New Castle News


November 28, 2013

High School Football: Neshannock’s Dovidio, Oliva lead Big Seven all-stars

NEW CASTLE — The Neshannock High football team followed up its 2012 season with a repeat performance.

Meanwhile, Laurel got back into the postseason for the first time since 2009.

While the Lancers finished second in the Big Seven Conference this fall, they advanced to their second-straight WPIAL Class A semifinal playoff contest. Like last year, they lost to the eventual WPIAL champ (North Catholic).

The Spartans fell to Avonworth, 34-16, in their first-round playoff game since their 33-0 setback to Clairton in the 2009 semifinals.

The two teams earned many Big Seven Conference first-team honors. Neshannock’s Steven Jeffries, Ralph Dovidio, Eli Owens, Gianni Oliva and Seth Dueitt joined Laurel’s Aaron Vanasco, Noah Wertz, Rick Nail, Dalton Rosta, Josh Dando and Spencer Pullium on the first team. Union’s Benjamin Young gained first-team honors as well.

Oliva and Dovidio earned additional honors. Oliva was named the most valuable defensive player, while Dovidio was named the lineman of the year.


On the heels of its successful 2012 campaign, which included a share of the Big Seven title, the program’s first-ever playoff victory and a spot in the semifinals, Neshannock nearly duplicated that success. The Lancers finished with a 7-1 mark in the conference — their only setback coming to Sto-Rox, 34-31. They dropped a nonconference game to North Catholic, 21-14, and fell again to the Trojans, 27-14, in the semifinals. Neshannock finished with a 9-3 overall record.

“We always set our goals high. We set out to win a state championship. It didn’t happen. Once it’s all said and done, you can look back and see everything you accomplished along the way, personally and as a team,” Neshannock coach Frank Mozzocio said. “We did a fine job and we are really proud of our guys. Already, the underclassmen are begging to get into the weight room. I couldn’t be prouder of this group of young men and the seniors coming up with 19 wins and getting to the semifinals two years in a row. They left it all out there for us.”

Dovidio, a senior, was a first-team pick on the offensive and defensive lines, in addition to his lineman of the year honor.

“Ralph played tremendously on both sides of the football for us. He is a silent leader. He does it with actions. He does it every day in the weight room, on the practice field and in games,” Mozzocio said. “He has a quiet fury. He goes about his business professionally. I am so happy and proud of him that the coaches saw that and recognized it. It’s a great honor for what he did this year.”

Oliva, a senior, earned first-team honors at linebacker and was named the conference’s defensive player of the year.

“I am so pleased that Gianni was recognized by the other coaches in league for his tenacity on the field,” Mozzocio said. “Gianni is more of a vocal leader. That’s what he’s been the last two years. It’s a blessing to coach him. He and Ralph are together constantly. They never missed workouts or anything. When you look at the honors they received, it speaks volumes for the work they put in.”

Jeffries, a senior, was a first-team tight end. He had 16 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns.

“Steven made great strides from last year to this year, especially in the receiving department,” Mozzocio said. “He worked on his routes in the offseason and really made a commitment to catching the football better. He did a fine job making plays when we needed him to all year.

“One thing, he seals that edge as a blocker. He dominates the edge for us and getting us that corner when we need it.”

Owens, a junior, benefited from that. He was named a first-team running back. He led Lawrence County with 1,439 yards on 168 carries. He added 10 receptions for 100 yards and finished with 13 touchdowns.

“He did a tremendous job in the backfield and made big plays for us all year. One of the things we don’t do is rack up numbers for guys unnecessarily. Those are numbers he got during crunch time and in big-game situations. He was not in there when the game was out of reach. These are legit numbers,” Mozzocio said. “He had a heck of a year. He suffered through an injury in the summer with a broken wrist, but he overcame that and got strong and ready for the season. We’re expecting great things from him again next year.”

Dueitt, a junior, was named a first-team defensive back.

“He was a first-year starter for us. He worked very hard at his craft. He had some nice games,” Mozzocio said. “We look for him to become an even greater force on both sides of the ball next year. This year, he was getting his feet under him and he got better and better each week.”

Quarterback Ernie Burkes did not make the first team, but that’s because the WPIAL’s all-time leading passer (Sto-Rox’s) Lenny Williams was in the same conference. Williams finished his career with 8,508 yards. He threw 102 career TD passes and had 3,051 rushing yards. His total yardage (11,559) is a WPIAL record as well. Meanwhile, Burkes, a senior, joined an elite club with 1,105 passing yards and 1,018 rushing yards on the season. His 19 touchdowns led the county.

“It’s unfortunate for Ernie that he had to be the same year and in the same conference as the WPIAL’s all-time leading passer in Lenny. Any other year or conference, I think you see Ernie as the offensive player of the year and first-team quarterback,” Mozzocio said. “What he did for this football team the last two seasons as leader and playmaker is unprecedented. It was a great honor to coach him and work with him. He’ll be missed.”

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