A lot of familiar names will be missing from the Johnstown High lineup this season.
Twenty-three players graduated from a group that helped Johnstown go 27-8 and win a pair of District 6 Class AAA titles over the past three seasons.
Coach Tony Penna Jr., who has 19 wins in his two years as Johnstown’s head coach, will put a lot of new faces on the field. The Trojans still have considerable talent and depth on the roster despite the loss of standouts such as Temple-bound Alkwan Williams, Army’s Gervon Simon, Youngstown State’s Brock Eisenhuth and St. Francis’ Dwight Andrews and Mark Watson.
“I’m sure no one is going to feel sorry for us that we’ve graduated 23 seniors,” Penna said during the first week of camp at Antiochian Village in Fairfield Township. “I’ve been preaching to these kids that our tradition doesn’t allow for any rebuilding. People just expect us to be excellent, and that’s what we’re going to shoot for.”
Penna has 17 lettermen but only three starters back on offense and one returnee on defense.
“People are saying that everybody is gone and we don’t have anything coming back,” Penna said. “I think that’s motivated them. That’s been our rallying cry since January.
“Everybody tries to figure these games out on paper. Fortunately for everybody, none of these games are played on paper. They’re played on the field, and I’m very confident in the product we’re going to put out there.”
Penna said the veteran presence of senior center Nick Subich and senior guard Michael Brooks will be a key to the offense.
“They’re two outstanding leaders who have totally bought into everything we’ve asked,” Penna said. “That’s a result of their character and the fact that we’re in Year 3 of what we’re trying to do here.
“They’ve pretty much lived at the school all summer (lifting), along with Brad Sladki and Grant Brandon. They’ve really worked their tails off all summer.”
Sladki and Brandon are guards, and David Bilak is a tackle.
“Pushing them are kids like Nassar McCray-Rozier, Giovanni Feliciano, Chris Wallace and a slew of tough sophomores,” Penna said.
The line will protect a first-year starting quarterback. Senior Brody LoBoi and junior Grant Noon are two frontrunners at the position.
LoBoi threw only two passes last season behind the dual-threat Simon, who passed for 1,752 yards and ran for 533. Noon has varsity experience as one of the conference’s steady punters with a nearly 30-yard average.
“Brody is so steady and he’s been in the program three years,” Penna said. “He’s ahead of everybody as far as understanding what’s going on. Grant has tons of talent. He’s not far behind as far as grasping everything.
“We have some real good athletes with experience at quarterback who can throw and run. I think that may create some match-up problems for people.”
Senior Phillip Madison will have a significant role in a number of positions.
“Everything starts offensively with Phillip Madison, who will do a little bit of everything for us,” Penna said.
Freshman Terrell Jones, sophomore Devin Miller and junior Jayvon Braxton are at tailback.
Junior Jordan Loncala, junior Million Smith and sophomore Nate Litvin are fullbacks.
“They’re all battling and getting great reps in,” Penna said. “There is a lot of depth there.”
The receiving corps is deep with seniors Dalvin Williams and Antoine Lanzendorfer, and juniors Trey Andrews, Taurean Jones, Jesaiah Wilson and Deion Moore, who moved to Johnstown from Florida.
“As always we have a large group of receivers,” Penna said. “And there are a lot of guys on their heels.”
Penna believes the competition for playing time has made the lineup much stronger.
“The greatest asset on this team is its depth,” Penna said. “We have position battles all over the place. We have 12 linemen competing for five spots. We have three running backs, three fullbacks, three quarterbacks and a slew of wide receivers. It’s really making for great practices on both sides of the ball.”
Defensively, only middle linebacker Dalvin Williams returns as a starter. Madison has experience at cornerback.
“They’re going to take on the role of a no-name defense, and that’s not a knock on their talent,” Penna said. “There are a lot of linebackers, secondary and defensive linemen that will play. That’s going to be their rallying cry, ‘Just get the job done.’
“We definitely are missing a whole lot of tackles in that front seven, a whole lot of interceptions and pass blocks. But there are players ready to step in.”
Subich is at linebacker, with Litvin, Smith, Loncala, sophomore George Haidar, junior Rich White and Miller.
Brooks, Brandon, Sladki and sophomore Bailey Piscatello are defensive linemen.
Madison, Lanzendorfer, senior Fred Larison, Taurean Jones, junior Trey Andrews, Moore and junior Malik Walker are defensive backs.
Noon will punt and kick.
“When you graduate a class like we just did, you’re going to have some transition,” Penna said. “We’re young and a little bit green, but super talented. I couldn’t be happier with the amount of work these kids have put in during the offseason and what they’ve done at camp.
“They’re working so hard and they’re playing together as a team. They’re hearing what everybody is saying about them and that’s put a little chip on their shoulder.”
Penna is assisted by Neil Cobaugh (defensive coordinator), Mark Masorjak (quarterbacks), Mike McMonagle (running backs/defensive backs), Brad Janidlo (running backs/special teams), Chuck Wyatt (wide receivers), Jack Bassett (offensive line), Nate Harfield (offensive line), Brian Subich (defensive line), Eugene Sprangle (linebackers) and Adam Dugan (defensive line).
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