Pittsburgh Sports Now’s 2018 coverage of WPIAL Football is sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts of Pittsburgh. We thank Dunkin’ for their support of youth sports in Western Pennsylvania and of Pittsburgh Sports Now.
The Gateway Gators have stormed through the start of their 2018 season to a 5-0 record, outscoring their opponents by 194 points, which is close to 40 points per game. However, on paper, one of their toughest matchups of the season should come this Friday when they host the 3-1 North Hills Indians at Antimarino Stadium.
North Hills was running through their schedule at a similar pace but suffered a hiccup in the road with an injury to their star player Tyler Brennan. Injured mid-game in Week 3, the Brennan-less Indians beat Hampton by a score of 3-0, after scoring 42, 42, and 35 in the three weeks prior.
The following week the team scored just seven points in a 35-7 loss to Peters Township.
Game-planning becomes a lot tougher when a star athlete such Brennan is not in the lineup. While North Hills head coach Pat Carey can attest that first hand, he also knows that his team can clean some things up, and pull together better as an entire unit.
“We made a lot of mental mistakes, pre, and post-snap,” Carey stated about the Peters Township loss. “Our concentration this week is to clean up our act. We made mental mistakes pre-snap and committed penalties that cost us the game.”
Now, a team looking for new answers and struggling to adjust without their star talent is going to head on the road to take on a group loaded with star talent. In Courtney Jackson, Jeremiah Josephs and Derrick Davis, the Gators have skill players with Division I attention on them.
As tough as though mental mistakes are, they also need a player to step up to make an impact play against the star talent that Gateway brings.
“Obviously you strategize each week for your opponent,” mentioned Carey. “But it not only has to do with scheme but also health. Our star players have to play.”
“Gateway makes you tackle,” Carey added. “They put their athletes in space, they spread you out sideline to sideline and stretch you vertically. It makes it difficult because they have so many athletes. For us to go the distance, we have to tackle their athletes in space.”
It would be a lot easier to tackle some of the athletes in space with an athlete of their own back on the field. When asked whether or not their star Tyler Brennan would suit up for the Indians on Friday, coach Carey gave a strategic “maybe.”
TOP RECRUIT SPOTLIGHT
Courtney Jackson (WR/CB) (Committed to Syracuse): Courtney Jackson is one of those athletes who is very hard to stop in space. What makes Jackson so tough is that while he can beat teams in space with the ball in his hands, he can also sell the short passing to create separation down the football field. His best attribute is speed, and while that transfers to the defensive side of the ball so does a physical nature that has him being looked at as a cornerback.
Jeremiah Josephs (DB) (Committed to Miami-Ohio): Josephs is a playmaker with the ball in his hands but has Division I attention for what he can do on the defensive of the ball. As a rangy safety who can shift into the slot when needed, Josephs has strong ball skills and takes good angles. He also has blocked multiple punts at Gateway.
Derrick Davis (RB) (2021, top offers from Pitt, PSU, WVU, Ohio State, Michigan): Off his star freshman season, sophomore Derrick Davis is already proving that last year was a not a fluke. The star running back is receiving plenty of Division One attention and will be a player to watch in this game.
Tyler Brennan (WR/CB) (Army offer): When effective, Tyler Brennan can carry the offense. That can be highlighted by the fact that he had 13 touchdowns in the teams first three games. He is a receiver but can work down the field and with the ball in his hands.
Carey: “Tyler is an athletic kid who is a leader on both sides of the ball. He is explosive with the ball on offense, and on defense, he can fill, run, hit, cover; all of those things. We expect a lot out of him on both sides of the ball and have been for four years.”
Lirion Murtezi (Towson offer): Murtezi is a powerhouse in WPIAL with his size, but what makes him so exciting is his movement and versatility for that size. Murtezi has played up and down the offensive and defensive line for the Indians in his high school career.
Carey: “Lirion is a 300-pounder who runs well on both sides of the ball. He can play guard or tackle depending on the need and plays nose and three-tech on defense. He is powerful, but can run sideline to sideline as well as anyone in recent memory.”