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Tigers looking for improvement in 2023 football season

Photo by Mike Longo Jr. Tigers starting runningback Nazir Brookins.

By Mike Longo Jr.

The burning question running through my mind was, how do I start off our coverage of the quickly approaching high school football season?

How can one photojournalist with seven schools in our coverage area choose just one? Rest easy sports fans – I've solved the daunting task at hand.

Simple solution! I took the names Cornell, Sto-Rox, Carlynton, OLSH, Montour, Moon and Bishop Canevin, tossed them in a jar and then pulled one out.

The winner was the 2023 edition of the Moon Tigers football team.

Moon's 2021 talent-laden juggernaut marched its way straight to what was then Heinz Field and the WPIAL Class 5A title game. A heartbreaking loss sent a huge group of seniors off to college with an empty feeling in the pit of their stomachs.

With that group of high-powered athletes gone, Head Coach Ryan Linn knew the 2022 season wouldn't be an easy chore. He had to replace a vast majority of starters from that elite 2021 squad. His worries were correct as his Tigers took their share of lumps the entire season.

Labeled as a rebuilding year, the Tigers averaged 9.3 points per game while surrounding a whopping 41.1 points. Moon finished the campaign with a 1-9 record, 1-4 in the Allegheny Six Conference achieving their only win in the season's final contest, a 41-34 victory over Baldwin. Momentum builder for this year? Possibly.

"We replaced a lot of starters on both sides of the ball, you have to realize there was going to be some sort of dropoff. We just didn't know how big the dropoff was going to be,” Linn said.

This will be Linn's seventh season as the Tigers' headman and the program's 88th year of Moon football.

They made WPIAL Championship appearances in 1998 and 2021.

In January 2023, another chapter dawned in Tigers football with dedication at the forefront in the weight room.

March saw Moon hit the field for drills and so the beat goes on.

This year's squad returns with 15 starters from its rebuilding team last season, eight on offense and seven on defense.

Moon’s offense should post a huge running attack as their top two rushers return along with the entire offensive line.

Senior Josh Bladel and junior Nazir Brookins will pick up a majority of carries in the running game. Brookins led all running backs with 79 carries for 302 yards and one touchdown. Bladel missed a host of games with injuries.

At the quarterback spot, Linn will have three to choose from; Senior Ethan Konieczka, as well as, Sophomores Braeden Stuart and Anthony Cross. All three saw action last season and gained valuable experience. In his freshman year, Stuart was the leader, tossing for 345 yards, one touchdown and eight interceptions.

Look for big things to come from wide receiver Nicky Prozzoly. Although the team will rely heavily on their running attack in a play-action offense, Moon can also focus on its passing game.

With their top two receivers lost to graduation, Moon has four sophomores making up this year’s receiving corp.

Jared Moyer, Paul Bronaugh, Jayden Revis and Myles Turner will get plenty of action and chances.

On the defensive side of the pigskin, Moyer will anchor the linebacker troops. Bronaugh, Revis and Turner will be in the defensive backfield and Prozzoly will return at safety.

“We just want them to be consistent with their effort, their attitude and everything we do. We want to live to play another play," Linn said.

Now, with an experienced roster, the Tigers may have found new momentum and renewed vigor. Rest assured, Linn and his staff will have a well-prepared squad. The rest is in the hands of the players and how well they can perform.

"I think getting back to 0.500 is a big important step for us,” Linn said.

With a scant few weeks until the ball is placed on the tee and things count for real, we shall see what the future holds for this group of Tigers.



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