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The new coach has a talented team to work with at Highlands

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Sunday August 14, 2022 | 12:01


Don’t worry, Highlands will look, feel and behave differently under first-year head coach Matt Bonislawski.

The players are already in place, with a healthy balance between upperclasses and underclasses that could pave the way for the Rams’ success this season.

“I tell them all the time that we’re not going to be successful until they come together and play for each other,” said Bonislawski, a 2002 Highland graduate who went on to play quarterback. back to UConn.

Highlands hopes to build a playoff season last year that ended when the No. 8-seeded Rams fell to No. 9 New Castle 31-19 in the first round of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs. . That game and his performance still weigh heavily on senior quarterback Chandler Thimons.

“I reviewed the games last night and I feel like I have a lot more experience this season,” Thimons said.

Thimons is in line to break all Highland assist records in his fourth season as a starter.

Thimons passed for 1,084 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Bonislawski hands the keys to the offense to his quarterback. Thimons will have the freedom to make pre-snap adjustments based on what the defense is showing.

“I think he’s excited for it and I think he’s going to thrive,” Bonislawski said.

Thimons will have a few familiar faces to find on the field at wide receiver. Senior Landan Signorella will lead a quartet of wides who don’t have much playing experience.

Juniors Aaran Randolph and Semaj Miller and second Brayden White will need to quickly catch up with the Highlands passing game to become a threat.

“We have a lot of young guys,” Bonislawski said. “They just need to get game reps and move from a part-time player to a full-time player.”

A quarterback’s best friend is a solid running game, and the Rams have just that in junior running back Luke Bombalski.

Bombalski exploded onto the scene last season and bruised opposing defenses with 1,051 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns and a showy average of 5.8 yards per carry. The 5-foot-11 cement truck added 15 pounds to its chassis and will enter the season at 200 pounds.

“I’m excited for this,” Bombalski said. “I waited all offseason and worked hard in the weight room every day.”

In defense, Highlands will look much the same. Coach Mark Kaczanowicz returns to coach a defensive unit that allowed 17.3 points per game. The Rams will continue to run a 3-3-5 defensive lineup.

Bonislawski said the only question mark is the secondary, particularly at cornerback, where Highlands will throw two underclasses at Brayden White and Montrell Johnson. Bonislawski said White and Johnson are probably the two best athletes on the team.

While the secondary might be a bit inexperienced, Bonislawski believes the strength of this year’s defense is at the second tier.

The Golden Rams ranks are deep at linebacker and will include leading tacklers from a year ago in Thimons (62) and Bombalski (56) with the third linebacker job up for grabs between senior Nick McQuade, junior Brennan Haidze and second Menage Lucas. McQuade had 13 tackles and a sack last season.

The Golden Rams will open the season at home in a Week Zero game against University Prep.

“I think there’s enough talent out there,” Bonislawski said, “But until they buy in and play for each other and start playing hard and for the right reasons, we don’t We won’t succeed until they realize that.”

Highlands

Coach: Matt Bonislawski

Record 2021: 7-4, 4-3 in Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference.

All-time record: 275-254-7

PROGRAM

Date, opponent, time

8.26 University preparation, 7

9.2 Black Hawk, 7

9.9 at the Chartiers Valley, 7

9.16 Northern Catholic*, 7

9.23 at Indiana*, 7

9:30 a.m. March*, 7

10.7 at Woodland Hills, 7

10.14 at Kiski Area*, 7

10.21 Armstrong*, 7

10:28 a.m. at Hampton*, 7

*Conference

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Who passed: Chandler Thimons

96-177, 1,340 yards, 17 touchdowns

Dash : Luc Bombalsky

210-1276, 15TD

Reception : Landan Signorelle

31-536, 7TD

FAST FACTS

• First-year coach Matt Bonislawski, a 2002 Highlands graduate, is the 10th coach in program history. He wore No. 10 while playing for the Rams.

• The Rams are looking to reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2014-15.

• Highlands outscored their opponents by an average of 29.2-17.3 last season.

• Highlands have not reached the quarter-finals of the WPIAL playoffs since 2014 when the Rams beat New Brighton, 24-19, in the first round, but fell to Seton-LaSalle, 28-21, the following week.

LISTING

No., Name, Pos., Ht./Wt., Cl.

2, Brayden White, WR/DB, 6-0/155, So.

3, Montrell Johnson, RB/DB, 5-8/130, So.

4, Aaron Randolph, WR/DB, 6-0/170, Jr.

5, Semaj Miller, WR/DB, 6-1/160, Jr.

7, Boyd Brown, QB/LB, 6-1/160, Jr.

8, Nick McQuade, QB/LB, 6-0/215, Sr.

9, Jordyn Tavarez, WR/DB, 6-1/160, Jr.

10, Julius Saunders, RB/DB, 5-11/155, Jr.

11, Aiden Burford, WR/DB, 5-9/145, So.

12, Chandler Thimons, QB/LB, 6-3/200, Sr.

13, Rondeal Hewlett, WR/DB, 6-0/145, Sr.

14, Lucas Household, QB/LB, 6-1/215, So.

15, Devonne Wilson, WR/DB, 5-3/126, Jr.

20, Landan Signorella, WR/DB, 6-4/180, Sr.

21, Caden Rouse, WR/DB, 6-1/175, Jr.

22, Ashton Hatajik, RB/WR, 5-10/150, Sr.

24, Jamison Vickers, QB/DB, 5-8/150, Br.

25, DJ Suber, WR/DB, 5-6/120, Fr.

26, Jordan Williams, WR/DB, 5-4/150, Fr.

28, André Harris, RB/DB, 5-11/145, Fr.

30, Vincent Viglione, WR/DB, 5-8/140, So.

31, Jahmar Wright, WR/DB, 6-0/150, Fr.

32, Brennan Haidze, FB/LB, 5-10/175, Jr.

33, Luke Bombalski, RB/LB, 5-11/200;

34, Cameron Layhew, WR/DB, 5-6/140, Sr.

40, Matt Danielson, TE/LB, 6-1/175, Jr.

41, Marqis Johnson, TE/LB, 5-11/175, Fr.

42, Burton Babinsack, WR/DB, 5-9/145, So.

43, Cole Shaffer, TE/LB, 5-8/185, Fr.

44, Braden Litwicki, TE/LB, 6-1/205, So.

45, Liam Seskey, FB/LB, 5-3/150, Fr.

46, James Williams, TE/LB, 5-9/155, Jr.

48, Angelo Markey, TE/LB, 5-8/175;

50, Julian Chapman, OL/DL, 5-8/170, p.

51, Cody Hubert, OL/DL, 5-8/282, Sr.

52, Caden Bosak, OL/DL, 5-9/242, Fr.

53, Brennan Marra, OL/DL, 5-11/165, So.

54, Deondre Lucas, OL/DL, 5-10/185, p.

55, Jacoby Guy, OL/DL, 5-11/230, Sr.

56, Aidan Vargo, OL/DL, 6-3/272;

58, Anthony Mistrick, OL/DL, 5-10/220;

59, Nolan Taylor, OL/DL, 5-11/202, Fr.

60, Logan George, OL/DL, 5-6/280, Fr.

61, Devon Witherup, OL/DL, 5-6/215, Jr.

63, James Naviglia, OL/DL, 5-6/212, So.

65, Cruz Kelly, OL/DL, 5-11/260, So.

66, Zachery Jackson, OL/DL, 5-11/235, So.

67, Roman Vivirito, OL/DL, 6-1/230, Sr.;

68, Caden Kowalski, OL/DL, 6-1/205, So.

70, Alphonsus Gibson, OL/DL, 6-2/220, Sr.;

73, Logan Leslie, OL/DL, 6-0/230, Sr.

75, Noah Leslie, OL/DL, 6-0/230, Sr.

77, Zach McIntyre, OL/DL, 6-2/285, Sr.

78, Tyler Bender, OL/DL, 6-2/205, Sr.

79, Keller Singleton, OL/DL, 5-11/240, So.

81, Jaxon Walker, K/P, 5-2/110, So.

82, Jamarkus Prager, WR/DB, 5-11/145, p.

83, Treyvon Labbauf, WR/DB, 5-7/130, p.

84, Keegan Babinsack, WR/DB, 5-3/100, Fr.

85, Caleb Ruggieri, WR/DB, 5-11/160, p.

86, Brayden Spiering, WR/DB, 5-11/140, Fr.

88, Jordan Gangloff, TE/LB, 6-1/175, So.

89, Cayden Dadowski, TE/LB, 6-0/170, p.

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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