The New Castle High football team had just one win last season.
But it’s a win the Red Hurricane captured to close the 2020 campaign in an effort to turn things around this year. New Castle’s lone win a season ago was a 51-35 home decision over rival Blackhawk.
“We weren’t pleased with the results on the field a year ago,” ‘Canes coach Joe Cowart said. “We’re not in the business of making excuses for how we played.
“They were keeping score last year and we were on the short end too often. We certainly want to take a step forward and be better in the results category.”
Cowart is pleased with the effort he has seen from his squad since the 2020 season came to a halt.
“We’ve loved the offseason,” he said. “We certainly have a chip on our shoulder. We feel like we didn’t put our best foot forward.
“We’re not going to dwell on the past. We’re completely focused on this group. This group has earned the right to have a successful season. They have shown the ability to get better; we’re pleased with where they currently are. But, the proof will be in the pudding.”
The ‘Canes will have to replace such talent like Donny Cade, Malachi Sherman, Logan Gibson and Gavin Joyce, who were lost to graduation.
“Those guys all brought something different and they will be missed,” Cowart said. “Donny was ultra productive. Malachi was our leading rusher. Logan was the heart and soul of the team, and Gavin was our glue guy.”
New Castle will count on such talent as Mike Wells, Chris Hood, Austin Kelly, Owen Ciavarino, Andrae Jackson, Tyler Leekins and Tayshaun Wilkins.
Wells (Sr., QB/WR/LB) and Hood (Sr., QB/LB) will split time at quarterback.
“Quarterback will shake out in the scrimmage and the first game (against Shaler),” Cowart said. “I don’t know if we will be a hot-hand type of team. But, they will both play significant snaps at the position.
“How good we go, is how good those two play when they aren’t playing quarterback. Those guys are close, they have played ball together since third or fourth grade.”
Wells will miss some time at the beginning of the season. He broke his hand in the scrimmage against Hampton. Hood will make his first varsity start against Shaler in the season opener.
The ‘Canes boast quality on both sides of the line heading into the season.
“We like what we have on the lines,” Cowart said. “We have seniors like Alex Fox and Devin Palmer. They were starters last year.
“We have Nyeem Rogers and Charles Brown. They will help solidify both sides of the line. Our strength will be up front.”
New Castle gave up 45 points a game last year, the most in the Class 4A Parkway Conference. It was the most in Class 4A and the seventh most regardless of classification and independent status around the WPIAL.
“We have to stop people,” Cowart said. “We didn’t stop people with a great tenacity last year. If you don’t stop people, you don’t win many games.
“We have to shore up the defense and get better on offense; we have to outscore teams to win. For us to be great defensively, we have to be explosive playmakers on defense. We have to make splash plays on defense.”
Once again, the Parkway Conference figures to be a strong conference top to bottom.
“Our league is really good,” Cowart said. “Aliquippa is in the league and they are always a team to watch.
“Central Valley, they are exceptional. Blackhawk, those guys are going to be buttoned up. Beaver has a new staff and they will be ready. There are no weeks off. We have to be ready to go.”