With the shutdown of Oliver and Langley this year, added to the previous closings of Schenley and Peabody, there are only six high schools left in the city. Of these six schools four, Allderdice, Brashear, Perry and USO, should be evenly balanced as threats for the City League title this year, with Allderdice being slight favorites, leaving Westinghouse and Carrick to bring up the rear.

USO (U-Prep, Sci-Tech, Obama) coach Lewis Berry acknowledged that it’s not a guarantee that his Panthers will repeat this year. He lost many of the league’s best to graduation.

Robert Willie, RB and Jermaine Herring, OL/DL–Perry

“There are so many big shoes that we’re going to have to fill this year with our returning guys,” he said. “They’re going to have to step up and own that.”

The league’s offensive MVP from last year, Jaylen Coleman has moved onto the University of Toledo. Their four-year starting quarterback, Dontae Forte, has also graduated.

“Honestly, there are some guys that I think will be able to do that,” Berry added. “But, it’s going to be real tough.”

Akil Young, who took part in some late season quarterbacking duties last year, will take over as the team’s starter.

Myles Catlin who has been a factor since the team was Schenley, projects to be an asset for the Panthers on both sides of the ball.

“We’re going to work in several sets on offense in which we hope Myles will be very effective,” Berry said. “He’s a great athlete and we know he’s going to give it his all to get better.”

Berry recognized Jermaine Berry, a senior lineman, as this year’s vocal leader of the team.

“He’s really stepped up and has emerged as a leader for us over the summer,” he said. “That was obviously Jaylen’s role in many ways last year but Jermaine is holding us down in that respect.”

In contrast from a season in which USO turned a lot of heads because of their larger-than-life demeanor, Berry said that his team will display a more “quiet confidence.”

“The dynamic is totally different this year,” Berry said. “Last year, the team was more confident. They really brought it in practice, so things came very easy to them in their performances. This group is more reserved. They ask a lot of questions, which is a good thing. We’re try to get them to trust what they see. With that, I believe we’ll get better and better each week.”

U.S.O. [University Prep, Sci-Tech, and Obama] (6-1, 11-2) last season

Key losses: Jaylen Coleman (Toledo); Dontae Forte (Mt. Union); Kevaughn Frenzley (Seton Hill); Shannon Binnion (California, PA); and Brendan Duckett (Edinboro, PA).

Key returners: Myles Catlin, H-back/OLB, Sr; Akil Young, QB, Sr; Lamont Butler, OLB, Sr; Ryan Daniels, DE, Sr; D’Anama Cabiness, OL, Sr; Jermaine Brown, DL, Sr; Neondre Harbour, OL/DL, Jr; and Marcus Johnson, WR, Jr.

Allderdice (4-3, 5-7) last season

Allderdice head coach Jerry Haslett comes back this year, again, emphasizing that his team must have high expectations.

Despite squeezing into the playoffs as a four seed last season, the Dragons held on to their hopes and competed with a powerful USO team in the city title game. They lost, 14-0.

But with 20 returning seniors, Haslett likes their chances of returning to the big stage.

“We like our talent at the skill positions this year,” he said. “We won’t ever deny our chances. We expect to do great things every time we step on the field.”

They’ll have to do it without the Courier’s All-City Defensive MVP Jay Barlow, who’s moved on to a football scholarship to California, PA.

Tyrique Jarrett was the only city participant in the prestigious Big 33 Pennsylvania vs. Ohio All-star game. He will begin his preparation for a division-I scholarship at Milford Academy, the prep school that produced former Pitt All-American and Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro, LeSean McCoy.

“My coaching staff and I are confident in the amount of leadership that our seniors are going to provide,” Haslett said. “They’ve been in different situations and have been out there together for a long time. We’re battle tested and ready to go out there and win.”

Patrick Ferguson, Allderdice’s four-year starter at tailback, weighed in at 260 pounds before camp. Contrary to his size, Haslett got good reports from a recent camp his senior runner attended.

“Pat clocked in a 4.72 in the 40-yard dash at the Pitt camp,” he said. “He might look big and sloppy, but he’s not put together like that. This young man is a pure athlete.”

Bishop Gethers, a fellow senior, will take over as the team’s full-time starting quarterback, after playing a platoon role with Mike Pfleger, who was a 3-year starter there previously.

The team has 20 seniors, this season, total.

Key losses: Jay Barlow, DL/LB (California, PA); Tyrique Jarrett, DL (Milford Academy {Pitt recruit}); and Mike Pfleger, QB.

Key returners: Pat Ferguson, Sr., RB; Bishop Gethers, Sr., QB/OLB; Sean Monroe, Sr., LB; Alfred Diggs, Sr., DE; Gerrard Doswell-Hardrick, Sr., DB/RB/WR; Cornelius Ray, Sr., DB/WR; and B.J. Muldrow, Sr., WR.

Perry (5-2, 6-5) last season

Bill Gallagher, Perry head coach thinks that the merger of their North Side rivals, Oliver and Perry, should be a smooth one.

“Our school’s administration and myself really believe that sports is the great unifier. The great equalizer,” he said. “The comradery that these kids have so far is amazing. They’re all familiar with one another from playing against each other for so many years. But they’re getting along just great.”

To their fortune, Perry will inherit Oliver’s best player in perennial All-City member, Shakeem Cox. Dre Williams, a senior defensive back, will also add into the mix this season for the Commodores.

“Shakeem has proven himself over the years as being one of the City’s best,” coach added. “Dre and he will be great assets to this team.”

They’ll also feature one of the city’s more formidable rushing tandems with seniors Curtis Edmonds and Robert Willie.

“We had a great offseason as far as conditioning is concerned,” Gallagher said. “Our leadership is outstanding. I feel like this team is improved more and more with each and every snap.”

The Commodores, despite losing the most players to graduation last season, finished with the league’s third-best conference record. But they made an early exit in the league’s semi-final to a red hot USO team, who hadn’t lost a city game since week two and would eventually win the title.

“We’re excited about our chances to compete this year,” Gallagher said.

This year, the team has 16 seniors at their disposal.

Key losses: Darelle Carson, QB and Deacon Blackwell, RB.

Key returners: Curtis Edmonds, Sr., RB; Robert Willie, Sr., RB; Ahmed Turner, Sr., QB; Lloyd Reid, Sr., OL/DL; Jermaine Herring, Sr., OL/DL; Darius Barnes, Sr., WR/DB; Davon Clark, Sr. WR; Shakeem Cox, Sr., WR; Mallory Claibourne, Jr., DB; and Dre Williams, Sr., CB.

The Courier was unable to speak to coaches from Brashear which is expected to challenge Allderdice, USO and Perry for the title this year. With the merger of Langley students into the always tough Brashear Bulls they should be in the thick of things when the season ends and among the four finalist in the playoffs. Unless they pull of a major upset Carrick, and Westinghouse will battle each other to determine which will go winless, this season.

Brashear—With 18 players graduating, the Bulls have many holes to fill if they hope to make a championship run. But receiver Jamal Smith, and linebackers Deshaun Roberts and Diondre Faulk are a few of the top returnees that could make a difference. Brashear also has 15 former Langley players.

Carrick—With some key players returning, Carrick could make some noise. Senior Orlando Harvard was an All-City receiver last year, and sophomore Joe Kalsek led the team in rushing. On the lines, sophomore Josh Walker (5-11, 330) was an All-City pick last year as a freshman.

Westinghouse—Five starters return for the Bulldogs, including sophomore quarterback Ronald Brown. Lineman Isaiah Moore is in his fourth season as a starter. Other top players include WR-DB Dominic Fuller, C-LB Darwin Parker and RB-DL Rico Christian.

(Courier Managing Editor Ulish Carter contributed to this story.)

(Follow our continuing coverage of the City League and add your comments to our website at http://www.newpittsburghcourier­online.com.)

(Malik Vincent can be reached at mvincent@newpitts­burgh­courier.com or on Twitter @malikvincent.)

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