New Castle News

August 19, 2013

Scrimmage Roundup: Coaches reflect as local teams hit the field

Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Football coaches have provided a week of direction and instruction to their players.

Saturday, the players got their chance to display what they learned in the first of two scrimmages. All eight Lawrence County schools hit the field to compete.

First-year coaches Mike Commesso (Shenango) and Pat Cuba (Laurel) got their first look at their respective teams against a different school. Cuba served most recently as the Neshannock head coach from 2007 to 2011.

Commesso, though, is in his first season as a varsity head coach. He’s a 1991 Mohawk High graduate.

“I was just excited to get out there with the guys,” Commesso said. “I’ve been looking forward to getting on the field. It was more excitement than anything on my part.”



The ’Canes opened the scrimmage schedule under second-year coach Joe Cowart in positive fashion. New Castle squared off against quad-A foes Seneca Valley and Erie McDowell.

“I thought we played with good energy and effort,” Cowart said. “That’s all you can ask for in the first scrimmage.

“I think Seneca Valley and Erie McDowell are going to be pretty good football teams at the quad-A level. It was definitely a good scrimmage for us.”

The size of the oppositions made the scrimmage feel like a quality one for Cowart.

“I thought our offensive line and defensive line played well,” Cowart said. “We played a couple of teams where I don’t know if we’ll see teams that big across the board during the season.

“I thought our lines really met the challenge and played good, strong, physical football.”

The second scrimmage is looming Friday, but New Castle will be working on many things this week.

“We will begin game preparation for the opener against (Parkway Conference rival) Central Valley; our overall scouting and preparation for those guys,” Cowart said. “We’ll tweak a few things offensively and defensively and try and get better.”



Wolverines coach Don Phillips saw gradual improvement from his troops last week leading up to the scrimmage and it paid off against the Eagles.

“We saw that we made some progress through the first week of camp,” Phillips said. “We had some success moving the ball in the scrimmage and we had some defensive success, too.

“I wanted to see the kids compete and execute. We saw a lot of positives, but we have a lot of work to do. The kids are excited and it was a good showing for the first week.”

Phillips was most pleased with the play up front on the offensive side of the ball.

“I thought the offensive line showed a lot of maturity,” Phillips said. “We did move the ball with some success and the running backs ran hard.

“The linebackers played hard. We do have some work to do with our defensive backfield.”

Ellwood City will continue to focus on all aspects, including special teams.

“We’ll continue to get certain things put in,” Phillips said. “We need to keep working on getting things like special teams efficient for when the opener rolls around.”



The Spartans participated at home against Moniteau and A.C. Valley. Cuba said his team developed well leading up to the scrimmage.

“I thought the scrimmage went well; we made some mistakes,” Cuba said. “We moved along well on the defensive side and we made strides. I was happy with that part.

“Offensively, we made some progress. We made some mistakes on the blocking, but it’s things that can be corrected. I’m pleasantly surprised. I feel better after watching the film.”

Cuba said his team came to play.

“The excitement by the players impressed me and their aggressiveness did, too,” Cuba said. “We’ve been focusing on the tackling and we did much better on that.”

Laurel plans to keep things simple as the second week of practice opens.

“We’ll work on catching the ball and making sure we know who to block,” Cuba said. “Clayton Sharek, Josh Dando, Aaron Vanasco, Antonio Pasquale and Sean Harlan all did a nice job for us Saturday.”



Third-year Warriors coach Joe Lamenza noted a strong effort from his squad.

“There were a lot of positives,” Lamenza said. “We still have a lot of work to do. We had guys that were out of position not executing their assignments a lot of times.

“Ford City was able to move the ball in chunks because of that. But it was a good start. The enthusiasm was what it should be. But we have to do a better job of finishing.”

Mohawk’s offense and defense excelled in the scrimmage.

“(Running back) Shane McFarland ran the ball hard. He’s a good downhill runner,” Lamenza said. “Spencer McConahy caught a couple of nice passes, and the offensive line protected real well.

“(Quarterback) Gio Menichino had some time to throw the ball. That’s because of the line, the protection held up very well. Defensively, it was a total team effort. Guys were gang tackling.”

Lamenza’s troops will use the next several days to improve heading into the final scrimmage.

“We’ll try to get better at everything,” he said. “Our tackling. Our pursuit. Little things like footwork and guys being out of position, we’ll work on everything.”



The Lancers and Greyhounds traveled to Slippery Rock for a matchup with the Rockets.

Second-year Neshannock coach Fred Mozzocio was pleased with the performance his team gave.

“I thought the scrimmage was good,” Mozzocio said. “We got a competitive scrimmage in and a lot of good work in.

“I’m very pleased with both sides of the ball. We definitely wanted to make sure we got a couple of quality teams in programs like Wilmington and Slippery Rock, to see if we’d be up to the task on the physical nature and I thought we were.”

Mozzocio had a plan going in for what he wanted to see.

“We were happy that we established our run game pretty well,” Mozzocio said. “We wanted to get our base run game going.

“We worked on that pretty hard during the week and it all seemed to go well for us.”

It was a team effort according to Mozzocio in the scrimmage.

“I was happy with the whole group overall,” he said. “Everyone has worked hard up to this point. The mistakes we did make, we’ll correct them when we watch film.

“We’ll hit our basics and continue to build; tweaking the basics. We’re right on track and I’m happy with the work ethic.”

Wilmington coach Terry Verrelli acknowledged his team has work to do after battling a pair of quality teams.

“Slippery Rock and Neshannock both have nice football teams and we’re awfully young,” Verrelli said. “The whole idea was to find out who should be playing where and who can play.

“It was a great scrimmage to get a look at the personnel we have. There were some bright spots; we’ll go back and make some changes.”

The Greyhounds plan to make good use of the upcoming week of practice.

“We’ll work on everything,” Verrelli said of this week’s practice sessions. “It’s enjoyable working with young kids. You just have to be patient and work with them.”



Commesso saw positive things from his Wildcats against Leechburg.

“I thought our guys came out real strong,” he said. “Our defense was pretty impressive early on. When the varsity came back out after the JV team was in, they were a little flat. But they finished strong and recaptured some of that momentum.

“It was an up and down day. I saw some good things and some bad things out there.”

The offense gave Commesso reason to smile. Senior running backs Anthony Prestopine, Tyler Welsh and Ryley Ferrari all saw action in the backfield, while senior Brian Tanner and sophomore Evan Kendall excelled at quarterback.

“I’m pretty happy with our three running backs,” Commesso said. “They all ran pretty hard. Our quarterbacks did some nice things, too.”

Commesso believes his team is right where he thought it would be at this point in his first season at the helm.

“I think we’re getting better each day,” he said. “They’re catching on. I would say that we’re where we should be for the end of the first week. Obviously, we’re not where we want to be.

“We’ll correct our mistakes this week and continue to move forward as a group.”



The Scotties provided mixed results for coach Stacy Robinson.

“It was a typical first scrimmage,” Robinson said. “We did some things well and some things not so well. We have another week to work on things and get them corrected.

“I’d say each group had their bright spots throughout the scrimmage. But there is a lot of work to be done. Our skill people asserted themselves and I’m happy with that.”

Seniors Benjamin Young and Rob Clark turned in strong showings according to Robinson.

“Benjamin had a good scrimmage on both sides of the ball, at corner and receiver,” Robinson said. “Clark did a good job running the ball and playing defense.

“I was happy with our hitting. There was some crisp hitting and good pursuit to the ball.”

Union will work on improving things each day according to Robinson.

“We’ll go right back to the basics,” he said. “Toward the end of the week we’ll try implementing things and see if they can follow the game plan to see if they’ll do what they’re coached to do.”