By Matt Popchock
Third-year Bentworth head coach Lou Rood taught “Mr. High School Sports” one of his most valuable lessons years ago: football, at its core, is all about blocking and tackling.
Having said that, the one thing he probably looks forward to the most is the fact that his entire offensive line is back for 2011. They wouldn’t mind “pancaking” the memories of 2010.
Rood’s Bearcats were one of two winless teams in WPIAL Class A last season, and they’ll try to snap an ongoing 12-game losing streak when they take on Westinghouse of the City League at Bentworth Stadium this Friday. Bentworth’s last victory came against Avella Fri., Oct. 16, 2009.
He thinks there’s a pretty good chance that streak ends this year, although when you have to play in the Black Hills Conference, which has been monopolized by one team for the past four seasons, and in which the Bearcats’ only two wins since 2008 have come against those Eagles, whatever strides they make might not be noticed.
Still, the coach who brought his alma mater, Belle Vernon, back from the dead in football, likes what he sees up front, and likes the fact that only four seniors graduated from a team that only dressed 18 on a regular basis last fall. Bentworth’s 2011 preseason roster listed 28 players.
Manning the line of scrimmage will be junior center Tanner Severns, fellow juniors Dylan Morrell and John Bizet, and seniors Ryan Wade and Bill Simpson. They are five of the 17 who lettered in 2010, and tight end Ian Malone, who is also in that group, provides valuable senior leadership as well.
But Bentworth can’t win if it can’t score. It managed just 103 points last season, with 46 of those coming in a marathon loss at conference rival Serra Catholic in Week 4. Unless Malone can be the Heath Miller of this team, the Bearcats will likely continue to scrap for points; their top four rushers from 2010 (Brian Sapp, Dylan Demain, Derek Damich, and quarterback Brian Early) have all graduated, and junior Dante Sicchitano has been moved from receiver to QB.
The biggest bright spot is senior tailback/defensive back Kyle Cline. He can lead Bentworth’s revamped running game, and, on the other side of the ball, is a definite all-conference candidate. Last year Demain was the only Bearcat to make first team All-Black Hills, doing so as a DB.
Lou Rood won’t be performing any miracles at Bentworth…not yet, anyway. It’s going to be another year of learning, in which the goal is to crack that goose egg in the “W” column, and to better a defense that allowed 40.1 points per game in 2010, third from the bottom of Class A.
However, if the underclassmen are patient, and if the school is patient with him, history suggests Bentworth will eventually have something to look forward to besides the regular season finale…which, this year, is against–who else?–Avella.
Hopefully by then, for both schools, it’ll be a moot point.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)