Sisinni takes over for Filberto as Weir head coach
WEIRTON — Becoming a head coach for the first time is daunting enough, but Weir High’s new mentor, Frank Sisinni, also has to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
His Red Riders, however, should still do well in the upcoming football wars.
Sisinni greeted 41 players when summer camp began, and a dozen of them are seasoned veterans of the 6-4 team that just missed making the West Virginia playoffs for the eighth year in a row under Tony Filberto, who retired following the season.
“There is no doubt our strength is up front,” Sisinni said. “We have several starters, and all are lettermen there. A key guy in that front will be fourth-year starter Jordan Brueck. He got all-state mention last year and has returned leaner and more athletic after playing at around 300 pounds the last two years.”
Graduation took 11 seniors from a year ago, including key starters Sebastian Spencer, Elijah Gillette, Zak Wypasek, Brodie McUmar, Michael Zias, Dakota Nutter and Drew Harris, along with Jonathan Wetter, Nick D’Amico, Isiah Glasure and Harry Ringer.
Most of those seniors were skill players, but Sisinni feels he has solid replacements in the skill positions on offense. Like the offense, the defense will be strong up front, but graduation left some holes to fill at linebacker and the defensive backfield.
“We have some talented sophomores and juniors that will fill those holes. We’re probably going to move some guys who played last year into new positions for them to fill the gaps, and we have a very strong freshman group — 18 guys that had an outstanding season last year in middle school — some of whom will see playing time,” Sisinni said.
Surrounding Brueck, who again will be at left guard on the offensive line, are 6-foot-4 sophomore Cam Jones at left tackle; Levi Hostuttler who returns at center; Ethan Cummins, who played at tight end last year and moves to right guard; and Miles Rice, who returns at right tackle.
Backing up that group in the line rotation will be sophomore Gage Hawkins and promising freshman Elias Pugh. This year, senior Kasper Moreria moves to tight end, with junior Sean Baker also pushing for time there.
“That will give us a solid base for our offense to protect the quarterback and open up our running game,” Sisinni said.
Veteran signal-caller Anthony DiMatteis, who started a couple of games last year at quarterback and as a wide receiver, gets the nod to run the team this year, taking over for the ultra-quick Spencer, an all-stater in football and track who was recruited as a sprinter for the North Carolina University track team this year.
DiMatteis completed 30 of 36 pass attempts last year for 454 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball 51 times for 166 yards and two scores. Freshman Malachi Stromile, who directed the Weir Middle School offense last year, will back up DiMatteis.
“Anthony has plenty of game experience and had a lot of success. He is ready for his senior year,” Sisinni said. “He also could be one of our outside linebackers on defense.”
Much of the ball carrying will be done by sophomore Jamari Bass, who Sisinni says is bigger and faster than he was a year ago when he burst on the scene as a freshman.
“It seems that the game has slowed down for Jamari this summer,” Sisinni said. “I’m expecting big things from him this year.”
Another sophomore, Justin Brueck, is at fullback with Junior Carson Yobaggy and freshman Corey Lyons as capable backups at running back.
Gage Reitter, now a senior, returns at wide receiver and will again do the kicking duties. Other receivers for DiMatteis are junior letterman Jayson Nosko and sophomores Kanya Green, a transfer from Bridgeport, Ohio, Max Maley and Doran Brown, as well as freshman Lee Sewell.
On the defense front will be Jordan Brueck, Jones, Hostuttler, Moreria and Pugh, along with Bass at weak side defensive end. Baker and Rice also are in the mix on the defensive line.
The linebacking corps will include Cummins, Hawkins, DiMatteis, Lyons, Stromile and Justin Brueck. Reitter returns at free safety. Others in the defensive backfield mix are Nosko, Maley, Yobaggy, Sewell and Brown.
While Sisinni’s club has the 12 returning lettermen, with 10 of them being starters on offense or defense, it could be considered a young team because 30 of the 41 players are either sophomores or freshmen. Sisinni is particularly excited about the 18-player freshman group, one of the largest classes at Weir High in several years. The freshman class includes running back Corey Lyons, whose father (with whom he shares the same name) was the star running back on the Red Rider 2005 state championship team. Also in the class is freshman Sophie Diaz, the first female to don the red and black since kicker Alyssa Shingle in 2013.
“We’ve had limited time to work on a lot of things because of the COVID-19,” Sisinni said. “So, we’ll be using a lot of the plays and formations that are familiar to the players from last year. Of course, we’ll adapt to the different personnel that we have this year, but we just aren’t going to have the time early on to fine-tune things.
“We’ll develop and build on a foundation as the season moves along. We’ll use some play action with our passing game and strive to get Bass open so he can do his thing. The 4-2-5 defense that we used last year will be our bread and butter because with that, we can adapt to what the opponents are doing to us offensively.”
Sisinni has Terry Rea returning as defensive coordinator. Rea coached the Red Riders several years ago and left for a stint coaching at a Raleigh, N.C.-area high school program. Tom Taylor is the offensive coordinator, and T. J. Miller is special teams coordinator. The remainder of the staff includes Gerard Spencer, Dave Cowden, John Leary, Quentin Smith, Zack Hartman and Matt DeAngelis.