(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives)
WEST MIDDLESEX BIG REDS 2020 FOOTBALL SEASON PREVIEW
Head Coach: Mark Means, 3rd year (16-7)
Last Year: 7-4 overall, advanced to District 10 semifinals
The West Middlesex Big Reds will use a healthy mix of experienced veterans and promising newcomers in the lineup this fall as they look to make another deep postseason run in Class 1A. Head coach Mark Means welcomes back five full-time starters on offense and six on defense, along with several other players who have played extensively. The Big Reds also return both of their kicking specialists and their return men.
Last season, the Big Reds' defense blanked four opponents and held three other foes to only one touchdowns. Four seniors are among the five returning starters. Up front, senior Nick Kobielus returns at end and classmate Nick Gearhart returns at tackle.
"Kobielus is starting to mature at defensive end for us," Means said. "He is a smart, tough and athletic big man. We look to his leadership on the defensive side of the ball. Gearhart has improved tremendously from last year. He is tough as nails."
Sophomore Luke Rupert will challenge Gearhart at defensive tackle. Juniors Zac McElrath and Kadyn Grimwood are battling for the other tackle spot. Grimwood is also in the mix at nose tackle, along with senior Kaleb Turcotte. Means cited Grimwood as one of the team's most improved players from last season.
Senior Chris Smith is projected to start at the other end spot, opposite Kobielus.
Graduation thinned the Big Reds' linebacking corps as three new starters are in the lineup. Junior Ian Smith saw action at linebacker last year and will take over as the starting middle linebacker in the 5-3 alignment. Senior Connor Haddon started at strong safety early last season before being sidelined by injury. He moves to outside linebacker this year. Means projects freshman Blaiden Parcetich to start at the other outside post.
The secondary welcomes back three senior starters: cornerbacks Eddie Lowe and Ty Tate, and safety Alex Rea. Lowe earned First Team All-Region in 2019 while Rea merited Second Team honors. Sophomore Colby Johnson will push Rea at safety after replacing Haddon in the lineup last year.
Rea could also be deployed as an outside linebacker, according to Means. "Alex Rea is a great athlete for us. We expect big things from him in the secondary and at outside linebacker. He brings a bit of swagger to our team."
Tate returns for his second season as West Middlesex's starting quarterback. He threw for 388 yards and seven touchdowns last year in nine games. Tate also ran for 223 yards while leading the Big Reds' double slot option offense.
"We are looking to lean on Ty's leadership, athleticism and skill at quarterback," Means said. "Ty has a rocket arm and can throw the ball very well. We are looking for Ty to improve upon seeing the field better and getting the ball out of his hands more quickly. We are also looking for him to use his feet more this season."
Rea returns at wingback after rushing for 256 yards on only 38 attempts last year (6.7 average). He also caught nine passes and led the team in touchdown catches (4) and yards per catch (20.7). He is also a dynamic kick returner.
Ian Smith will take over at fullback on a full-time basis. He finished third on the team with 303 rushing yards in 2019. Johnson and Haddon are battling for the other wingback spot. Both are expected to see time in the backfield.
Lowe and Chris Smith will be the split ends. Lowe led West Middlesex with 12 receptions and 190 receiving yards last season. He is a returning First Team All-Region pick.
Turcotte returns for his fourth season as the starting center. "I believe he is the best center in the county," Means said. "I feel that he has been underrated and overlooked. Kaleb is big (6-1, 225), tough and very smart at center.'
Kobielus will move from right guard to left tackle. Parcetich has the inside track at left guard. Gearhart will take over at right guard while McElrath and Rupert are dueling for the starting right tackle assignment.
Ian Smith will place-kick and Tate will punt.
West Middlesex will play Kennedy Catholic, Mercer and Reynolds in region play this season. "We are used to Reynolds and Mercer in the league," Means said. "Kennedy Catholic brings back an old school rivalry-type feel to the region since Sharpsville and Farrell are no longer in our region.
"The new alignment is definitely a little strange, but I am not complaining," Means continued. "Reynolds has a really nice coaching staff, along with Mercer. We don't know much about Kennedy yet since they are new to the league. We know that they have a lot of athletes. It makes for an interesting season, for sure."