Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Class 1a: Mapletown Tri-County South Conference

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Class 1a: Mapletown Tri-County South Conference

Article excerpt

The recent struggles of Mapletown football are no secret.

From a respectable 5-6 season in 2016, the Maples dropped to 2-8 in 2017 before going winless last season, with an average loss margin of 33 points. After an 14-12 loss to Avella on opening night, the closest they came to victory was in a 47-14 loss - again to Avella - two months later. Multiple times, they only had 13 players dress for games, a paltry number even for Class 1A.

But with 2018 relegated to the past, a bright future is beginning to glimpse over the horizon. As Mapletown's varsity squad was struggling through a winless season, its 7th- and 8th-grade team represented the other end of the spectrum, finishing undefeated.

Now, many of those key players are incoming freshmen. Entering his 36th year of coaching the Maples, George Messich knows that relying on even the most talented group of freshmen is risky, but that doesn't dim his hope for the future.

"We're very optimistic," Messich said. "It's a great group of kids. We're young. Our 9th and 10th graders, give them another year, we're going to be okay. This year, we think we'll be very competitive and we really feel like we're going to win some football games."

One question mark that Messich has an answer to is his quarterback situation. Max Vanata started last year as a freshman and endured his share of struggles as the Maples scored in less than half their games. This offseason, though, Vanata has shown the ability that led Messich to name him his starting quarterback as a freshman.

"We went through a lot of 7-on-7s this year and for a sophomore quarterback, I'm really impressed with some of the things he can do," Messich said. "He's got a great arm, he can see a defense on how they're playing. For a sophomore, he's right around 6-foot right now and he's a very intelligent kid who just doesn't make very many mistakes. …

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