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New Brighton football hoping to see hard work pay off in 2023

New Brighton quarterback Brian Taylor throws downfield while running drills during training camp at Oak Hill Field in New Brighton, PA on August 9, 2022.

NEW BRIGHTON – New Brighton struggled through a winless 2022.

The Lions hope those struggles transform into strengths this fall.

Many of New Brighton’s young players had to jump right into key positions last year. They hope to benefit from that experience.

“I think one of the positives is that we got so many guys reps that are still on the roster now,” New Brighton coach Tony Caltury said. “They may not have been ready last year, but they got used to game speed and what it takes at the varsity level. Although we experienced some hard times last year, those lessons were very valuable for us so we can hit the ground running.”

The players were eager to get back to work, too.

“I think they totally bought into the building of a culture here,” Caltury said. “We had a lot of guys energized to get into the weight room to make sure last season was an aberration. I have seen an energized group towards changing the culture.”

It’s Caltury’s second season leading the Lions and he believes the transition is going well.

“I got hired last April and it was a quick turnaround to the season last year. So, I’ve been able to get familiar with the guys over the last year and get them more confident in the scheme and see how they operate,” he said.

He knows New Brighton’s players are focused on building the program.

“As much as I hate losing, it’s good to see guys buying into some of the stuff we’re preaching as coaches and being good program guys who will be staples for the next two or three years,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about how we are going to close the gap. I think we had a really good offseason and I think we have a bunch of guys excited to show off some of the hard work they’ve put in since January.”

New Brighton's Gary Pugh Jr. tries to get past South Side's Donnie Jodikinos during their game Friday at New Brighton. [Lucy Schaly/For BCT]

New Brighton’s Gary Pugh Jr. tries to get past South Side’s Donnie Jodikinos during their game Friday at New Brighton. [Lucy Schaly/For BCT]

At A Glance

Head Coach: Tony Caltury (Second year, 0-10)

2022 record: 0-10 overall (0-7 in the Midwestern Conference)

Top players lost: Kyler Rombold, Tre’von Phillips, Derrell Rodgers, Jr.

Top returning players: Brian Taylor, Giante Moore, Nyzier Humphries, Mike Veon, Gary Pugh Jr.

Offense: The Lions return five starters on offense, including Brian Taylor, who took over the quarterback job last fall.

“He really progressed this offseason,” Caltury said. “He’s getting more comfortable in both our scheme and his abilities.”

Running backs Giante Moore and Nazir Humphries return as well. Moore was hurt in the team’s first game last fall, so Humphries took over as the primary back. Mike Veon, who caught a couple of touchdown passes last year, is one of the team’s top receiving targets. Jaxson Zahn, Ryan Boffo and Jayden Salada are slot receivers.

“We’re probably going to be a little more of a pass-heavy team,” Caltury said. “I think we have some skilled guys who can do things with the ball and we want to get it to them.”

Up front, the Lions return starters Hunter Lewis, Travis Davis and Peyton Predko. Brayden Dietz saw plenty of time, too.

Defense: New Brighton returns six starters on defense. Dietz is back to anchor the line. Dominic Pasquale, Humphries and Salada are at outside linebacker, while Lewis is the mike linebacker. Veon is a returning starter at cornerback, while Zahn started at safety.

The Lions hope to be more aggressive on this side of the ball and cause teams to make mistakes.

“I think we’ve put a strong emphasis on being a high-energy defense and making big, splash plays,” Caltury said. “We want to be an attacking defense. We want to take advantage of our speed on the defensive line to make some havoc happen.”

Classification: 2A

Last WPIAL title: 1994

Last WPIAL playoff appearance: 2021

Last WPIAL playoff win: 2021

WPIAL titles: 3

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: New Brighton football hoping to see hard work pay off in 2023

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