Sunday, August 23, 2009
Camp Kovak, third stop – Fort Cherry
Fort Cherry averaged 32.0 points per game in 2008 and had games where it scored 71, 54, 47 and 41 points. It added up to a solid 8-2 record – Fort Cherry's best since 2002 – and a second-place finish to Clairton in the Class A Black Hills Conference.
Quarterback David Phillips, running backs Derric Stankus and Nate Crossey and receiver Josh Snatchko have graduated. The quartet were responsible for much of the output.
Naturally, expecting Fort Cherry to remain as prolific on offense is a stretch but the Rangers do believe they have a talented group of underclassmen inheriting those vacated positions. Among them are sophomore quarterback Tanner Garry (pictured with father and Fort Cherry coach Tim Garry), junior tailback Gary Kiefer and sophomore fullback Corey Garry, Tanner's cousin.
Fort Cherry needs the trio to play well because only two starters – senior linemen Jordan Crowley and Mike Silla – return.
"We're having a youth movement," Tim Garry said. 'We have a lot of young kids moving into position. I expect some growing pains but I've also seen signs of good things."
Among them is Fort Cherry's defense, which brings back eight starters. The unit will be relied upon as the offense strives for consistency. Conference coaches believe it might not take too long.
"They're loaded," Avella coach Frank Gray said. "They're going to be a handful."
Clairton is the prohibitive favorite to repeat as conference champions. Fort Cherry, along with a group that includes Serra Catholic, Burgettstown, Chartiers-Houston and Bentworth, are vying for the other playoff positions.
The Bears are coming off an appearance in the state championship game, just like Serra did last year. Fort Cherry beat Serra in 2008.
"Serra went to states, came back with a lot of expectations and we beat them," Silla said. "What I'm saying is anything can happen."