The power of youthful enthusiasm will be put to quite a test this fall at Waynesburg.
When summer camp opened, only 33 players requested equipment, which is a number that makes head coaches lose sleep at night, worrying about how much damage an injury to a key player or two could do to the depth chart.
The 33 names on the roster isn’t the most troublesome number for veteran coach Russ Moore. They are, instead, the number of seniors and juniors on the roster.
There are only four seniors.
And just four juniors.
For a team playing at the Class AAA level in the WPIAL, that’s rare and alarming. Moore, however, has been upbeat about the situation.
“I’ve never seen a team this young, but I’m having more fun than I ever had,” he said. “All I’m doing is teaching players. Back in the late 1990s, it got boring sometimes because there were weeks when we knew we were going to win, we just didn’t know how badly we were going to win. Now I’m teaching more, and I even feel younger than I have in years.”
The Raiders’ roster situation, Moore says, is largely the result of two things: the school’s declining enrollment and the trend at Waynesburg of athletes choosing to “specialize” and play only one sport. Rare now are the three-sport athletes who pull on the red and black.
“I had a meeting with the parents in February and told them if they think the reason kids aren’t playing, or the reason we’re losing, is me, then I’ll retire right now,” Moore said.
“When we played Triple-A, when there was only four classifications, we graduated about 210 seniors. This past year, we graduated 140. And if this specialization thing was happening in 1999, when we won the WPIAL, then Lee Fritz would have been choosing between baseball and football and Lanfer Simpson would have chosen between wrestling and football.”
Though small in numbers and short on experience, Waynesburg does have some quality players to rebuild the program around following an 0-9 season. Returning is senior quarterback Dylan Scritchfield, and Moore is high on the potential of senior Eli Kiger, a guard and defensive end who is coming off an injury-plagued season.
“Scritchfield has to be our leader,” Moore said. “He does a lot of good things on offense.”
Junior Spencer Lesinski is expected to be a key contributor, either in the backfield or on the offensive line, and sophomore lineman Avery McConville has the athletic ability to contribute in many ways. Sophomore Caleb Shriver could be the next Waynesburg running back to put up big rushing totals.
“We have some good skill kids, but we don’t have enough of them,” Moore said. “That’s where our baseball players and basketball players should be. We have a lot of guards, fullbacks and tight ends. They’re all from the same mold.”
Waynesburg might be without one of its best two-way linemen in Brandon Tretinik, who is recovering from a knee injury.
“It has been fun coming to practice. It has been fun all summer. We’ve had no discipline problems, no bad eggs,” Moore said. “The freshmen and sophomores have been semi-successful in the youth leagues and middle school.
“With our youth, a key has to be not to give up and not to get discouraged. I don’t want to hear that will be good next year or in two years. Let’s do something this year. We owe it to guys like Scritchfield and Kiger. We have to concentrate on basics – football common sense.” n