Week Zero victory a ‘confidence builder’ for Shaler football team
Lining up properly on the line of scrimmage was one of the many challenges Justin DeSabato faced. The Shaler senior wide receiver was getting his first taste of football, period.
When news the Titans, who had lost 24 straight games entering the season, were dropping to Class 5A, DeSabato, who plays basketball and baseball, gave into his friends and came out for football.
Not having to play Central Catholic, Pine-Richland and North Allegheny made football an easier sell.
“That was a deal-breaker for me,” DeSabato said. “Going against powerhouses like state champion Pine-Richland and teams like that, we didn’t have a chance. Now, we are playing schools more are size and we compete better with those type of teams.”
Everyone in Shaler had to be happy with how its debut in 5A went. DeSabato caught two touchdown passes from Darin Mizgorski in the first quarter the Titans rolled to a 34-21 Week Zero win.
Shaler scored 80 points total in 10 games last year.
“I had no clue where I would be playing football,” DeSabato said. “I didn’t know if I would play at all or play a lot. The coaches have been a big help.”
It the first win for Shaler -- which played Kiski in a Northern Conference matchup last Friday after deadline for this edition -- since 2015. There was nothing cheap about the Titans’ win over the Class 4A Red Hurricanes.
Shaler forced six turnovers -- recovering four fumbles and intercepting two passes -- and jumped out to a 21-0 lead over a storied program. That’s what helped make things special for second-year Titans coach James Ryan.
Snapping the win streak didn’t come against the Sisters of the Poor.
“It’s a big confidence builder to see what they are capable of,” Ryan said. “I’m glad we were able to do it against a program like New Castle with the number of wins they have over the life of the program. I’m glad we were able to do it against someone that has a mark in WPIAL.”
Shaler picked up its victory with balance. Running back Joey Kremer fell just short of 100 yards and scored twice. Brennan Fugh also caught a touchdown pass from Mizgorski.
“I almost feel like it was a determination to win,” Ryan said. “This senior class from the end of the season from last year, they set out for the season. They are determined. They are tired of the same-old, same-old. They want to see the program flourish. I think that’s the driving force this year. We are all determined.”
Not that one win is going to change things.
DeSabato wants to find a way to keep the good feelings flowing.
“We still have to humble ourselves,” DeSabato said. “It’s only one win, we haven’t done anything yet. You have to keep working hard week-after-week.”