New Castle News

August 20, 2012

High School Football: Local teams get taste of action at scrimmages

Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Local high school football players took the opportunity to hit someone from an opposing team after a grueling opening week.

All eight Lawrence County schools played the first of a two-game scrimmage Saturday.

New Castle High, directed by first-year coach Joe Cowart, participated in a tri-scrimmage at Seneca Valley against the Raiders and Erie McDowell. Both opponents are quad-A schools.

“I think we did some really nice things and some really bad things,” Cowart said. “It was nice hitting a different color jersey, and the guys were enthused by that.

“It’s absolutely great to see those bigger schools early on. We need to be battle-tested going into the regular season.

Cowart enjoyed the opportunity of competing against two schools in the opening scrimmage.

“It’s nice because you see a lot of different things,” he said. “Seneca Valley will be really good this year. They do the no-huddle spread offense like Oregon and the speed of that offense is something you have to prepare for.

“We saw more of a downhill option team against Erie McDowell and they’re a big team. Your kids have to be ready to go.”

Jake McPhatter (wide receiver/free safety), Stew Allen (tight end) and freshman Pat Minenok (quarterback) turned in impressive scrimmage efforts for the Red Hurricane.

“Jake had a great day. He’s competing for a position on both sides of the ball,” Cowart said. “He stood out and made a lot of nice, effort plays. Stew had a good day, too, catching the ball.

“I thought Pat played well at quarterback. Overall, he was composed and did a nice job for us.”


The Wolverines lost 18 players to graduation from last year’s team. Don Phillips used the early test against a traditionally strong District 10, Class AAA squad to see where his squad was in the early stages of the season. The Eagles will compete in Class AA this year.

“It was a very typical first scrimmage,” Phillips said. “We saw some good things and we’ve got to get some things straightened out.

“We changed some things around with our defense and that will take time getting used to. It was a good start for us. At times we were consistent and at times we weren’t consistent.”

Ellwood City must replace starting running back Kyle Crawford and all of its quarterbacks from last year’s team that reached the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

“(Running back) Jared Meyers ran the ball well,” Phillips said. “He made some runs where it looked like he was tackled and then he broke it for a bigger gain.

“Justin Vetica handled our offense at quarterback extremely well. It was his first time starting and running the varsity offense. He showed a lot of poise and he threw a number of times to see how things were going to go. I saw some bright spots with our line, too.”


The Spartans squared off against Allegheny-Clarion Valley and Moniteau at Moniteau. Allegheny-Clarion Valley was a late addition to the scrimmage.

“It was good because we got to see a couple of different looks on offense and defense,” Laurel coach Jerry Holzhauser said of the tri-scrimmage. “Initially we had a little bit of errors that have to be corrected. They’re not physical, but mental, and those can be corrected.”

The Spartans got off to a slow start in the scrimmage but came together.

“I think the guys looked pretty good overall,” Holzhauser said. “They didn’t look too good on the first series. But we got progressively better as the scrimmage went on.

“Our running backs did well and we thought both sides of the line did well, too.”


Second-year coach Joe Lamenza likes where the Warriors are at thus far in camp and after the scrimmage.

“I think for this point in time, it was a good first step for us,” Lamenza said. “We showed a lot of growth from this time last year; we put together three nice drives against Ford City.

“We’re a lot better, top to bottom, from a season ago. Part of that is experience. But we still made our share of mistakes.”

Lamenza noted the strong play of Vince Menichino (fullback/outside linebacker), Chris Culley (outside linebacker), Shane McFarland (running back/strong safety) and Gio Menichino (quarterback).

“Vince had a nice scrimmage and Gio did a nice job at quarterback,” Lamenza said. “We had some good, young players step up.”


First-year coach Fred Mozzocio was pleased with the Lancers’ performance against the Golden Eagles.

“I felt we had a very good scrimmage,” Mozzocio said. “We accomplished a lot of things we wanted to accomplish.

“We wanted to make sure we were physical. We were going to raise the level of the physicality at Neshannock and they displayed they were up to the task.”

Neshannock’s defense excelled in the scrimmage.

“(Defensive ends) Ralph Dovidio and Kienan Owens did a nice job of containing and keeping the quarterback in the pocket,” Mozzocio said. “(Safeties) John Conglose and Alex Welker did a great job of filling the running lanes. That’s very big in our defense.”


The Wildcats traveled to Central Catholic to battle Vincentian Academy and South Allegheny. The Royals are in their inaugural football campaign.

“I thought we did about what I’d expect,” Shenango coach Ryan Mayo said. “We saw a lot of good things and we saw some things we need to work on.

“It’s nice to play against two teams. It’s good to see a variety of offense and defense, especially this early on. I think it gets the guys better prepared.”

Mayo did point out a tri-scrimmage can be a bit of a grind for a team.

“The format is a little bit off,” Mayo said of the tri-scrimmage. “At times guys can get winded. But at the same time, you’re working on your conditioning.”


The Scotties have just 24 players on the roster and the scrimmage against the Steelers was helpful for coach Stacy Robinson.

“There were definitely some bright spots, but that’s why it’s a practice game,” Robinson said. “We can’t simulate things in practice with our depth.

“With our numbers, it makes it difficult to practice and it’s hard to simulate the speed. Farrell has tough kids and their speed to the ball is tough.”

Union’s 11 seniors performed well according to Robinson.

“That’s what we expect of them, though,” h said. “Joe Salmen did a great job at quarterback directing the offense. Wayne Seamans was steady as always and Drew (Robinson) ran well.

“Austin Smith played well on defense. I was happy with our defense. They made some mistakes, but they hustled.”

Drew Robinson is the coach’s son, and Smith moved from linebacker to the defensive line.


The Greyhounds competed against Brookville and Slippery Rock, on the Rockets’ home field.

“We thought the guys looked all right,” Wilmington coach Terry Verrelli said. “It was time to be able to see the guys go into a game situation to see who can get the job done and who maybe couldn’t.

“We certainly have places to improve on and make changes, but I thought we saw what we needed to.”

Verrelli said it was the first tri-scrimmage he’s been involved in. Wilmington’s head-to-head scrimmage turned into a tri-scrimmage when Brookville couldn’t find an opponent.

“They have their pluses and minuses,” he said of a tri-scrimmage. “You have to be there a little bit longer, but you get to see two different looks, offensively and defensively.”

Sophomore quarterback Cody Llewellyn played well according to Verrelli.

“He has worked really hard for us,” Verrelli said of Llewellyn. “He did a pretty good job for his first scrimmage.

“Our running backs ran very well. I kind of expected them to. And I thought our first group did pretty well.”


All at set for Friday, Aug. 24

New Castle at Shaler, 7 p.m.

Rochester at Ellwood City, 7 p.m.

Laurel at Ford City, 7 p.m.

Mohawk at South Side Beaver, 7 p.m.

Freedom at Neshannock, 7 p.m.

Farrell and Vincentian at Shenango, 7 p.m.

Union at West Middlesex, 7 p.m.

Wilmington at Meadville, 7 p.m.

(Have you signed up for our Friday Night Football text alerts? Get scores sent to you as soon as the games are over! To secure a spot on our list, CLICK HERE. Be sure to check the box for “Friday Night Football.”)