Early-season success might make Central Valley’s young lineup ‘a little bit dangerous’

September 5, 2018
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Central Valley head coach Mark Lyons talks with his team after practice Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, at the high school.

Patience is the strategy Central Valley coach Mark Lyons would normally stress for his players, the idea that the team wants to be playing its best late in the year.

But with four or five sophomore starters, he’ll take a slightly different approach. He believes a strong start and early wins could be a confidence boost for them.

So there’s added emphasis on August.

“With some early success, we could start to be a little bit dangerous,” Lyons said. “That’s a little different with us. We’re always built to make sure we’re stronger as the year goes on. But I think this year more so than anything, we want to pay attention early on.”

Central Valley opens with Seton LaSalle in Week Zero before conference matchups with Quaker Valley and Beaver Falls.

The team returns only four starters from last season’s lineup that finished 6-4 overall, 3-3 in the Class 3A Beaver Valley Conference, and missed the WPIAL playoffs by one game.

Of those returning starters, only two are seniors: wide receiver Anthony Mendicino and lineman Joe Toth. They’re part of Central Valley’s nine-person senior class, an unusually small number for the Warriors.

The other starters returning are junior Reed Fitzsimmons, a linebacker/guard, and sophomore linebacker Josh Campbell.

“We knew coming through the last couple of years, this (senior) class was a little low in numbers,” Lyons said. “Obviously, we’re reached that point.”

That means the Warriors will be very young this season, but that doesn’t mean they lack talent, Lyons said. What it does mean is that Central Valley’s varsity coaching staff has spent more time teaching fundamentals this summer than in years past.

“It’s kind of been a fun offseason and a fun camp,” Lyons said. “I’ve got to remind our coaches sometimes that we’ve been spoiled with veteran players ready to step in.

″(With a young team), we’ve had to pay attention a little more to teaching details and probably slow things down a little more during a practice segment,” he added. “I’m pleased with the way they’re picking things up, actually.”

Sophomore quarterback Ameer Dudley will take most of the snaps under center with junior Jawon Hall also contributing at times there. Dudley earned playing time in the final few games last season as a freshman.

“He can extend some plays with his legs,” Lyons said, “and he’s got a real good calming demeanor about him. For a young kid, he really got a quiet confidence.”

Junior running back Montel Sims and senior Noah Thompson will join Dudley in the backfield. Jaylen Guy, a junior, and sophomore Amarian Saunders also could see carries.

Sophomore wideout Myles Walker, who played extensively as a freshman, will handle a slot receiver role. Junior wide receiver Michael Barbuto also contributed much last season.

The Warriors return very few starters, but they do have a number of players who’ve seen game action.

“Our young guys got a little baptism by fire last year, only because of the amount of injuries” Lyons said. “I’m not so sure they were all ready for that kind of action then, but it was out of necessity.”


Coach: Mark Lyons

2017 record: 6-4, 3-3

All-time record: 80-21

Date, Opponent, Time

8.24, Blackhawk, 7 p.m.

8.31, at Quaker Valley*, 7 p.m.

9.7, Beaver Falls*, 7 p.m.

9.14, CW North Catholic, 7 p.m.

9.21, at Keystone Oaks*, 7 p.m.

9.28, Waynesburg*, 7 p.m.

10.5, at Thomas Jefferson, 7:30 p.m.

10.12, Hopewell*, 7 p.m.

10.19, at South Park*, 7 p.m.

10.26, Aliquippa*, 7 p.m.

*Class 3A Tri-County West Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Nico Battisti*

32-62, 642 yards, 5 TDs

Rushing: Danny Santia*

127-735 yards, 13 TDs

Receiving: Anthony Mendicino*

26-484 yards, 4 TDs


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