Taking a shot at it. 1 Pine Richland 7-5; Resembles Emmaus and Easton with almost everyone back. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec returns and is healthy after missing the last 6 games with a thumb injury. Yet he still threw for 1678 yards. T he addition of a few transfers namely well regarded Kenny White from West Allegheny (5A, 13-1) who rushed for 1313 yards last year will join Jordan Crawford who rushed for 1233 yards. That’s quite an upgrade to a already powerful backfield. Other key starters are receivers WR Raymond Falcone (6-1, 190, sr, 65/1322), Cameron Balley (6-1, 210, jr, 22/355), Jason DeFrancisis (5-9, 170, sr, 45/506), Thomas Burns and others. Major returns to the line are Andrew Kristofic (6-6, 255, jr) and Michael Katic (6-4, 270, sr). Believe those two go both ways. Anthony Cerminara (5-11, 210, jr) Thomas Camino (6-2, 190) and Tyler King are back at linebacker. The secondary is LOADED with Ben Meckler (6-0, 180) at SS or LB. Believe junior Brendan Eckenrode (6-1, 185) got time last year at DE or LB. Bottom line, they are loaded with at least 9 starters returned to each side. With something like 18 starters returning, they stand every chance of dethroning Central Catholic who they haven’t defeated since their great 2014 team (15-1) that beat them twice before losing to St. Joseph’s Prep 49-41. Scary thinking the Rams average 35ppg last year with a back-up Qb. Scarier still, they allowed 30ppg. 30! That won’t work in the opener always well regarded Wayne of Huber Heights-OH where a few early polls had them higher than St. Ed’s, St. Ignatius, Elder, Colerain, X and Moeller! Then they come home to Mt. Lebanon who doesn’t have the Rams weapons but are dangerous with veteran Qb James Stocker (6-1, 210, sr). Can’t take Lebo lightly. Thereon the schedule imitates last years. They get Central Catholic at home but travel to neighboring Wexford, 5 miles distance to end the regular season against North Allegheny! See new2pa Jul 22 post for more detail on the team. 2 Pittsburgh Central Catholic 14-2; Defending 6A West champ had severe grad losses but return a strong core that should have them challenging once again for the Wpial and more. It will definitely be harder since like St. Joseph’s Prep, they also graduated an excellent senior line, all of it! Again mimicking the Hawks, they return a duel threat quarterback in Troy Fisher (6-4, 215, sr) who threw for 1754 yards (58%) last year while rushing for another 546 yards. Also back are DL David Green (6-2, 265, sr), DE Terran Moore (6-1, 200, sr), LB/FB Liam Slattery (6-1, 215, sr), CB Cam Laconi (6-0, 195, sr) and highly regarded CB Khalil Weathers (6-0, 185, sr). Last year’s team blew almost everyone away, winning by an average score of 46-16, their highest points for average ever. The only losses were to teams with lines as talented and as large or larger than theirs, St. Joseph’s and St. John’s (DC). The Hawks came in around 290 with the Cadets at 294. Central was routed by both, 42-7 and 35-14 respectively. We all know how good St. Joe’s was but how good was St. Johns? How about a 42-9 win over American Heritage, 21-10 against St. Joseph Regional, same with Our Lady of Good Counsel 35-22. Then the 1 and 5 point losses to DeMatha, 10 to Gonzaga which they avenged in the playoffs and a 35-14 loss to IMG. Incidentally, St. John’s is at it again this year playing De La Salle, SJR, IMG, St John Bosco and WCAC rivals OLGC and DeMatha with quarterback Kevin Moore who transferred in from Malvern Prep. So the Vikings have a nice core but a more difficult trip this year at least in the conference getting North Allegheny and Pine Richland away. They don’t play St. John this year but its no cake walk opening at AAAA state champ Cathedral Prep (14-0) at Veterans Stadium in Erie where they bring back the entire team (mostly sophs, jrs last year) looking to make a statement. Ramblers! 3 Wilson 12-2; The Bulldogs return the principal parts of last year’s team that won their 2nd consecutive district title and 3rd in the last 4 years. They’ve won 7 total. Also won 9 straight Lancaster Lebanon League titles with 9 straight double digit winning seasons and a 63 game winning streak in LL Section-One games. Their last league loss was in 2007. So they have all kinds of records but never won gold. Got silver in 1989. There is real comp in District-3 between the Lancaster Lebanon League and the Mid Penn who thumps its chest with 7 gold medals and 8 silver to the LLs 3 and 3. But Wilson has been kicking it recently and could do it again this year if they can get past LL member Manheim Township who looks strong. They return senior Qb Connor Uhrig’s 2054yards (21/8) and RB Ignacion Reynoso’s 1672 yards. Like many teams this year, we’ll know about them early with the annual opener at rival Governor Mifflin, then to Spring Ford and finally the home opener against Central Dauphin. 4 Cumberland Valley 9-4;. The only team that dominated CV last year was Harrisburg (11-4) who was really a freakish group with D1 Marion Barber and Micah Parsons at DE eliminating half the playbook. Other losses where to heavy weights Wilson (12-2) and State College (10-2). 5A Lower Dauphin (5-5) upset them 15-10 and all were balanced attacks who ran well against them. They return a good nucleus with last year’s co-starting quarterback Jared Plessinger 6-1 175 now the man. Senior Ridge Bachman got the nod last year but Plessinger was so well regarded he had to play as a sophomore. This is extremely rare at CV but justified in his completing 35 of 58 passes to Bachman’s 34 of 81, a 60% to 42% edge with a better TD/Pick ratio of 6/2 to the senior’s 5/4, and more yardage at 464 to 423. He’ll be throwing to the best player on the team, WR/SS Charlie Katshir, (6-3, 195, 39/534Pass, 22/150Rush) who is as talented as he is smart. HB Jake Palmer returns (5-9, 175, sr, 134/178R, 8/78P) and Cole McCoy (5-9, 165, sr, 36/366R, 8/150P) and all of them can motor, so they have a solid offensive core back. Some D losses but will be fine with OL/DL Jacob Fetteroff, (6-3, 275, sr), DE Austin Kupko (6-0, 220, sr), LB Christian Arrington (6-2, 220 sr), MLB Galen Witmer (5-9, 235, sr) and a loaded secondary with SS Katshir (to LB?), Palmer and Cole McCoy (5-9, 165) at the corners and Zack Snow (6-0, 185, sr) at SS. They run the Wing T that while predictable is difficult to defend, especially today with so many offenses going to the spread allowing this basic offense to sneak up on you. A good Wing T coach is tough to beat and the Eagles have been running the thing for over 20 years with Coach Whitehead made HC 4 years ago (CV grad) after 19 years there as an assistant. They open at home against Coatesville and another veteran team in Central York before hitting the road to play McDevitt. 5 North Allegheny 9-3; Had an interesting transfer in the off season when receiver Joey Porter (21/481yards) transferred in from North Catholic. Air North? That will be tough with the graduation of talented Qb Ethan Maenza who passed for 1124 yards while rushing for 1266 yards. That seems to be the priority effort this season, to replace that production. But as always, they’ll have another strong OL, returning highly rated Derek Devine (6-7, 280, sr), Dylan Wall (6-2, 245, sr), Ian Truesdell (6-2, 220, sr) and TE/DEs Canyon Tuman (6-5, 225, sr) and Brennan McCauley (6-2, 220, sr). LBs Cade Hoke (6-0, 210, jr) and Ryan Langdon (6-1, 230, sr) are back with considerable experience in the secondary headed by Josh Sanders (6-1, 185, sr). They look set on D with a lot of youth playing last year although the question might be speed, quickness. They get to it right away playing Morgantown-WV in the opener at home then a dangerous game at Bethel before coming home for Central Catholic. Tough schedule as always in the Northern but Central Catholic, Penn Hills and Pine Richland all come to Wexford where the outcome of the Rams-Tigers game in the regular season finale will have major implications.