The paths to major college football and the NFL have been cleared by a handful of linemen before him at Belle Vernon High School.
Blake Zubovic, a 6-6, 305-pound senior for the Leopards, is attempting to put his name alongside some of the best Belle Vernon linemen of all time.
Dorian Johnson, now playing for the Arizona Cardinals after a stellar career at Pitt; Bill Contz, who went to Penn State and played for Cleveland and New Orleans; and Joe Rudolph, who played and is coaching at Wisconsin and is a former guard with San Francisco and Philadelphia, are the most notable Leopards linemen.
Two of his former teammates Devin Hannan and Nick Sweitzer, are freshmen this year at Old Dominion and Georgetown, respectively.
Zubovic, committed to Pitt after this school year, got a chance to show his versatility last year when injuries hit the line.
“I think one of the things that helped him out was being shuffled around to different positions because of the injuries we had,” Belle Vernon head coach Matt Humbert said. “We were moving kids around and Blake played defensive end, defensive tackle and then we moved him from tackle to guard on offense. He showed his versatility.
“The dude is big and has great size, great footwork and athleticism and he plays with a chip on his shoulder. We’ve been blessed here at Belle Vernon with really good linemen.”
Humbert has benefitted from the talent along the line of scrimmage. He is beginning his fourth season at the school and has coached three Division I linemen.
He said Johnson has been an inspiration to a lot of players.
“Dorian is a guy who people can see and interact with,” Humbert said. “He is visible and is around. People want to be like him.”
Pitt is hoping Zubovic can be just like him.
Cougars band together
Perhaps the most important aspect of a trip to Canton, Ohio, to compete in a 7-on-7 competition this summer was how the trip allowed for team building and togetherness for the Charleroi Cougars’ football team.
Charleroi, which appears to be an emerging contender in the WPIAL Class AA Century Conference and postseason threat, posted a 5-5 record last season. The return of several skilled players along with junior quarterback Geno Pellegrini has the Cougars thinking playoffs for the first time since 2004 and a Class AA postseason berth in 19 years.
“The whole summer, in general, brought the kids together,” said head coach Donnie Militzer. “The Canton trip gave us a lot of confidence. The current seniors we are fielding have a good feeling about the team and where the program is headed. To be one of the teams in Canton was great for our kids.
“To hear some of these people talking about Charleroi being a program on the rise, not just in our area, just did wonders for us. It was humbling for me and our staff. But it gave us, as a program, a lot of confidence. Canton was a great bonding experience.”
Charleroi will quickly find out just how together the team is. The Cougars open against long-time rival, Monessen, Aug. 25 then open Century Conference play against defending champion Washington the following Friday.
While Monessen is coming off a 1-8 season, the Greyhounds played the Cougars tough in last season’s opener before Charleroi got the victory.
The conference opener will go a long way in determining the Century Conference champion as a number of people think Washington and Charleroi are the top two teams heading into 2017.
Militzer said Charleroi has to be ready and focused for Monessen because it’s such a traditional rivalry game and prepared for the Little Prexies, who are typically among the top teams in the WPIAL.
“We played decent against Wash High last year,” Militzer said. “We gave them a game.”
The coach is hoping Pellegrini, junior wide receiver Dakota Romantino and others can make the Cougars an offensive force.
“We think we have a lot of weapons and guys who can have big years,” Militzer said. “We can be a hard team to defend. Romantino is a big play waiting to happen. You can’t guard him with just one guy or it’s going to be a long night for you.”