It’s been awhile since football season ended early at Neshannock High.
Last year, the Lancers missed qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2011 and the first time in head coach Fred Mozzocio’s tenure. They are eager to get back to the postseason this fall.
“I think the kids are determined to have a good season. They put a lot of time and effort in during the winter, spring and summer months. Hopefully, that pays dividends,” Mozzocio said. “Everyone is on the same page. There are no individuals. That’s always a plus when you can sense that with a team.”
Injuries early last season derailed the team, which stared at an 0-2 hole to start the campaign.
“We don’t make excuses. We lost some football games we should have won. We feel we left an opportunity to be a playoff team — and maybe win some playoff games — on the table,” Mozzocio said. “That left a bitter taste in our mouths. For whatever reason, things didn’t work out. Hopefully, this year is a different story.”
The Lancers will have some new personnel on offense after graduating their quarterback and top two rushers. Jason Nativio, Ethan Weatherby and Kurt Sommerfield are in competition to take over at quarterback.
“They all have different qualities. It’s just a matter of who we feel gives us the best chance to win,” Mozzocio said. “Whoever isn’t in that position will be most likely in the hunt to start at the receiver position.”
Cam’ron Owens and Josh Medure will be at receiver, too, while D.J. DeBlasio, Braden Gennock and Chris Petronelis all could see carries in the backfield.
“We had some seniors go down with injuries last year and we had to play a lot of young guys in the secondary and offensively,” Mozzocio said. “These guys did get a lot of varsity reps. Hopefully, that’ll pay off and they’ll be ready to go for us.”
Neshannock returns experience on the offensive line in Nico Nuzzo, Connor Montgomery, Joey Antuono and Logan Shawley. Andy Presnar, Mason Manos and Landen Schaffer will be in the rotation and tight ends Spencer Perry and Jake Staph will help block as well.
The Lancers look forward to their defense building off experience, too.
“We didn’t have many seniors that dressed last year. These guys all got a lot of playing time,” Mozzocio said. “Hopefully, we learned some lessons and we’re a better football team for it this year.”
Nuzzo leads the defensive line along with Antuono, Schaffer, Perry, Shawley, Montgomery and Manos. Presnar anchors the team’s linebacker corps, which includes Staph, Gennock, Owens, DeBlasio and Petronelis. Matt Nativio, Mike Bonner, Jason Nativio, Medure and Weatherby will see time in the secondary.
“There’s a lot of competition going on. Those guys are competing with each other and working hard every day,” Mozzocio said. “Hopefully, that competition will be a plus for us as well as our depth.”