Richland had a historic football season in 2012.
The Rams finished with a14-1 record last season, won their first District 6 crown and advanced to the semifinals of the PIAA Class AA playoffs before falling to state runner-up Aliquippa.
At Friday’s Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference Media Day, Richland was targeted as the top team to beat again this year.
With 11 of the 12 schools represented, the Rams received 10 first-place votes. Forest Hills received the second-highest number of votes followed by Greater Johnstown and Bishop Guilfoyle. Others receiving votes were Bishop McCort, Somerset and Penn Cambria.
Central Cambria got the other first-place nod.
Richland coach Brandon Bailey and his team are putting the past in the rear-view mirror.
“Success breeds success,” Bailey said. “Now that we have had some success over the last couple years, our kids absolutely expect to win every time they go out on the field and will be very distraught if they don’t. So they’ve been working very hard. They are not resting on their laurels and they have bigger and better goals than even this past season.”
The Rams have plenty of reason for optimism, with many of their skill players returning.
“Luke Shertzer is really the only guy that scored touchdowns who isn’t going to be back,” Bailey said. “We’ll miss him, but hopefully some other guys will step up and fill his shoes.
“What people don’t see is the offensive and defensive lines. We had some outstanding kids that were physically strong and also mentally strong and great leaders on the team so we need to replace those kids. We have some kids that we think have been outstanding jayvee players and very good junior high players, but it’s a whole different level when you play varsity football.”
Returning senior quarterback Matt Shaffer said that being known as the team to beat is a great motivator.
“It puts fuel to the fire knowing that we are the team to beat and teams are after us,” Shaffer said. “It makes us work harder during the offseason and every practice and every game. We look forward to competing in every game at a high level.
“Complacency will not be something that we have to worry about because I think our guys understand that we didn’t do exactly what we wanted to do last year in winning a state championship so I think we are all going to compete hard to try to get back to that level.”
Added prolific senior running back Tanner Solarczyk: “Last year is done with and we want to do it again and hopefully win states this year. We want to win 16 games this year, not 14.”
Junior running back/safety Dominic Farina said that while it’s flattering to be the team to beat, it also means that his team has to come ready to play each week.
“We have to understand that every single week, the target’s on our back and everyone is going to be gunning for us and we have to be on our toes every second,” Farina said “We have to bring our ‘A’ game every week.
“We know what it takes to win, but we also understand that we have to get better. It was a great experience last year, and obviously the first in school history, but we are not satisfied. We want to go farther. It’s all about this season.”
Much of the success that Forest Hills is looking for, is based on the return of junior quarterback Joe Donoughe, the area’s third-leading passer last season.
“Our quarterback is going to keep us moving this year,” senior guard/defensive tackle Anthony Gibson said.
Senior running back/
linebacker Dustin Ohler said that the Rangers, who were 9-4 last season, will also be speedy.
“We are willing to get out there and work for what we want,” Ohler said. “Hard work is key because everyone wants to win.”
Forest Hills coach Don Bailey said that having good kids at the skill positions and an experienced quarterback are the positives for his team, but that the Rangers still have plenty to overcome.
“Our line may be smaller than it was last year,” Don Bailey said. “We only have one returning starter back on the offensive line and several younger players not returning because of shoulder surgery.
“We only have five or six seniors on the team. I think as the season progresses we will get better because of being so young.”
Nearly every coach in the conference talked about the parity throughout the league and mentioned that limiting injuries will be keys to the outcome.
Richland had a historic football season in 2012.
- Local Sports
Tomlin hit with $100G fine
Here’s another adjective Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin can call his ill-timed two-step onto the field last Thursday night against Baltimore.
ACC-olades rolling in: Pitt’s Donald named league’s top defender
Pitt senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the national leader in tackles for loss, has been selected the 2013 Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Conference Sports Media Association (ACSMA).
Irish too much for Lady Lions
Natalie Achonwa had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead No. 4 Notre Dame in a 77-67 victory over No. 10 Penn State on Wednesday night.
Mountain Hawks outlast Red Flash
Tim Kempton scored 18 points and pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds as Lehigh took down St. Francis 57-50 on Wednesday night.
UPJ volleyball heads to NCAA Division II Regional
The fifth-seeded Pitt-Johnstown women’s volleyball team will open its first ever berth in the NCAA Division II Regional Tournament against fourth-seeded Shippensburg University beginning today at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Big second half leads UPJ past host Clarion
Nate Snodgrass scored 18 points, and Pitt-Johnstown outscored Clarion by 20 points over the final 16 minutes to earn a 78-68 comeback victory in the PSAC on the road.
Lady Cats get first PSAC win
Pitt-Johnstown built an 18-point halftime advantage en route to a 98-81 win at Clarion that earned the Lady Cats the program’s first PSAC victory.
- Local sports in brief 12/05/2013
On a high note: Penn State ends year with win, holds off Wisconsin rally in upset
A bright future for Penn State emerged on a cool, crisp day in the Midwest.
Bruins snap skid against Pens
The surging Boston Bruins said they weren’t fazed by Sidney Crosby’s last-second goal. They proved it in overtime.
Torey Krug scored 34 seconds into OT and the Bruins beat Pittsburgh 4-3 on Monday night, snapping a seven-game, regular-season losing streak to the Penguins in a matchup of the Eastern Conference’s top two teams.
- More Local Sports Headlines
- Tomlin hit with $100G fine