East Allegheny welcomes influx of talent
A once miserable offseason has turned fortuitous for East Allegheny.
After last season, quarterback Darrell James, running back Chris Loving and offensive lineman Mike Demos transferred to Serra Catholic. In late July, though, with the closing of Duquesne High School, the Wildcats found their replacements.
Quarterback Darrale Dunn, running back Monte Ashby, wide receiver Malik Washington and defensive end Troy Sloan highlight the class of Duquesne imports who will join the Wildcats in 2007. East Allegheny second-year coach Dennis Edwards said he's excited about the elevated competition the influx of new players will produce at key positions.
"I'm really look forward to putting my best 11 on the field," he said.
The competition starts at quarterback. Dunn, who started for Duquesne in the PIAA Class A final as a sophomore in 2005, has the upper hand over Trevor Morris, a talented sophomore. Edwards said Morris has a strong upside, however.
"He runs well, he throws well," he said. "We just have to watch his maturity and how fast he's going to pick up things."
Dunn passed for 1,124 yards and 13 touchdowns last year for Duquesne, which went 7-4 and reached the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals.
East Allegheny also will welcome Ashby, who rushed for 1,040 yards and 10 touchdowns last season at Duquesne. Though Ashby will compete for the featured back position with Joe Kiesel, Edwards said he wouldn't mind having two. Even with a single-back spread offense, he said he will find ways to use Ashby and Kiesel in the offense at the same time.
The Duquesne players are welcome additions to an East Allegheny offense that averaged only 11.1 points and 186.1 yards per game during a 1-9 season in 2006. Still, the defense remains a question mark. Edwards will rely on an experienced unit to improve on a season in which it allowed 46 points and 332.9 yards per game.
Dominic Meyer and Chris Coles will anchor a defensive line that Edwards said has shown improvement.
"I think our defensive line is really forming into a unit that we can really take pride in," he said.
Kiesel, Aaron Wipple and A.J. Sayles highlight a linebacker corps that will play a central role in the new 4-3 scheme.
Even with a collection of experience and talent, challenges remain for Edwards, who will not only attempt to overhaul the offensive and defensive schemes, but try to forge a team out of a makeshift collection of East Allegheny and former Duquesne players. He insists he and his players have embraced their new teammates, though.
"I'm the East Allegheny Wildcat head coach," he said. "No matter who comes to East Allegheny, they're a Wildcat."
East Allegheny WildcatsConference: Class AA - Interstate
Coach: Dennis Edwards
Players to watch: Darrale Dunn, QB; Joe Kiesel, RB/LB; Monte Ashby, RB.
Fast fact: Kiesel and Duquesne import Ashby will likely both be featured backs in Edwards' spread offense.