By Matt Popchock
We talked about the teams to watch in the WPIAL at the beginning of July, so now, as we enter August, we move forward with our preseason football coverage by looking at some of the players to watch throughout the 2011 campaign.
Although much of the media attention traditionally goes to the higher classifications, some of the best all-around athletes to have played football around here in recent memory have come from Class A, and there is another exciting crop this year from which we picked our list. Competitively, not much has changed–Clairton and Rochester are expected to be strong–but new stars will rise to lead them.
Here are five players we’ll be keeping an eye on in Class A:
Tyler Boyd, ATH, Clairton: You might say the cupboard is never entirely “bear” at Clairton, but you might also say these Bears graduated a lot of key players from last year’s PIAA championship squad, and losing tailback Karvonn Coles to a preseason ACL injury puts more pressure on this already versatile junior to pick up the slack in the backfield. Boyd is being recruited by Pitt and Notre Dame for his prowess in the defensive backfield, but he can dominate any position he plays. As a sophomore Boyd ran for 553 yards and eight TDs prior to the WPIAL title game, averaging well over ten per carry, and he ended the district season as one of the most prolific scorers in Class A with 98 points.
Deaysean Rippy, LB, Sto-Rox: The anchor of the Vikings’ defense has methodically built his resume so well he snuck into Tom Lemming’s list of the top 100 recruits in the nation, ranking No. 96 among the Class of 2012. Rippy’s quickness also makes him a threat on the other side of the ball, and with exciting sophomore Lenny Williams expected to return at QB, Rippy is probably going to be a driving force behind whatever postseason run the Vikings make. The No. 7 outside linebacker in the country according to Scout.com, he paced Sto-Rox’s defense with 85 tackles and ten sacks last year, while catching ten touchdown passes and amassing over 700 receiving yards.
De’Andre Moon, RB, Rochester: Both trips he has made to Heinz Field have ended in disappointment at the hands of Clairton, and if the Rams are finally going to get that elusive Class A crown, they’ll probably have to take a page from the Bears’ book and be the most physical team in the classification. Moon packs a lot of power that could be a valuable asset to the Rams’ offense, and after losing two tailbacks and a quarterback to graduation, he’ll be counted on to lead them. He averaged nearly ten yards a carry as a junior while rumbling for 830 during the regular season, and he finished the year with 17 touchdowns.
Ricky Lawniczak, RB, Avonworth: The senior tailback has been one of the players central to the renaissance of the varsity program at Avonworth, and with a new coach taking over for a highly successful one, it will be up to him to help keep the ‘Lopes competitive in the Eastern Conference. Hopefully for their sake the collar bone injury that ended Lawniczak’s junior season in the first round of the playoffs is a distant memory, because this team can contend with its offensive balance. He finished fourth in Class A with 901 rush yards and 12 TDs during the regular season, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and making first team all-conference.
Tanner Garry, QB, Fort Cherry: He is poised to be the most productive signal-caller in Class A this season, and regardless of whether the Rangers can get out of Clairton’s awesome shadow in the Black Hills Conference, he’ll be a fun player to watch. A player who has excelled at multiple positions, the son of head coach Tim Garry has proven he can be as effective outside the pocket as he can be inside it. The senior ranked seventh in Class A as a junior with 1,106 pass yards and 13 TDs during the regular season, and the six QBs above him have graduated, while he ended the season with 183 rush yards and three scores, averaging over ten yards per scramble.
Keep it logged on to 937thefan.com as we reveal our watch lists for Class AAAA and Class AA throughout the week!