GUYS MILLS, Pa. (WKBN) – Maplewood’s undefeated 2019 season ended in the District 10 title tilt at the hands of the eventual state champion Farrell Steelers, 35-20. Coach Bryan Borkovich’s bunch didn’t have the same success in 2020 as the Tigers finished 3-4.
“My expectations are to get back on track,” Borkovich said. “We would like to get back to the playoffs and have a shot at the D-10 title game. I want this group of players to get the program back on track where it was. My hope is that these boys can come together and have a great year for one of their classmates that would do anything to be out there with them.”
That classmate is senior Jesse McFadden, who was diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma.
The Tigers return plenty of experience and having a full off-season should help.
“The kids I’ve had here have always benefitted from a full camp,” Borkovich said. “We need that time to teach and rep what we do. Being in a district with kids so far from the school, the extra time is needed to get them all together. I also like to throw the football and not having a summer last year really put our quarterbacks behind because there were no seven-on-sevens. We’ve already done three seven-on-sevens with three more before the summer is out, so the offense is getting a lot more practice throwing the football.”
Maplewood begins its season with a matchup against Iroquois Friday, August 27.
2020 Record: 3-4
Coach: Bryan Borkovich, 10th season (46-46)
Previewing Maplewood’s Offense
Scoring Offense: 14.6 (comparable to 52nd in area)
Returning Starters: 9
Key Returnees: Ben Gilberto, JR/RB
Key Losses: Kaleb Donor, RB; Joey King, OL
Name to watch for: Ben Gilberto, RB
Kaleb Donor graduated after finishing last year by leading the team in rushing with 577 yards on 111 carries (5.2 avg) and 8 touchdowns.
Junior Ben Gilberto (111 rushing yards) will take over as the Tigers’ featured back.
“Ben has been working extremely hard to make sure that he’s ready to take on the lead in the backfield,” Borkovich said. “We struggled on offense last year and were unable to get anything going on that side of the ball. Dominick Kinney (334 yards passing) and Jason McFadden are looking to be the quarterbacks.”
McFadden is rebounding from surgery.
The offensive line returns four starters – tackles Cole Doolittle and Luke Sleeman, as well as guards Greg Roae and center Dylan Reed.
“This is a group of guys that don’t have a ton of playing time together, but are an older and bigger group than I have had in the past,” Borkovich said. “Getting the right five guys in there that want to get after it and block people will be the key once camp starts and we find out who wants to do the job.”
Previewing Maplewood’s Defense
Scoring Defense: 14.7 (comparable to 8th in area)
Returning Starters: 10
Key Returnees: Ben Gilberto, JR/LB; Logan Gross, SR/LB; Connor Palmiero, SR/DB
Key Losses: Joey King, DL; Jesse McFadden, LB
Name to watch for: Logan Gross, LB
Last year, the Tigers allowed just one team to score 20 points or more in a single game (Lakeview, 22).
Borkovich is happy with his defensive group.
“We bring almost everyone back that started at least two games for us on defense. I think this group can continue to do what they did last year. Someone is going to have to step up and fill that middle linebacker role that Jesse [McFadden] is leaving. Logan Gross (42 tackles) is returning and is in great shape compared to last year. He’ll be looked at as the leader in the middle of that defense. It helps that a lot of these guys got at least a little bit of experience in 2020. If we play close to the same level and are able to not beat ourselves on offense with fumbles and bad snaps, then I think we will have a good year. The defense is definitely the backbone of this team.”
Dylan Reed and Luke Sleeman return up front along the edge. Greg Roae is back in the interior of the defensive line. Gross and Jason McFadden will be joined by Ben Gilberto (59 tackles, 4 QB sacks) at linebacker.
In the secondary, the unit will have Connor Palmiero and Connor Burns at corner, and Noah Burk and Sam Wright at the safety spots.
Aug. 27 – at Iroquois
Sept. 3 – at Northwestern
Sept. 10 – Saegertown
Sept. 17 – at Union City
Sept. 24 – at Mercer
Oct. 1 – at Seneca
Oct. 8 – Cambridge Springs
Oct. 15 – at Cochranton
Oct. 22 – Eisenhower
Oct. 29 – Titusville