SALTSBURG — The 2012 season was one of high, but unmet, expectations for Saltsburg.
With a fresh start and little outside hype going into the 2013 campaign, the Trojans are looking to reverse their fortunes and overachieve.
“Honestly, it was (a step back),” coach Tim Frassenei said of last season. “We had a lot of returning players from the past couple years, and expectations were very high for the team. You can learn a lot of valuable lessons from the past couple years.”
That includes last year, when everything went wrong.
The injury bug hit and set off a domino effect of problems. Quarterback Tyler Frassenei, who threw for more than 600 yards in 2011, was chased around so much that the passing game was virtually eliminated, and the sophomore was moved to running back. The Trojans went 1-7 to start the season before beating Purchase Line and a quality Blacklick Valley team to save some face.
“It was a bunch of ups and downs with the injuries and protection sometimes, but getting to run the ball is definitely good experience,” Tyler Frassenei said. “It makes me a better player. Having more experience everywhere makes you a better player.”
Saltsburg still hasn’t had a winning season since 1996 — even though the Trojans squeaked into the District 6 playoffs in 2011. But there’s not much the Trojans can do about the past.
“To me, you always have to look at the short-term goals,” Tim Frassenei said. “Everybody has their long-term, but without the short-term, you’re not going to get to where you want to be at in the end. For us, short-term goals are just working hard every day. You either get better or you get worse on every snap that you take, every drill you run.
“I never, ever (think about the losing seasons). That kind of stuff is great for people to talk about, but it’s nothing that we ever talk about. It’s nothing as a coaching staff, it’s nothing as a team, it’s not something that we focus on.”
The players seem to see it a little differently, but in a good way.
“Most guys, it’s always in our mind,” senior Steve Richards said, “because you don’t want to spend nine months lifting, preparing for the season if you don’t think you’re going to make any noise and end the streak. That keeps me and everyone else motivated.”
Richards, at 5-foot-11, 245 pounds, is a focal point on offense, moving to running back after playing tight end, wideout and fullback during his career.
“That’s the greatest part about Steve,” Tim Frassenei said. “Steve is the best tight end, the best fullback. He can play line. Heck, we could play him at quarterback. He’s just a very well-rounded young man, both athletically and academically. He’s an intelligent kid. He’s also an intelligent football player, and sometimes there’s a difference.”
“I’ve played football since I was small,” Richards said. “You’re always throwing, catching, running, everything. So basically, wherever they needed me was fine. Whatever they needed me to do, I was willing to do that.”
Tyler Frassenei, a junior in his third year starting, returns at quarterback.
“A lot of times he was on the move quite early on a three-step and a five-step drop, which should never happen on a three-step drop,” Tim Frassenei. “He has the ability to throw the ball. You could see it his freshman year. Unfortunately… it just didn’t play out.”
“Tyler has a lot of great tools,” new offensive coordinator Shawn Liotta said. “He’s got a strong arm. He’s mobile. He’s got some great leadership qualities — all the things you want in a quarterback.”
Senior Tyler Bendis anchors the lines at right guard and defensive end. Juniors Dylan Shearer and Jacob Grguric start at right guard and center, respectively. Ryan Treece, Dylan McRoberts, Doug Bender, Greg Grimplin and Garrett Amorose battled for the other two spots.
Lucas Mowery, J.T. McGinnis, Tony Salandra, Amorose, Tanner Yard and Skylar Sphon were battling for slot receiver positions, and Noah Zimmerman, Caleb Treese, Arthur McGuire and Zack Sinclair fought for wideout spots.
Richards and Tyler Frassenei anchor the linebacking corps, along with McGinnis. Yard, Shearer and Treece or Zimmerman join Bendis on the defensive line. Mowery, Salandra, Sinclair, Sphon and Amorose will see the most time in the secondary.