Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Day 3: Visit to Char-Houston

The third day of Camp Mackey – the 2012 version of Camp Kovak – took me to Chartiers-Houston, where, after a stop at The Gyro Place along West Pike Street in Canonsburg, I watched the afternoon practice. I also talked with head coach Terry Fetsko and a few players.

What I learned goes something like this: With quarterback Danny Lis, who had a team-high 123 carries last fall, gone, the Buccaneers’ spread system will require much more out of two senior running backs in David Kincaid and Jevone Hairston.

Chartiers-Houston should also be bolstered by a defense that returns nine starters, most notably standout middle linebacker Garrett Vulcano, a four-year starter who had 161 tackles and two sacks last season.

Good thing, too, because Chartiers-Houston will play in the WPIAL Class A Black Hills Conference, a brutal league that could give the Class AAA Parkway a run for its money. Check out the 10 teams in the Black Hills: Bishop Canevin, Brentwood, California, Carlynton, Chartiers-Houston, Clairton, Fort Cherry, Imani Christian, Monessen and Serra Catholic.

“Every week is going to be a challenge for us,” Fetsko said. “Like I told the team, there’s going to be three or four traditional playoff teams not make the playoffs this year. Let’s make sure we’re not one of them.”

Almost every coach you talk to will crow about the quality of his/her conference, but I didn’t fault Fetsko. Heck, in this case, he's right.

Of the 10 teams in the Black Hills, seven made the playoffs last year, four reached the quarterfinals, two made the semifinals, and Clairton won a third consecutive PIAA Class A title, its 47th consecutive win.

“Every week there’s a playoff team,” Fetsko said.

Chartiers-Houston runs a spread offense, and last season Lis did it all. He completed 44 of 82 passes for 719 yards and five touchdowns. Those 123 carries – more than twice as much as anybody else – netted 897 yards and eight touchdowns.

Kaleb Susko will replace Lis under center, but he only attempted three passes last season, completing two for 36 yards. I asked Fetsko how the offense would change with Susko under center.

“Kaleb is a little bit different than Danny,” Fetsko said. “Danny was more of a running quarterback, and Kaleb is more of a throwing-type quarterback. He reads things well. He’s still going to run the ball a little bit, but our running game is going to be a little bit more focused on our running backs and our slots.”

In the backfield, here’s a look at what Hairston and Kincaid did last season:

Hairston: 57 carries, 384 yards, 9 TDs
Kincaid: 17 carries, 157 yards, 2 TDs

“David and Jevone … we just switch those two back and forth we get speed and power,” Vulcano said.

Speaking of Vulcano, who led off the full-team portion of practice today with a crushing tackle and later added a pick-six, he’s sporting a rather interesting haircut these days – mohawk down the middle, a half of a star around his left ear, two shaved lines above his right ear.

I’ll leave you with the conversation I had with Vulcano about it.

Me: Why the mohawk?
Vulcano: I just wanted to do it this year. It’s kind of messed up. One star, another outline. But they were crooked, so I had to cut it out.
Me: What’s been the reaction to it?
Vulcano: I gotta wear a hat to the fair … or else I won’t get any girls with my friends.
Me: What about the rides, don’t you have to eventually take it off?
Vulcano: Whenever I ride rides, I’m screwed. Or else I have to take it off, and the carnis look at me weird.

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