There may not have been a consensus regarding the top teams to beat among the nine coaches at Wednesday’s Heritage Conference Media Day, but there was an overall attitude that there was going to be plenty of parity throughout the league.
Despite a change in head coaches at Blairsville with long-time offensive coordinator Rick Artley taking over for Ab Dettorre, the Bobcats received four of the nine first-place votes and were listed in the top three on eight of the nine ballots. Homer-Center, which also was listed among the top three on eight of the ballots, got three first-place votes while Ligonier Valley got the other two. Penns Manor and Northern Cambria also received two votes each.
“We have some nice athletes right now and it’s definitely a good group of athletes and hard workers so hopefully we can continue (to improve),” Artley said. “I hope we can continue to build on the offensive side. In our league, most teams run the ball and we throw it a decent amount. So with us spreading the field, we can move the ball offensively even when we’re outmatched defensively.”
Artley said that while Dettorre is gone, the rest of the coaching staff is the same.
“Our coaching staff has been together and we’re not bringing anyone else in that’s been somewhere else right now,” the Bobcats new coach said. “We’re sticking with what we’ve had and hopefully we can continue to build on what we’ve done with Ab.”
Wildcats’ coach Greg Page said he was surprised to be mentioned among the top teams.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Page said.
“If you’re mentioned, that’s nice. It doesn’t change the fact that we have to go out and work harder than everybody else. There is tremendous depth and parity in the conference and there are teams that have been around every year. We’ve been knocking on the door a few times and it’s a matter of coming out and doing your job and getting better every day. You can’t be the same team in Week 8 as you are in one or two or you are not going to make any noise.
“We have a lot of guys who have worked very hard. We do have some three-year guys, but we lost some key people too. We threw the ball a little more last year and lost two key guys from that component. But on the other hand we have some guys that have a lot of experience and are excited to get going.”
Ligonier Valley tight end/outside linebacker Alec Bloom said his team expects to be successful each season.
“There is a certain expectation every year to be at the top of the conference and go far in the playoffs,” Bloom said. “Every team, every year is expected to live up to that.”
Added coach Roger Beitel: “I know they will be greatly disappointed if they don’t reach those expectations and we will do everything we can to be competitive in every game we play.”
Penns Manor will be looking to fill the shoes of outstanding quarterback Danny Ferens, and coach Bill Packer hopes his team will come in under the radar of the rest of the conference.
“We lost a great athlete in Ferens and (the rest of the conference) will be excited to see him gone,” Packer said. “We have to be more of a balanced team this year and will be using everybody and hopefully we will be successful. We feel that our line is going to be our strength with four kids back from last year.”
The players also realize that it is going to be a tough season with no letdown week to week.
“There are definitely a lot of good teams and you can’t even narrow it down to the top ones,” Northern Cambria quarterback/safety Dartagnan Suchar said.
“Almost every team in our conference is going to be tough.”
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