BG starting new era on road

The matchup

Game: Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic Marauders (12-1) at Somerset Area Golden Eagles (3-7) n

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

The coaches: Somerset — Bob Landis (49-28, eighth year); Bishop Guilfoyle — Justin Wheeler (79-15, eighth year)

Series record: Bishop Guilfoyle, 7-1 (first met in 2007)

Last meeting: Bishop Guilfoyle, 55-3 (Oct. 28, 2017)

n — records from 2017

By Michael Boytim

JOHNSTOWN — Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic football coach Justin Wheeler listed tradition as one of the strengths of his Marauders’ squad at the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference media day in early August.

Bishop Guilfoyle is starting the season coming off a season-ending loss for the first time in four years. The Marauders won three straight Class 1A PIAA state titles from 2014-2016 and built up a 59-game winning streak that ended with a loss to Homer-Center in last year’s District 6 final.

The team that tries to start a new streak Saturday at Somerset will enter the game with “Marauders” written on their jerseys, playing with the the confidence that tradition has cultivated, but there will be plenty of new faces.

Bishop Guilfoyle lost 14 lettermen to graduation, many of them stars of PIAA championship wins.

“This is probably the biggest group of players we’ve lost,” Wheeler said. “We have to replace eight starters, so there’s a lot of room for people to move into positions. They have really taken this past offseason to battle for those positions.

“Daniel Potopa, who played for us last year, will be wide receiver and quarterback, and he’s as good as we’ve had. There’s a bunch of kids who have waited their turn, and they get the chance to be the guy this year.”

Potopa said the transition will not be an instant one.

“We’ve got a lot of new guys, and it will be interesting to see how we all mesh together,” Potopa said. “We have to just go one game at a time.”

That starts with Somerset, a team the Marauders beat 55-3 last season. That score doesn’t mean Bishop Guilfoyle will be taking the Golden Eagles lightly, however.

“The Homer-Center game was a big deal to us last year,” BG senior Paul Liebal said. “We felt like we were the better team going into the game. We underperformed in that game. Coming back this year, we know nothing is guaranteed. We have to work hard every week to get back to where we need to be.”

Johnstown, Richland, Forest Hills and Cambria Heights are all expecting to have very good shots at beating each other in the LHAC this season, and some of the teams who have been in the bottom tier of the league have gotten better.

“The top teams aren’t going to be as good,” Wheeler said. “The bottom teams are going to be better, and I think that will lead to some parity.”

The tough slate is appreciated by some of the Marauders’ leaders, who hope playing games against top competition get them back to the PIAA playoffs.

“The Laurel Highlands is always tough,” BG senior A.J. Abraham said. “I think it’s going to be as tough as it has been in a long time this year, so we should get some pretty good competition.”

Along with some good size on its offensive and defensive line, the Marauders are depending on multiple-sport athlete Danny Carrieri to lead them from the quarterback position.

Though position battles and the new year are forefront among most of Bishop Guilfoyle’s players, living up to that tradition Wheeler spoke of is something that has resonated with the team.

“We try to keep last year in the past, but we know we didn’t end last year the way we wanted to,” Abraham said. “We’re coming back this year trying to do everything we can to get better. We’re coming together well, and we have big goals.”