NEW CASTLE —
It was a record-setting year for the Neshannock High football team.
And, a record-tying run for Union.
The Lancers claimed a share of the Big Seven Conference championship and won their first-ever WPIAL playoff game. They advanced all the way to the WPIAL Class A semifinals where they fell to powerhouse Clairton.
Meanwhile, the Scotties won their first playoff game since 1979. They dropped a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal matchup to Sto-Rox, 33-8.
Those two teams earned a bounty of first-team all-Big Seven Conference honors. The Lancers’ Ralph DoVidio, Alex Welker, Steven Jeffries, Connor Richards, Gianni Oliva and John Conglose joined the Scotties’ Drew Robinson on the first team. Laurel’s Cody Clem, Josh Dando and Noah Wertz and Shenango’s Vince Albertini earned first-team honors as well.
In addition, Neshannock’s Fred Mozzocio and Union’s Stacy Robinson were named the conference’s co-coaches of the year.
Neshannock enjoyed a breakthrough campaign under Mozzocio, the team’s first-year coach. The Lancers’ only regular-season loss came at Rochester and they advanced to the WPIAL Class A semifinals. Clairton ended Neshannock’s season with a 37-7 victory that tied a state record for consecutive wins (59).
“I told our young men that it’ll hurt for a few days. We’ll all be hurting for a while. Then, things will settle in and the sting will go away and we’ll look back at our 10-win season and all we accomplished,” Mozzocio said. “We beat some traditional powers this year. I asked seniors to create a legacy for themselves at the start of year and they did that. It’s been a phenomenal ride. The seniors laid a foundation for this program moving forward. Everything we accomplished starts with the senior class and the leadership they’ve provided.”
Two Lancers earned first-team honors on offense and defense (DoVidio and Welker), while Conglose was a unanimous selection on defense.
DoVidio, a junior, earned first-team honors at offensive and defensive tackle.
“When I took over in January, he was one of those guys who never missed a workout. He was in there every day,” Mozzocio said. “He works relentlessly at his craft both on and off the field. He is a kid you know will be there. He plays with a quiet fury. He’s not very boisterous; everything he does is through action. Teams will have their hands full handling him next year. He’s just a great kid.”
Welker, a senior, earned first-team honors at wide receiver and defensive back. He led the county in receiving yardage with 701 on 30 catches. He added 25 carries for 232 yards and finished with 12 touchdowns.
“He is one of those kids who has always been a standout. I was anxious to meet him and work with him. He became a leader for me right off the bat. His performance on the field was just unbelievable on both sides of the ball,” Mozzocio said. “On the defensive side, he and Conglose were like Batman and Robin for us. They love to ring bells. Whenever someone would break through our front seven, they were coming up and making those people pay the price.
“He was always a linebacker before, but we moved him back to safety, which is a very hard move going from the front seven to the back. As the year went on, he got more comfortable and was a force for us.”
Conglose was a unanimous first-team choice at defensive back. On offense, he led the county in receptions with 41 for 602 yards. He had 67 yards on 16 carries and finished with 11 touchdowns.
“If he wouldn’t have been (a unanimous choice), then something would have been wrong. If he didn’t lead us in tackles every game, he was in a close second. When making a highlight film, he has probably five or six knockout blocks where he completely decleated kids,” Mozzocio said. “He leads with action, not words. He’s a great kid to coach and someone who will be missed. With Welker and Conglose, sometimes one is Batman and the other is Robin. You never know which is which, but they were always there on both sides of the ball.”