Yough looks to give Shoaf room to run
On the surface, Yough has the cliched look of a one-man show with standout Dustin Shoaf returning to defend his WPIAL rushing title.
Shoaf is good enough to take over games when he gets into a rhythm.
But the Cougars appear to have more talent at their disposal than just their senior running back. And they are prepared to utilize those other players’ skills in a number of ways.
“You’ll see,” Shoaf said. “We have other guys who just need their chance.”
Now, don’t get too excited on Cougar Mountain just yet. Coach Scott Wood isn’t making any promises or guarantees, but he thinks this group can be much better than last year’s one that became a tangled mess of injuries and inconsistency and finished 2-8.
Shoaf wants Yough to channel its inner Derry of 2016: “We have that kind of look: Come out of nowhere and be something special,” he said.
Regardless of the help he gets, it will still have to start and end with Shoaf.
“With Dustin, I am really excited to see the potential and the expectations with him,” Wood said. “We were 2-8, so is 3-7 a big improvement? Maybe. Are we 6-4 at best? We’ll have to see.
“The hardest part is getting them all to believe they can do it.”
Shoaf ran for 1,808 yards and 16 touchdowns and crept to within 115 yards of 3,000 for his career.
A core of 15 seniors will lead the Cougars.
“They have been playing together since they were 5, so the chemistry is there,” Wood said. “They trust each other.”
Wood thinks he has potential playmakers, sidecars to Shoaf, in senior quarterback Jake Sever, fullbacks in junior Reno Ustazewski and senior Cameron Hopkin, and receivers in sophomore Gamal Marballie and senior C.J. Waldier.
Hopkin is a lead-by-example player any coach would enjoy.
“I love working hard, coach,” Hopkin said as he came off the field during a summer workout.
The offensive line, though, will have to be the cornerstone. It will consist of five seniors: center Brendan Roebuck; guards George Tusing and Drake Croushore; and tackles Nate McGill and Bill Devirgilio.
“We had five juniors starting on our line at the end of last season, so they’re all back,” Shoaf said. “We have some experience up front which should help.”
Another one to watch is junior tight end/defensive end Russell Pytlak.
“We have to stay healthy,” Wood said. “If we lose certain guys, we could be in trouble. We have some guys who don’t come off the field: offense, defense and special teams.”
Sever and Shoaf both are expected to see time at quarterback, Shoaf out of wildcat formations. Sever can scramble when needed.
“Jake came a long way. He’s my best friend, and I know what be can do for us,” Shoaf said. “We have the ability to be a much faster team.”
And that means using formations that accentuate that speed, like the spread.
“We’re a multiple-set team like usual,” Wood said. “We’ll use some wing-T and some pro-I stuff too. The thing is, we can run the same plays out of any of those.”
Defensively, Yough will look to shore up a unit that allowed 37.8 points per game. Defensive back appears to be a strong suit.
The Cougars, looking for their first winning season and playoff berth since 2013, will play in the new-look Class 3A Big East Conference with Burrell, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Deer Lakes, Derry, Elizabeth Forward, Freeport, Mt. Pleasant and Uniontown.
Yough’s nonconference schedule includes a home game against perennial power Aliquippa in Week 6.
Coach: Scott Wood
2017 record: 2-8, 2-5
All-time record: 152-303-11
Date, Opponent, Time
8.24, Serra Catholic, 7 p.m.
8.31, at Uniontown* 7 p.m.
9.7, Mt. Pleasant*, 7 p.m.
9.14, at Deer Lakes*, 7 p.m.
9.21, Burrell*, 7 p.m.
9.28, at Freeport*, 7 p.m.
10.5, Aliquippa, 7 p.m.
10.12, Derry Area*, 7 p.m.
10.19, at CW North Catholic*, 7 p.m.
10.26, at Elizabeth Forward*, 7 p.m.
*Class 3A Big East Conference game
Passing: Jake Sever
37-105, 364 yards
Rushing: Dustin Shoaf
280-1,808 yards, 16 TDs
Receiving: Brian Donahue*