Pat Keating becomes the second coach to replace the legendary George Curry in the last four years.
But unlike Gary Campbell, who took over for Curry at Berwick to start the 2006 season, Keating views his circumstances differently.
“I don’t think my situation is like Gary’s situation was,” Keating said. “When coach Curry left Berwick he was Berwick. When you mentioned the town of Berwick, that’s what you thought of – George Curry. Gary was in a much different situation.
“(Curry) was here three years. Obviously, when you replace someone like him there are going to have people hold you up to those expectations. But you know what, I don’t think it matters who was here, people have high expectations for Valley West.”
Keating should know that. He graduated Valley West in 1996 and played under then-coach Jim Cantafio, who revived the program.
The unit really got on a roll late in the 2008 regular season after disappointing performances early on against Abington Heights and Berwick.
The Spartans plan on sticking with some schemes, but also adding others.
“There are definitely going to be things from George Curry’s offense,” Keating said. “And there is also going to be some differences also.”
Senior Connor Haggerty takes over as the quarterback, although sophomore receiver Eugene Lewis will see time as well. Both are good athletes who may flip-flop positions on occasion. Haggerty had four receptions in 2008.
Neither, though, has much experience throwing the ball, combining for eight attempts last year.
Junior tailback George Simms was pressed into action last year and proved to be a hard, determined runner. At 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, fullback Christian Martinez is bigger than most opposing defensive linemen.
The offensive line also has nice size and will be paced by center A.J. McGovern, who has committed to Army, and returning right guard Kyle Wallace. Right tackle Dave Davison also started at times last year. Left tackle Kevin Bond and left guard Shawn Mahon are new to the lineup.
“Deep down, I really feel like we’re going to be able to run the football,” Keating said.
Tight end Chris Clocker adds more size up front, but he and wideouts Lewis, Angelo Scaffido and Rasheed Williams need to prove they can be factors in the passing game.
The base defense will change from a 50 to a 4-3, but will show various alignments to the opposition.
“Coach Curry’s base was a 50 and he was very multiple out of the 50,” Keating said. “We’ll be multiple, but our base is going to be a 4-3.”
McGovern and Wallace give Valley West two powerful interior players. Bond and Henry Moore will be the ends. Bond played defensive tackle last year.
Martinez should be a force inside, with Simms and returning starter Justin Shimko flanking him. Simms started at nose guard a year ago. The group has the potential to be one of the best in the WVC.
Scafido, who had two interceptions last season, will be one corner. Williams, junior Steve Myers and freshman Derrick Simms could all see time at the other corner.
Haggerty and Lewis are tested safeties.
“From top to bottom, we have three or four guys back in the secondary who have experience,” Keating said.
The Spartans depended on some key players last season who graduated. But the bulk of the lineup was underclassmen that will be back for another go-around.
Valley West will likely have a good shot to dethrone Hazleton Area as both the WVC Division 4A and the District 2 Class 4A champions.