There is no more waiting.
The start of high school football season for local teams officially began yesterday with heat acclimatization practices.
Teams will start training camp Monday and Week Zero games are only 17 days away.
Waiting will be required to see how some storylines shake out. Here are five things to watch as we start the high school football season:
1. New coaches
It’s another year so that means one thing: another batch of new head coaches.
In total, four coaches will be in their first season and looking to put their stamp on what they hope is an impressive debut.
Ringgold’s Darwin Manges returns to his alma mater to turn around a program that went winless last season under Mike Zmijanac. J.J. Knabb was promoted from assistant to head coach at Bentworth, replacing Ron Skiles. The Bearcats went 5-5 last season and missed out on the condensed WPIAL Class A playoffs. Also in the Tri-County South Conference, West Greene’s Brian Hanson and California’s Ed Woods each will try to build on seasons in which the Pioneers and Trojan shared the conference title with Monessen but were bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
2. Trustworthy targets
A trio of quarterbacks will continue to be in good hands with standout wide receivers returning.
As offenses hinge more and more on a the passing game, opportunities for those split out wide have continued to grow. With the popularity of 7-on-7 competitions continuing to skyrocket, quarterbacks and wide receivers have taken advantage to build chemistry.
Three receivers who have proven to be trustworthy targets are Washington’s Zahmere Robinson, Peters Township’s Josh Casilli and South Fayette’s Charley Rossi.
Both Robinson and Casilli are coming of 50-plus catch seasons and also return their quarterbacks – PT’s Logan Pfeuffer and Washington’s Zack Swartz. Robinson’s big-play ability translated to 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns as he averaged more than 21 yards per reception. Casilli’s receptions totaled 892 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Rossi will be working with another quarterback, either junior Naman Alemada or sophomore Landon Lutz, after last year’s starter Jamie Diven graduated. Only a junior, Rossi had 38 catches for 613 yards and nine touchdowns.
3. Clean bill of health
Two oft-injured running backs will try to stay healthy and lead their teams to playoff runs.
West Greene’s Ben Jackson and Washington’s Dylan Asbury are trying to come back from injuries suffered late in the 2018 season. Jackson was only used sparingly in a playoff loss to Rochester. Asbury had his season end after tearing an ACL.
Both, if healthy, could be key parts to what should be successful offenses.
4. O-Line obstacles
The biggest question from these storylines could be how the new-look offensive lines develop for two of the area’s best teams of a season ago.
Coming off an undefeated regular season, Burgettstown will have to replace three key members from the group that powered the Blue Devils to the best season in school history.
Peters Township, while returning multiple players at skill positions, will undergo a big renovation to protect Pfeuffer and clear the way for their host of running backs.
5. Filling star power
Some other teams will be need to find answers to a simple question: Who will do all the scoring?
Canon-McMillan lost Drew Engel and Josh O’Hare.
Charleroi is without Geno Pellegrini and Dakota Romantino.
Christian Clutter, the Observer-Reporter Player of the Year, has since graduated from McGuffey.
The dynamic duo of Bailey Lincoski and Dominic Fundy at Beth-Center is no longer.
It is already August and there are still many questions that don’t have answers.