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Iannacchione leads the top area offensive linemen

Baldwin coach Mike Silianoff learned this week that his offensive linemen were tipping off plays during the game-winning drive against Penn Hills on Saturday night.

“They told us they were coming to the line in the fourth quarter and telling the Penn HIlls defense what the play was,” Silianoff said. “They said ‘We’re running the same play. Here comes (running back Fred) Bacco. Try to stop us.’ ”

Baldwin didn’t need the element of surprise with an offensive line that includes 295-pound West Virginia recruit Ben Iannacchione, 300-pound senior center Ryan Buzzelli, 6-foot-6, 310-pound junior Keith Huebner and first-team All-Quad East guard Nick Laugelli.

Iannacchione, a 6-4, 285-pound right tackle, is the Trib’s No. 1-ranked linemen at a position that gets little notice or glory except from teammates, coaches and peers.

Iannacchione (pronounced “AW-nah-key-oh-nee”) and his teammates imposed their will in last week’s 21-14 victory over then top-ranked Penn Hills. They won the game with a run-the-ball-or-be-damned drive that even Penn Hills coach Neil Gordon admired.

Bacco finished with 291 yards and three scores on 36 attempts. He carried the ball 11 times in a row during the final drive, prompting the Baldwin braggadocio.

“We watched the film,” Iannacchione said. “If you look in the eyes of the Penn Hills defensive line and the linebackers, they didn’t want any part of us or Bacco.”

Iannacchione, the right tackle on Baldwin’s massive line, will play guard collegiately for the Mountaineers. Silianoff said Iannacchione is the most accomplished offensive lineman at Baldwin since Damon Denson, who played at Michigan in the mid-1990s and was drafted by the New England Patriots.

Coach George Novak of Quad East rival Woodland Hills said Iannacchione is the complete package.

“He’s a big, strong kid,” Novak said. “He moves well. He’s powerful. He’s strong. He has great technique.”

Iannacchione has “strike,” or the ability of a lineman to fire off the ball and smack somebody.

“He doesn’t block people,” Silianoff said. “He strikes people. He has explosion and torque.”

Said Iannacchione, “I love getting off the ball and hitting someone. That’s my favorite thing to do.”

Iannacchione is the second Baldwin lineman in as many years to commit to a Division I school, following New Mexico State freshman Kevin Cimador. He is among a relatively strong group of WPIAL linemen after a down year for local blockers.

No offensive lineman from the WPIAL Class of 2003 signed with a major Division I program. Cimador, Shaler’s Steve Meister (Miami) and McKeesport’s Bill Starry (Kent State) landed at mid-major D-I programs.

Patrick Dawson, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound senior at Greensburg Central Catholic, has committed to Toledo. Norwin senior Jon Krohe is getting Division I looks. Two Gateway linemen in the top 10, Mark Ciufo (6-3, 290) and Jason Warning (6-6, 310), are potential Division I players.

Warning has major-college size, and his stock has soared with an eye-opening senior season.

“He’s having a great year,” Gateway coach Terry Smith said.

Norwin is an underdog in the Quad East, but the Knights’ tackle, Krohe, wins most of his personal Friday night battles. The 6-foot-5, 290-pounder is a renowned pass blocker in the team’s spread offense.

“You put him in another conference, and he’s going to shine like the sun,” Norwin coach Tim McCabe said. “In this league, we have a lot of competition.”

Krohe, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds, is getting looks from Boston College, West Virginia, Toledo, Ohio and Cincinnati.

Iannacchione devoted this offseason to getting quicker and stronger. He attended every day of the Baldwin conditioning program.

“His work ethic might be his greatest attribute,” Silianoff said.

For sure, Iannacchione receives good instruction. Silianoff was a former All-American lineman at Westminster College, and Baldwin’s offensive line coach, Tim Robbins, played at Pitt in the mid-90s.

Iannachione also is a team leader for the No. 7-ranked Highlanders, who play Mt. Lebanon on Friday in a non-conference game.

“The younger kids look up to him,” Silianoff said. “Sometimes, when you’re a big star, you get an ego and boss the little kids around. He’s completely the opposite.”

Iannacchione prefers to wait until the weekend to push people around.

Offensive linemen


1. Ben Iannocchione

Baldwin

The West Virginia recruit is a 6-foot-4, 285-pounder with a mean streak. He is a powerful drive-blocker and a relentless worker. He bench presses 330 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 5.4 seconds. Will play guard in college.

2. Patrick Dawson

Greensburg Central Catholic

A four-year starter, the 6-4, 305-pounder has committed to the University of Toledo. Named second-team all-state last season to become the school’s first offensive lineman in 35 years to earn state-wide honors. Big, strong and tenacious.

3. Jon Krohe

Norwin

The bright spot on a team that has lost 19 of its past 24 games. A 6-5, 290-pounder, he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds and is an excellent pass blocker. Has no Division I offers, but Boston College, West Virginia, Toledo and Ohio are among the interested.

4. Mark Ciufo

Gateway

The 6-foot-2, 280-pound senior right guard is a first-team All-Quad South pick and paves the way for the WPIAL’s leading rusher, Justin King. Extremely athletic for his size. Runs the 40-yard dash in 5.0. Has an offer from Toledo and some interest from N.C. State, Virginia and the MAC schools.

5. Ryan Buzzelli

Baldwin

Arguably the best center in the WPIAL, the 6-3, 300-pound senior is intelligent and strong. Does an excellent job peeling off for a second combo block. Spearheads line that gives room to star back Fred Bacco. Youngstown State, Toledo, Miami (Ohio) and Buffalo like him.

6. Doug Petrick

Shenango

The powerful 6-foot-5, 290-pound senior drives the offensive line for Shenango’s 38.3-point per game attack. Bench presses 350 and runs the 40-yard dash in 5.35 seconds. Getting feelers from North Carolina and Iowa. Won the WPIAL Class AA discus crown.

7. Jason Warning

Gateway

The 6-51/2, 310-pound senior left tackle has blossomed into a force on the Gateway line. Much more aggressive as a second-year starter. He has tremendous upside, drawing increased interest from Pitt and Big Ten schools. Has great hands.

8. Mark Neel

Northgate

The 6-foot-5, 260-pound senior guard is a three-year starter for an outstanding Northgate line. Has quick feet and good technique. First-team all-conference pick who benches over 300 pounds and runs the 40 in 5.2. Being looked at by MAC schools.

9. Paul Sperduto

Woodland Hills

Sperduto is the latest in a recent string of beefy Wolverine linemen. The 6-3, 285-pounder is the strongest player on the team, benching approximately 325. He has good ability. Should get some MAC offers.

10. Brandon Richardson

New Brighton

The massive 6-foot-4, 340-pound junior has missed the past three games with a broken finger. He is expected to return in the next two weeks. A dominating force on both sides of the ball. Named first-team all-conference on defense last year. Benches 300 and runs the 40 in 5.4 seconds.


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