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High School Sports

June 17, 2014

South changes defense after last year’s loss

JOHNSTOWN — After being thrashed 41-7 last year by the North, the South is hoping to rise again as it prepares for Friday’s Ken Lantzy Finest 40 All-Star Game set for 7 p.m. at Greater Johnstown’s Trojan Stadium.

On defense, those plans will evolve around the change in defensive schemes that has been instituted with teams now required to run a 4-3.

“It was something that I’ve politicked for a few years for because most of your schools put your best athletes at linebacker and under the old 5-2 system you could only pick up four linebackers and this gives you a chance for some of the better athletes to be selected,” said South defensive coordinator Stacy Schmitt of North Star.

“We have quality people in each position.”

The linebackers on the squad bring some impressive tackles numbers into the game led by Richland’s Ben Verhovsek, who tallied 140. The other linebackers include Doug Berkebile of Somerset, Gavin Berkley of Meyersdale, Levi Albright of North Star and Steve Richards of Saltsburg.

“Our linebackers are really strong,” Berkebile said. “We have really good defensive backs and linemen too. Everyone is meshing real well.”

Meyersdale’s Austin Miller ended his past two seasons with the Red Raiders with injuries so the defensive lineman was nervous about getting back out onto the field.

“It’s been an interesting experience, just being able to play football again,” Miller said.

“Starting out the week, I was almost scared to see how I would react. I didn’t know if I would be shying away from contact, but so far, I’ve been able to jump in there and get some hits.”

Miller, who had knee surgeries at the end of his past two seasons, realizes that the game is not geared for defenses.

“This game isn’t necessarily defensive-minded,” Miller said. “It seems like they make every rule in the book to make sure the offense scores. I think we are doing a pretty decent job.

“Playing with the area’s best is fun. You can rely on the guy beside you doing his job and on the linebackers being able to cover. Being able to play in the Ken Lantzy game is a good way to end my football career and I’m just blessed to have been selected.”

The other linemen include: David Krouse of Berlin Brothersvalley; Dalton Rice of North Star; Seth McClendon of United; Joseph Lesso of Blacklick Valley; Corey Kalinyak of Conemaugh Valley; Christian Roman of Bishop McCort; and, B.J. Spangler of Shade.

The defensive backs are a diverse group that includes Luke DiFrancesco of Bishop McCort, Devon Tomlinson of Windber, Trey Andrews of Greater Johnstown, Justin Willkow of Somerset, Nicholas Cerreta of Meyersdale and Nick Stockwell of Berlin Brothersvalley.

Tomlinson, who also played basketball and ran track for the Ramblers, said that football conditioning has been a bit more difficult than he anticipated.

“This is so much different than track,” Tomlinson said. “I thought I ran a lot in track and this would be no big deal, but I’m sorer than ever, especially in my legs. You use a lot more different muscles to play this sport than you do with track. It’s a lot different, but I’m having fun.”

Tomlinson said that the defense is coming along.

“Our defensive backs are looking good and our linebackers look really solid and our line is going to be very solid,” Tomlinson said. “We are focused on just being crisp and everything. Everyone here knows how to play football, we just want to be the best that we can be in a game situation.”

Schmitt, who has also served as a Lantzy head coach twice before, agrees that repetition is the key to success.

“The basic issue you have is trying to match up your groupings since they haven’t played together before and give them a little time on each rotation we have going,” Schmitt said. “Obviously, since they haven’t played for about six months, you just have to go through the basics.”

 

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