The Allegheny conference is full of talent



Friday, August 12, 2022 | 6:41 p.m.

The Allegheny conference football teams are once again ready to fight for a WPIAL title in 2022.

And no one should be surprised if one of them takes home class 2A gold or at least makes it to a WPIAL title game.

Over the past five seasons, teams from the realigned conference — Steel Valley and Serra Catholic — have won WPIAL titles. Derry and Imani Christian were WPIAL finalists.

From 1960 to 1975 in its former grouping, the Allegheny Interscholastic Conference, at least one team made a WPIAL title match in 15 of those 16 seasons.

Steel Valley and its trainer Ray Braszo are ready to defend their title.

“We have returnees. We have lost some of our best players, but we have a lot of good players and experience coming back,” Braszo said on Friday.

Leading the Ironmen are quarterback Cruce Brookins, a preseason TribHHSN All-Star, and 6-foot-5, 315-pound lineman Greg Smith, who signed from Miami, Ohio.

Steel Valley was among the schools participating in Friday’s conference media day in Burrell.

The Allegheny Conference now has eight teams. Besides Steel Valley, Derry, Imani Christian and Burrell, there is the defending WPIAL champion Serra Catholic, Apollo-Ridge, Ligonier Valley and Yough.

“I love this (new roster) and know every coach in this conference personally,” Burrell’s Shawn Liotta said. “I know them deeply and I think it will be a good conference.”

“Five teams will go to the playoffs out of the eight, and I think it’s going to be a dogfight every week.”

This will be Ligonier Valley’s third season as a member of WPIAL, and veteran coach Roger Beitel’s side have become comfortable within their new confines.

“I think the conference has changed a lot,” Beitel said. “We welcome Imani Christian, Derry, Burrell and Yough, so there is a fresh look and an exciting conference with four Westmoreland County teams given the chance to play against each other, in particular a school that borders us eight miles away. This is one of the reasons we came to WPIAL.

The Rams were 85-11 in their last nine Legacy Conference seasons.

“I think it’s the culture, getting all your players and coaches on the same page and having long consistency really helped us,” Beitel said. “It helped us during the transition. Starting in grade seven and even in the midget program, our coaches work overtime in the youth program.

Lineman Ty Wilkins is ready to fight for a return to the WPIAL playoffs.

“The seniors who led us when we were freshmen had set a pretty big precedent, and I think we’re doing everything we can to prepare for the season ahead,” Wilkins said.

New Yough coach Ben Hoffer is eager to see how his side, relocated from Class 3A, fare.

“Coaching last year at East Allegheny, I know Steel Valley, Serra, Burrell and Apollo-Ridge well,” Hoffer said. “I’m excited for the challenge. I tell our kids to make sure they get in the fourth quarter games and the wins will come.

Hoffer, a Young graduate, believes he will have time to establish continuity with the players and that Young’s future is bright.

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