The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

HS Sports Windber

September 15, 2012

Windber concerned with Rockwood's Brancato

ROCKWOOD — Rockwood back Luke Brancato has been the focal point of the Rockets’ offense.

The 5-foot-6 senior certainly will attract plenty of attention from visiting Windber’s defense during today’s WestPAC contest.

“Luke Brancato is outstanding. He waited his turn behind (graduated Julian) Sleasman, and he’s the real deal,” said Windber coach Matt Grohal, whose 2-0 squad will travel to 1-1 Rockwood for a 1 p.m. contest. “They put him in a lot of different positions to get him the football. We have to take him out of the game.

“The word on the street is the other kid, (senior Joel) Ansell, will be back this week. He’s a running back who can scoot and he’s another weapon.”

Brancato has 31 of Rockwood’s 45 rushing attempts through two weeks. He has gained 183 yards on the ground for a 5.9 average per carry. A dual threat, Brancato has 11 of his team’s 19 receptions for 247 yards, a 22.5 average.

“The nice thing about Luke is he’s so versatile on both sides of the ball,” Rockwood coach Jerry Kaizen said. “He’s a great receiver, probably one of the best to come through Rockwood. His feet are nice and we can get him at running back. He has just enough quickness to make himself dangerous.”

Quarterback Matt Seifert has completed 17 of 36 passes for 338 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Rockwood dressed only 17 players in last week’s 44-12 loss at Blacklick Valley.

“We weren’t ready,” Kaizen said. “Our practices have been a little more intense and a lot more solid this week. Hopefully, that will translate on the field (today).”

Windber has been formidable on both sides of the football.

The single-wing offense produced 500 yards in last week’s 49-19 win over Meyersdale. The Ramblers have outscored opponents, 69-25.

Four backs have gained 118 yards or more through two weeks, including Dustin Blough (18 carries, 167 yards), Trevor Neri

(14-160), Devon Tomlinson (26-142) and Dan Tomlinson (17-118).

“It’s difficult,” Kaizen said. “Looking at film and preparation, they’re really strong on the edge. They’ll get three or four guys out in front of the ball carrier somehow, some way. They’ll get 3-on-2 or 4-on-2 situations. They’re masters at that.

“Their offensive line is second to none in the WestPAC in terms of knowing who they’re supposed to block and getting there.”

Quarterback Dakota Gipe has completed 16 of 32 passes for 179 yards. Devon Tomlinson has thrown one pass for a 60-yard touchdown. Matt Barkley has 10 catches for 128 yards and a score.

“They seem to know where the coverage isn’t going to be,” Kaizen said. “I think coach Matt does a good job of figuring out what the coverages are going to be.”

Grohal said Windber has used a mix of the run and the pass to keep defenses off-balance.

“I think we threw the ball 19 times in Week 1,” Grohal said of a 20-6 win at Shade. “When I was looking at the stats, that caught me off guard. Last week, we threw 15 times. Having more balance is going to give teams a little more to prepare for every week.”

Kaizen knows his team is an underdog, but feels the Rockets can benefit from the opportunity.

“They’re one of the high water marks,” he said of Windber. “If you can play well against them and compete well against them, then you know going down the stretch you can play with anybody. They have such a great tradition.

“We’re a scrappy bunch of football players that want to win games,” he added. “It’s going to be fun going through the rest of the year with these kids. The motivation is right. If we get the preparation right we’ll be OK.”


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