Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Camp Kovak, Windber (first stop)

Blogger's note: The following is a feature for The Varsity Club that follows the travels of The Tribune-Democrat sports editor Mike Kovak during high school football training camps. Kovak made six stops (in order) - Windber, Shade, Conemaugh Township, Somerset, Rockwood and North Star.

The single-wing offense, which was created by former Pitt coach Glenn "Pop" Warner while he coached Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indians, was common practice ... in the 1940s. When Windber adopted the offense back in 2004 under the direction of then-head coach Phil DeMarco, the Ramblers were one of approximately 50 high school programs using the single-wing.

Not sure what the numbers are these days, but it's worked well enough for Windber. Not only will the Ramblers continue to utilize the single-wing, Westmont Hilltop and first-year head coach Pat Barron has adopted the offense for this season.

Success breeds imitation, and, last year, Windber's offense was rather prolific behind running back Colin Bryan.

In 2011, Bryan was The Tribune-Democrat Offensive Player of the Year for good reason. The current walk-on at Penn State rushed for 2,352 yards and scored a mind-boggling 37 touchdowns a year ago. His play helped the Ramblers reached the District 5A championship game, where they lost to North Star by two touchdowns. Bryan was hurt in that game.

Windber has plenty of talent and toughness to compete for WestPAC and District 5 title once again. The key to the Ramblers' season will likely be how well Dustin Blough plays in the role of featured runner. As Blough's teammates stated during camp, replacing Bryan is "almost impossible."

"Athletically, he's very gifted," second-year Windber coach Matt Grohal said. "(Bryan) was a bit injury-prone until his senior year. If Dustin can stay healthy, he's going to have a great year at tailback."

If Blough or another key player does get injured, Windber believes the depth is in place to remain competitive.

"At single-A, staying healthy is huge," Grohal said. "Our starting 11 is quality, but we have key backup depth. I think we have a tremendous amount of backup depth."

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