SULLIVAN TWP. — To say Black River is going through changes this year would be quite an understatement.
There are only six returning starters for the Pirates and one of the offensive players to be replaced had 6,097 career rushing yards, 82 touchdowns and is considered one of the best players ever to suit up in the black and gold.
One thing that probably won’t change much is the Pirates’ ability to score points, despite the departure of running back Andrew Vaughn.
Coming back for the Pirates are junior running backs David Bell and Colin Filak, who combined for over 1,500 yards last year.
“I’ve been doing this for three years now, so right now it’s just getting used to the new team and getting comfortable,” Bell said. “I’m just doing what I can to push forward to make us a better football team this year.
“Yes, there are some changes in the backfield, but we feel like we can be just as good or better as a group this year.”
There is a semi-change at quarterback as Vern Beard calls the signals, but he started three games at quarterback last season before a change at the position and the start of a six-game winning streak.
Beard may have lost the job last year, but he is certainly not lacking confidence this year.
“I definitely feel a lot more comfortable at quarterback this year than I did last year,” Beard said.
“I feel the experience that I learned last year and now playing with the guys that I grew up playing with all of my life helps make me ready for the coming year.”
Coach Al Young may have a lot of changes on the field, but he is far from worried about what his team will be able to do this year.
“We have a great mix of kids on the team this year,” Young said. “We have a lot of really good running backs and receivers. We’ve added some basketball guys who should be able to help us during the season, too.
“Even though we are younger, we are going to be able to do a few more things to spread (the ball) around a little bit. We lost some big guns up front, but we have a couple ringers back in guys like John Ternes and Ryan Slone. With Curt Roupe coming in, I think we are going to be just as good up front as we were last year.”
If the Pirates are going to have any growing pains, it could be on the defensive side of the ball with just two returning starters back from a team that allowed 200 points in conference play and 51 points in the playoff loss to Fairless.
“We have switched things up and we are hitting a lot more and getting after each other to keep our defensive momentum going,” senior offensive/defensive lineman Slone said. “I have been lifting a lot more along with some of the other guys to get ready for this year.
“I’ve become more vocal this year to get the defensive guys fired up. When everyone gets fired up together, we become a better group. We definitely have to slim down the number of points allowed this coming year.”
If everyone follows their leader at Black River, the Pirates will be just fine.
“We’ve had to roll up our sleeves and get to work this year,” Young said as he prepared for his 25th season. “We’ve had to start from scratch and put some new wrinkles in this year that we didn’t do last year. We’ve made changes, but the kids have responded and we’ll be ready when the season starts.”
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Black River P irates
CONFERENCE: Patriot Athletic Conference — Stars Division (Division V)
2013 RECORD: 7-4 (6-1)
COACH: Al Young, 25th year, 165-83
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 8
RETURNING STARTERS: 6 (4 offense, 2 defense)
PLAYOFF APPREARANCES: 9
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS: 2013
NUMBERS GAME: With 50 players on the roster, Black River has one of the largest rosters in the conference despite being one of the smaller enrollment schools.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Coach Young called junior wide receiver Allen Benson an “unbelievable athlete” and he believes that the basketball player can come out and help the team win games this year.
Friday at Western Reserve (7)
Sept. 5 at Northwestern (7)
Sept. 12 Manchester (7)
Sept. 19 at Lutheran West (7) *
Sept. 26 Clearview (7) *
Oct. 3 at Wellington (7) *
Oct. 10 Buckeye (7) *
Oct. 17 Firelands (7) *
Oct. 24 at Brookside (7) *
Oct. 31 Keystone (7) *
* Patriot Athletic Conference game