SPORTSfever's 2014 FOOTBALL FEVER PREVIEW--Central League

Central League
2103 Standings
Team League Overall
Garnet Valley 9-0 11-1
Haverford 7-2 8-3
Upper Darby 7-2 8-4
Penncrest 6-3 7-3
Conestoga 5-4 6-4
Ridley 5-4 6-5
Springfield Delco 5-4 6-5
Marple-Newtown 3-6 3-7
Strath Haven 3-6 4-6
Harriton 2-7 2-8
Radnor 2-7 3-8
Lower Merion 0-9 0-10

Central 11
OL Jonah Jackson Penncrest
QB Dan Fisher Penncrest
OL Ted Field Garnet Valley
DL Joe Granahan Garnet Valley
LB Connor Faith Garnet Valley
LB Adam Krauter Springfield
WR Martin Dorsey Conestoga
LB Eddie Jean Conestoga
OL/DL Aex Anderson Radnor
OT/DT Justin Fremont Strath Haven
RB Adrian Sapnas Marple-Newtown

Scouting Report
The track record of Garnet Valley in the Central League points to the Jaguars as perennial favorites. Since it joined the league in 2008, GV has won four of the six championships; has won 48 of 54 league games. Hard to argue with that record. But Haverford will. The Fords have finished second in the league the past two seasons and their head coach Joe Gallagher says it’s about time to finish their climb to the top. There’s no blue-chip recruits but Haverford has a lot of talented, solid, determined and coached-up football players. “We’ve been knocking,” he says. “Our goal is not to finish second.” There is sure to be a lot of traffic along the way. GV has a legion of players (117) from which to pick to replace 47 seniors who graduated from the 2013 team. And the Jags’ returning cast is seasoned and talented. Penncrest is sure to be in the mix with Rutgers OL recruit Jonah Jackson and veteran QB Dan Fisher. Upper Darby aims to ride its momentum from last season. Ridley can’t be dismissed. The Green Raiders have a state-record 58 consecutive non-losing seasons. “The Central League is the strongest it’s even been,” says Conestoga head coach John Vogan.

Around the Central
Gallagher believes Haverford has the clutch playmaker at QB in Jack Donaghy (5-10, 170, Jr.), a two-year starter who didn’t pile up yards last season, just wins. “He’s an athlete and a leader,” says Gallagher, who always recalls Donaghy answering the call as a freshman when he was pressed into duty during a playoff game because starter Eddie Durkin was lost to an injury. Donaghy is the point guard on the basketball team that qualified for the PIAA state tournament last season. TE Sam Romanofsky (6-1, 200, Sr.), OL Brian Ross (6-3, 300, Sr.) and LB Mike Chicano (6-2, 210, Sr.) return. Gallagher expects speedy WR Nick Costello (6-4, 190, Sr.), who he calls an “undercover surprise,” Slotback John Kim (5-10, 175, Sr.) and transfers TB Ashton Smith (6-0 185, Jr.) from Upper Darby and DE/RB Kareem Bernard (6-1, 210, Soph.) from Penn Wood to emerge as impact playmakers for the Fords. Recent Haverford talents Durkin, Kevin Layden and Kai Thornton have all graduated but Gallagher says the Fords aren’t going away. “We don’t have that kind of talent,” says Gallagher. “You’ve got to have talent and we’ve been blessed. But our kids are also motivated. We expect to compete for the championship.”

There’s not a lot of returning starters but those who do give Garnet Valley a strong nucleus on which to reload. The biggest returning starter is OL Ted Field (6-5, 325, Jr.). who already has committed to play for Rutgers after his senior season in 2015. Field gave serious consideration to transferring to Cardinal O’Hara but decided to stay with the Jaguars. LB/S Connor Faith (5-8, 210, Sr.), a three-year starter, DE Joe Granahan (6-3, 235, Sr.), C Shane Stabinski (6-0, 260, Sr.), RB/WR/KR Zach Nelson (5-10, 190, Sr.) and FS Jack Diggory (6-2, 185, Sr.) return. How does GV remain steady year-to-year? “We’re lucky,” says head coach Mike Ricci. “Our assistant coaches are really good teachers and our kids buy in.” Steve Flanagan (6-1, 190, Sr.) is a first-year starter at QB. “He runs the option very well,” says Ricci. “Has a strong arm and is a respected leader.” Ricci expects the Jaguars to be fast and aggressive on defense and stay with their tried and true formula for success on offense—strong linemen plowing under defenses for talented running backs.

Fisher (6-2, 195, Sr.), Jackson (6-4, 290, Sr.), OT Carlos Ruiz (6-2, 300, Sr.), C Sean Stitz (5-11, 170, Sr.), WR Bob McCaffery (5-10, 165, Sr.), WR Zane Horn (6-2, 175, Jr.) and LB Diego Zubieta (5-11, 195, Sr.) are returning starters for Penncrest. Fisher passed for 1,197 yards and 14 TDs last season. Head coach Rick Stroup expects the Lions to have a strong defense and for Fisher to take care of the ball at QB. The Lions need a reliable running back to emerge. Stroup says the Penncrest lacrosse team which won the PIAA state championship in June has set a championship tone for the football team. Some athletes play both lacrosse and football. “We have the talent,” says Stoup. “It’s whether we can stay healthy.”

After qualifying last season for the PIAA District 1 AAAA playoffs for only the third time, Upper Darby is energized to remain in the league championship and post-season mix. On paper, the formula for that is simple. “Last year was one of our most successful years,” says offensive coordinator Eric Ruffenach. “If we can reduce turnovers and play disciplined football we can turn our two Central League losses into wins and compete for a league title.” Easier said than done but OL/DL Scott Rucci (6-3, 260, Sr.), OL/DL Nataar Henderson (6-5, 305, Sr.), RB Lawrence Bowden (5-8, 170, Sr.), C Madhat Fares (6-0, 240, Sr.), FB/LB Chris Gambone (5-11, 215, Sr.) and versatile athlete Kevin White are the returning starters to keep the Royals on a roll. Ruffenbach and head coach Rich Gentile expect S Rociado Jennings (6-0, 175, Sr.) to emerge as a playmaker on defense. Christoff Minot (5-9, 160, Jr.) is a first-year starter at QB. Rucci is the nephew of former Penn State and NFL lineman Todd Rucci. Fares is a national honor society student. After years of struggling, the Royals revamped and it clicked, recapturing a taste of their once-winning tradition. “The players’ commitment, accountability and knowledge of the game played a role,” says Ruffenbach. “We upgraded the number of coaches on the staff. We got the players to recognize that we were a dominant team at one time. Playoffs will be a goal every season.” Having one of the best all-around QBs in UD football history, Chris Rossiter, who graduated after producing 2,187 total yards and 25 TDs, helped a lot as well.

For Ridley, strong play by the Quarterback and the defense has been the ticket to winning league championships and reaching the PIAA District 1 playoffs. The Green Raiders are breaking in a new QB and a new defensive coordinator this season. Former Bishop Shanahan assistant coach Jeff Hanson takes over the Ridley defense this season. Under respected veteran DC Ralph Battie, who retired after 36 years in coaching, the Raiders always had an answer for opponents’ potent offenses. And they always find a QB who can execute the passing attack. This season Jake Hoffman (5-9, 170, Sr.) and Tre Hinchey (5-11, 185, Sr.) are in the QB mix. A former Ridley QB, head coach Dennis Decker says he’s looking for a QB who is consistent. WR Jasir Minor (5-9, 170, Sr.), WR Christian Dunn (5-9, 175, Jr.), OL/DL Jesse Lesher (6-4, 310, Sr.), LB Ryan Dougherty (5-11, 205, Sr.) and DL Antonio Betril (5-10, 210, Jr.) are returning starters. Decker says the Raiders’ strength is their group of linemen and a lot of first-year seniors will be starters.

TE/LB Adam Krauter (6-1, 225, Sr.), QB/S Brian Allen (6-1, 190, Sr.), WR/C Mike Fleagle (5-9, 165, Sr.) and WR/C James Harris (5-8, 160, Sr.) return for Springfield, who have eight starters returning on defense and six starters returning on offense. Chris Britton, who replaces Tom Kline as head coach, says the Cougars will rely on the defense until the offense finds its identity.

WR/FS Martin Dorsey (6-4, 190, Sr.), FB/LB Eddie Jean (6-3, 205, Sr.), C/DT Lenny Watson (6-1, 260, Sr.), FB/LB Matt Prestipino (6-0, 185, Sr.) and TE/LB Jack McClain (6-3, 200, Sr.) return for Conestoga. Tim Miller (6-1, 170, Jr.), who was the starter last season, and John Loctore (5-11, 170, Jr.) are in the mix at QB. Dorsey had 44 receptions for 559 yards and seven TDs last season. Jean was in on 90 tackles last season. Head coach John Vogan says the Pioneers have a strong group of skill position players—both starters and important substitutes—returning. And the need to find linemen is helped by returning players who saw playing time last season. “It should not take them long to become a solid unit,” says Vogan.

For Strath Haven, the margin between a successful season and a losing one grows tighter every year. “We have 12-13 pretty good players,” says Panthers head coach Kevin Clancy. “They play both ways. The drop off from 12 to 14 is our problem. The weakness is depth. We cannot afford injuries to top players.” A strong nucleus of returning players aim to rebound from rare back-to-back losing seasons for Strath Haven, the perennial Central League champion and state powerhouse in the 1990s. QB/HB/DB Alex Bratsis (5-11, 180, Sr.), a versatile playmaker who moves to QB, OT/DT Justin Fremont (6-3, 265, Sr.), WR/DB Paul Somaru (6-2, 170, Sr.), who runs a 40 in 4.55 seconds, and RB/DB Nick Milone (5-10, 180, Sr.) return.

Former Marple-Newtown QB Chris Gicking replaces Ray Gionta as head coach for the Tigers. Gicking QBed M-N from 1993-1995 and passed for a Delaware County career record 5,897 yards. RB/DB Adrian Sapnas (6-0, 175, Sr.), RB/DB Abel Hoff (5-9, 155, Jr.), RB/LB Adriel Maas (5-11, 165, Sr.) and WR/DB Lucas Maas (6-0, 175, Sr.) return. There will be a learning curve because Gicking plans on introducing new offensive and defensive schemes.

OL/DL Alex Anderson (6-2, 270, Sr.), RB Aaron Fuller (5-10, 170, Jr.), Slotback/WR Alex Hineo (5-11, 175, Jr.) and LB John Lord (6-0, 210, Sr.) return for Radnor. Anderson is a three-year starter who has attracted Ivy and Patriot league recruiters. Also returning are Chris Layton (6-1, 180, Sr.) and Vinnie Kelly (5-10, 170, Jr.) who split time at QB last season. Red Raiders head coach Tom Ryan expects RB Aaron Fuller (5-10, 170, Jr.) to emerge as a playmaker. It’s a tough climb to get to .500 in the Central League for Radnor, Lower Merion and Harriton. “Playing against the bigger schools puts us in a tough spot,” says Ryan.

OL/DL Yuejay Reeves (6-1, 250, Sr.), WR/DB Jaylen Glasgow (5-9, 170, Sr.), TE/LB Mike Berg (6-1, 200, Jr.) and RB/DB Brandon Jones (5-9, 160, Jr.) return for Lower Merion. Brian Scopelliti replaces Dana Keith as head coach of the Aces, who begin the season on a 20-game losing streak.

TE/LB Sam Schlichting (6-4, 240, Sr.), RB/DB Eddie Byrd III I5-8, 150, Sr.), WR/DB Jordan O’Donnell (5-9, 155, Sr.) and QB/DB Patrick Stewart (5-11, 165, Jr.) return for Harriton. The multi-threat Byrd rushed for 240 yards and caught eight passes for 76 yards last season. Schlichting was in on 41 tackles. Head coach Justin Mellor says the Rams will rely on a lot of young, inexperienced players.