Norwin hoping to make noise in ‘open’ Class 6A
If attitude can produce wins, then Norwin could be in store for a big season.
Since Dave Brozeski became coach in 2014, the Knights have gone 20-22 and made the WPIAL playoffs four consecutive seasons.
Six of the nine teams in Class 6A will qualify for the WPIAL playoffs in 2018, and senior end/linebacker Gianni Rizzo believes the Knights could make some noise.
“With the players we have returning, we’re looking to make an impact in 6A,” Rizzo said. “A lot teams are rebuilding, and it’s an open conference. We’re ready to take on the big task.”
Rizzo might be on to something.
The Knights’ offense returns junior quarterback Jack Salopek, senior running backs Jayvon Thrift and Zeke Houser and receivers Rizzo and Bill Kerston.
Salopek, who has an offer from Pitt, threw for 1,820 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017. Thrift, who has numerous Division I offers, including West Virginia and Pitt, rushed for 383 yards and scored seven touchdowns.
Rizzo, who committed to Youngstown State, led the team with 39 catches for 507 yards and three touchdowns.
Kerston had 19 catches for 228 yards and three scores, and Houser caught 12 passes and rushed for 212 yards.
“We have to improve our mental aspect of the game,” Brozeski said. “We have to know all the responsibilities, know the routes, know the plays and know your blocking assignments, while on defense knowing the alignments and your keys.
“All of these things we’ve been working on all summer, and we’re making positive progress. It then comes down to being in position and making the plays.”
One area Brozeski is concerned about is the offensive line, as junior center/guard Aaron Bowen is the lone returning starter.
“We’ve had other players rotate there during the season,” Brozeski said. “But I’m confident we’ll find players.”
Brozeski isn’t as concerned about the defense. He said more players return on that side of the ball, led by Tanner Queen, Thrift and Kerston in the defensive backfield; Franco Gaudio on the line and Rizzo and Houser at linebacker. But Houser will be moving to safety because there are some talented linebackers who are ready to step in.
“The key is getting the guys to play as a new unit,” Brozeski said. “The players have to find a comfort with each other.”
Rizzo said despite graduating a lot of good players, the defense should be strong.
“The key is going to be our focus and how we communicate with each other,” Rizzo said. “We have a lot of good linebackers ready to step in like Ryan (Beach), Ethan (Nelson) and Jake (Merlin). The defense should be fine.”
Coach: Dave Brozeski
2017 record: 5-6, 3-3
All-time record: 385-561-36
Date, Opponent, Time
8.24, Penn-Trafford, 7 p.m.
8.31, North Allegheny*, 7 p.m.
9.7, at Hempfield*, 7 p.m.
9.14, Chartiers Valley, 7 p.m.
9.21, Pine-Richland*, 7 p.m.
9.28, at Butler*, 7:30 p.m.
10.5, at Central Catholic*, 7:30 p.m.
10.12, Canon-McMillan*, 7 p.m.
10.19, at Mt. Lebanon*, 7:30 p.m.
10.26, Seneca Valley*, 7 p.m.
*Class 6A Conference game
Passing: Jack Salopek
140-258, 1,820 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: Gianni Rizzo
39-507 yards, 3 TDs
Rushing: Jayvon Thrift
98-383 yards, 7 TDs