Two-A-Days: Penn Cambria
2017 LAUREL HIGHLANDS CONFERENCE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW:
Bishop Guilfoyle remains the perennial Pennsylvania high school football powerhouse, winners of three straight state championships and 47 straight games. The Marauders will once again be the team to beat in Class A, however head coach Justin Wheeler could face his biggest challenge yet after sending five players to the Division I college ranks from his 2016 squad.
Greater Johnstown will also have to replace several college caliber players, notably wide receiver Exree Loe who is now at West Virginia University. The Trojans will be led by quarterback Austin Barber who received valuable playing time as a junior. Mix in several new playmakers and Tony Penna Jr.'s program may not fall off one bit.
For Bishop McCort the upcoming season will be about taking another step forward. This will be the third season under head coach Brian Basile and with notable contributors like Anthony Walters and Carnell Andrews back, along with plenty of experience on both lines, the Crushers will be a team to watch this season especially heading into their annual clash against crosstown rival Greater Johnstown.
The Richland Rams are another program that has undergone a few rebuilding campaigns, finishing 3-7 in 2016. But with 19 returning starters, head coach Brandon Bailey's program is ready to continue its climb back to the top of the LHAC.
Westmont Hilltop will not be sneaking up on any of its competition this season. The Hilltoppers, under head coach Pat Barron, have developed an identity that is easily recognizable. Barron prefers the lines to lead the way, to run the football and to stop the run. After going 7-5 in 2016 and making it to the district semifinals, the challenge will be continuing that consistent play up front and trying to pull off a few more upsets.
With one of the top quarterback recruits in Pennsylvania, Forest Hills is primed for a big season. Junior Adam Cecere has many division one programs taking notice, however he could eventually end up following his baseball dreams. Head Coach Don Bailey is entering his 44th season with many of his top offensive contributors returning. If all goes accordingly to plan the Rangers should light up a few scoreboards with Cecere leading the way.
Somerset will continue its rebuilding project after enjoying several seasons competing in the state playoffs. The Golden Eagles are known for their stellar line play and that will continue under head coach Bob Landis. But after missing the postseason in 2016, Somerset will need some of its younger plays to step in and learn on the fly.
Central Cambria has a new head and it is a familiar face in Ebensburg and beyond. Former Penn State quarterback and Central Cambria alum Shane McGregor has taken over the Red Devils program and hopes to bring a refreshing vibe in 2017. In his first campaign McGregor will lean on 17 returning starters including quarterback Justin Bezek.
Across town in Ebensburg, Bishop Carroll also has a new direction. Former assistant coach Sean Billings has stepped up to take over the main job and with a roster that will include more than a handful of new players, he believes the Huskies have added the depth they've been lacking for several seasons.
Bedford lost in the second round of the district playoffs in 2016 and will need some of its younger players to step in rather quickly to get back to the postseason. Head coach Kevin Steele returns just eight starters and will be working to build depth on the offensive and defensive lines.
Penn Cambria will have a new but familiar face roaming its sidelines this season. Veteran coach John Franco is the new leader of the Panthers, bringing over forty years of high school coaching experience to the program. Franco will only have six returning starters to work with, but will employ a speedy lineup eager to learn on the fly from a longtime signal caller.
Jarrod Lewis is entering his seventh season as the head coach at Cambria Heights and will once again be looking to fly under the radar as one of the dark horses in the LHAC. The Highlanders have been consistent playoff contenders and now with 17 starters coming back could be ready to take the next step in 2017.