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Wednesday July 23 2014
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EQT High School Football Tour - Armstrong County Primer

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Ford City is the team to beat, and Kittanning's Bo Bowser is the 2010 Armstrong County Preseason Player of the Year

Allegheny Conference Preseason Rankings
1. Ford City – The Sabers have a highly recruited place-kicker in Adam Huska, who could have major impact in close games.


2. Shady Side – With the transfer of Geno Thorpe to Shaler, the Indians will need to find a new playmaker. They play at FC on 9/24, in a game that should decide the conference title. 


3. Freeport – The Yellow Jackets will expect to make the playoffs, but can they replace so many starters?


4. Deer Lakes – The Lancers have never made the postseason, but with playoff spots wide open this year, they’ll try to make history.


5. Burrell – Five teams will fight for two playoff berths, and Bucs hope to be in, but every conference game will be critical. 


6. Apollo Ridge – The Vikings hope a new stadium will kick start a program that has struggled in recent years.


7. Summit Academy – Summit took major steps forward at the end of last season. They could be a surprise playoff contender this year.


8. West Shamokin – Second year head coach Josh Gilliland expects his team make major strides this season.


Bounce Back Year?
Ford City seems to be making leaps forward, while their competition for the Allegheny Conference Title is taking steps backwards. Contenders like Shady Side, Freeport and Burrell will have completely different rosters this season. The Sabers have experienced players returning at every position, including a stable of ball carriers. The real key to this team will be their defense, and don’t be surprised if this unit ranks among best in double-AA.


Movin' On Up
Kittanning has a nice group of playmakers coming back, but Wildcats’ fans are not sure what to expect in their return season to triple-A football. Lucky for Kittanning, they moved up to probably the weakest AAA conference. With four of seven teams making the playoffs, they’ll have a chance. The Wildcats have a ton of experienced runners coming back. However their offense line will be the key, as they’ll have to protect a new quarterback and open up holes for the ground game.


New Digs
“New” will be the key word for the Apollo Ridge Vikings. They’re spending $3.5 million to completely rebuild their long time home, Owens Field. The Sept 24th home opener against Deer Lakes will be quite the celebration, and the winner will be in line for the playoffs. If the new digs weren’t enough, the Vikings have also implemented a new spread offense.


Armstrong County Preseason Player of the Year
BO BOWSER, WR/ATH/DB, Kittanning
Bowser had a break out season in 2009. He was Kittanning’s main offense weapon, producing one of the best seasons ever for Wildcat wide-out. Kittanning will ask even more from him this year. He’ll not only be used to run and catch, but expect to see him line up at quarterback in certain schemes. Opponents will be forced to account for the playmaker at all times, which should free up some holes for the Wildcats’ other offensive options.


OTHERS TO WATCH
Mike Krotcha, FB/LB, Ford City – The Sabers’ fullback will be a fantasy player dream, a touchdown machine.


Dylan Piper-Stitt, LB, Ford City – Expect this Sabers linebacker to always be around the ball.


Cody Gispanski, QB, Ford City – With teams keying on the ground game, Gispanski will throw for some big plays downfield.


Vince Simpson, RB/LB, Apollo Ridge – Will be the main weapon, in AR’s new high octane offense.


Jake Campbell, RB/LB, Freeport – Will be looked upon as the leader of both the offense and defense for the Yellowjackets.


Wes Schmidt, DE, Kittanning – Simply put, Kittanning’s defense will need to make plays. Schmidt will be the guy to make the big stops.


Jared Hollibaugh, ATH, West Shamokin – The Wolves will look to Hollibaugh to supply the spark on offense. 

I was in a minor league press box in Charlotte, NC, last month, taking in one of Gregory Polanco’s final triple-A games. A colleague, upon learning I was from Pittsburgh, approached me with a question.
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