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New starters played key role for Bishop Canevin | TribLIVE.com
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New starters played key role for Bishop Canevin

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Nathan Smith | Tribune-Review
Bishop Canevin coach Darren Schoppe speaks to his players during a workout July 27, 2016, in Oakwood.

Tyrese Jennings didn’t have to wait long to feel needed in a new environment. The Bishop Canevin sophomore linebacker transferred from Perry Traditional Academy a week into the school year.

Maleik Hemingway, a junior running back, was after him immediately. The Crusaders started camp with 22 players and needed help.

“Once I was transferring to the school, a family friend Maleik Hemingway, took me under his wing and said you might as well just play football,” said Jennings, who played with Hemingway on the North Hills Stallions as a youth. “That’s when the roster was small and they were recruiting players at school. He said I should play, he knew I had talent.”

With Jennings in tow, a few others came on board for Bishop Canevin. The Crusaders maximized their contributions, finishing with a 8-3 record and placing third in the Eastern Conference before losing in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals.

Jennings was a key cog. He ended the season with the team lead in tackles (67) and sacks (3 12). He also added 532 all-purpose yards, including 259 on kick returns and 120 on punt returns.

Adjusting to the gridiron wasn’t the toughest part of the transition.

“Honestly, it was harder in the classroom,” Jennings said. “Transitioning from a public school to a private school was a lot harder than I thought. It challenged me. I’m glad it did. I needed a challenge.”

The Crusaders had a lot of players step up to meet the challenge. All four linebackers — senior Zachary Quince, juniors Robert Goodnight and Hemingway and Jennings — were new starters on defense.

Hemingway blossomed into an all-around standout. He piled up 1,579 yards and scored 25 touchdowns as a halfback and wildcat quarterback. More importantly, he became the leader Bishop Canevin coach Darren Shoppe was looking for.

“I was a little more vocal than I usually am,” Hemingway said. “I try to be that guy and be a leader on the team. It started a couple games in the season, I realized someone had to do it or nobody will.”

After opening the season with a 58-8 loss to Clairton, Bishop Canevin won eight of its next nine games. This stretch was highlighted by a 56-21 playoff win over California.

Jennings is excited for what this team can build off of following a 41-0 loss to Northgate in the playoffs. All of the Crusaders’ losses came to teams that reached the semifinals.

“They had a great year,” Shoppe said. “The conference we were in was tough, and we had a challenge each week. We just tried to get better each week and let things take care of themselves.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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