going to use will help Chris adapt," Schmidt said. "It's going to be hard to defend us when we spread the receivers out and decide to run. In the end it comes down to execution."

Senior Julian Finch and Will Clark will start at wide receiver and work with Picoli to create an offense that Schmidt hopes can be successful in the City League.

Defensively, the Dragons have a lot of experience in junior defensive linemen Jahlil Jones (6-0, 275), the team's leader in sacks with eight, and David Yancy (5-11, 260). Both Jones and Yancy have started every game since their freshman year.

Senior outside linebacker Will Boyce has already shown leadership this offseason and is a kid who can get his teammates motivated and do the things that a coach can't, Schmidt said.

Despite the thought of having a promising future with a core group of seniors next season, Schmidt is hoping to harness his junior's talents and stand out in the City League this year.

The Dragons open the 2006 schedule Friday night at West Mifflin where they will meet a Titans team that is a Class AAA contender. Schmidt thinks it will be an excellent opportunity for his players to experience what football is like in Western Pennsylvania on Friday nights.

"This game (against West Mifflin) means more to us emotionally than it does a win or loss," Schmidt said. "I think the kids will be motivated to win in front of all their friends from the various areas."

Additional Information:

About the Dragons

Playmakers: Allderdice has plans to run a spread offense, which can mean big things for senior Julian Finch. He will line up at wide receiver and also has experience throwing the football.

Defense: Junior defensive linemen Jahlil Jones and David Yancy have not missed a start since their freshmen year. Coach Don Schmidt hopes they can anchor a young line.

In the trenches: The average weight of a Dragons offensive lineman is approximately 215 pounds. Schmidt is confident that what they lack in size will be made up in speed and agility.

Return game: The Dragons still are looking for the proper personnel to have a successful special teams group. They spend almost an hour everyday experimenting with different players.

From the sidelines: Schmidt contributes much of his success as a head coach to the relationship he has with his coaching staff. Schmidt said he learns something new every year and communication is something he found to be essential.

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