For only the third time in 38 years, Laurel will have a new head coach. Pat Cuba takes over for Jerry Holzhauser, who led the Spartans for the last nine years to a winning percentage of 60.7% (54-35). Holzhauser served as an assistant to George Miles, who guided LHS to an incredible 212 victories over 28 years.
Coach Cuba arrives after enjoying a coaching career which had stops at Westminster, Slippery Rock, Temple and Neshannock. Cuba led the Lancers to their first winning campaign in six seasons in 2011 (5-4).
The Spartans began 2012 with a 3-1 mark; however, losers of four of their last six ended their hopes of making the playoffs.
South Side Beaver makes the trip into New Castle to face the Spartans on Friday, August 30.
2013 Laurel Spartans’ Football Preview
by Vince Pellegrini (@Vince_MYVS)
Head Coach: Pat Cuba, 6th season (17-28)
2012 Record: 5-4 (4-4), WPIAL – Big Seven (A)
2012 Post-Season Finish: Did Not Qualify
2012 Team Statistics
Points Scored: 22.9 (38th in Area)
Points Allowed: 22.1 (26th in Area)
Passing: Josh Dando – 472 yards, 46.3 Comp %, 3 TDs
Rushing: Dalton Rosta – 115 att, 847 yards
Aug. 30 – South Side Beaver. 7:30 PM
Sept. 6 – at Neshannock, 7:30 PM
Sept. 13 – at Our Lady of Sacred Heart, 7:30 PM
Sept. 20 – Springdale, 7:30 PM
Sept. 27 – at Union, 7:30 PM
Oct. 4 – Western Beaver, 7:30 PM
Oct. 11 – at Rochester, 7:30 PM
Oct. 18 – Sto-Rox, 7:30 PM
Oct. 25 – at Shenango, 7:30 PM
Offensive Strength: Running the football should come natural to this bunch. Quarterback Josh Dando gained an average of 4.8 yards per tote (486 yards) a year ago. Leading rusher Dalton Rosta also is back after enjoying a 2012 season which saw him rush for almost 100 yards per game (94.1 ypg). Junior Matthew Conway is as well. Conway gained 362 stripes on 62 carries (5.2 ypc).
Offensive Weakness: Since 2009 (30.2), the Spartans have had a difficult time posting huge numbers on a consistent basis. Last year was the first season that the team had accumulated over 20 points per game (22.9) in their last three campaigns.
Defensive Strength: Spencer Pullium is back for his senior year at linebacker. He will look to help his team improve on their defensive numbers.
Defensive Weakness: Stopping the opposition from scoring has been an issue. In five of the past six years, Laurel’s defense has permitted their opponents to score 22-points or more. The defensive line lost Conor Melichar and Cody Clem to graduation.
Storylines Facing the Spartans
1. Two Different Spartan Teams. In their four losses a year ago, the Spartans gave up an average of 37.8 points while scoring just 11.5. In their five wins; however, Laurel was able to generate an offense which averaged 32 points per game while allowing just 9.6.
2. Replacing Nine Seniors. The leadership which the senior class displayed for the Spartans’ younger players will be difficult to replace. Since 2008, there have been just two teams to finish with a winning record (2009, 2012).
3. Backfield by Numbers. Many feared that Laurel would not have an answer for the departure of Dylan Jones (1,177 rushing yards in 2011). Sparty could not replace the production Jones gave them; however, they found a way to distribute the ball to multiple rushers to give the team an advantage.
4. Kicking Ability of Wertz. As a sophomore Noah Wertz was named to the Big Seven’s First-Team as a kicker (17 extra points, 2 FGs) and the Second-Team as a punter. Wertz will look to duplicate the success he had this fall.
Did you know? In 1980, the Spartans defeated Clairton to win their only WPIAL Championship (14-12).