By Steve Jones
August 26, 2012
Home Turf: 1300 W. Old Liberty Road, Winfield
Head Coach: Steve Luette (fourth season)
2011 Record: 6-5 overall; 6-1 county (Class 2A West Region semifinalist)
South Carroll has become the standard of excellence in Carroll County.
Since taking over in 2009, head coach Steve Luette has guided the Cavalier program to a 26-9 record, including 20-2 against county opponents.
South Carroll recorded an undefeated regular season in 2010 and has become a postseason fixture, with three consecutive Class 2A West Region playoff berths.
The Cavaliers are the only county team to win a playoff game in the last three years.
But that consistency may be tested this season, as the Cavaliers deal with the loss of several cornerstones of their recent success.
Dan Mullen, the county's best player the past two years, has graduated. Ryan Patrick, Carroll's top tackler in 2011, and fellow defensive standouts Alex Breno, Jay Leitzel, and Caleb Runci are also gone.
"We want to have the program set up where we can reload, and not rebuild," Luette said. "Our seniors are proven players, and will be able to contribute. But we're going to be fairly young, and our juniors are going to be playing a lot this year. We're hoping that the system that we've installed at the younger levels will help the new players step in and perform at the open positions."
In order for South Carroll to make an unprecedented fourth consecutive playoff appearance, Luette and his staff will have to rely on a solid ground game while the young defense develops against a brutal early-season schedule.
Senior running back Dylan McDermott, who gained 249 yards on 50 carries, will be the Cavaliers' feature back and run behind tackle Jordan Way, a second-team All-MVAL choice.
"Dylan has already taken the leadership role on the field," Luette said. "He's a great all-around athlete. On the line, we're expecting Jordan to be our leader."
The quarterback competition includes senior returnee Kyle MacIvor (13 completions for 133 yards in 2011) and newcomers Ben Nardo and Andrew Louder.
Whoever wins the starting spot will throw to an inexperienced receiving corps.
"We need to loosen up the linebackers and secondary in order to open up our running game, so we expect to throw the ball more this year," said Luette, who listed Dan White, Zach Wolfrey and Dan Peters as likely targets. "McDermott will get some playing time in the slot."
The Cavalier defense will be fortified by the return of senior linebackers Chad Slifer and Steven Schmitz.
Slifer, who had 63 tackles and four sacks last fall, will have to show his leadership qualities to help the young defense mature. James Whittington, a speedy senior who is playing high school football for the first time, is being counted on at cornerback.
"Chad is another strong all-around athlete who is a quiet leader," Luette said. "He doesn't say much on the field, but just goes out and does whatever you ask him to do."
Luette believes that the offensive and defensive lines, a traditional Cavalier strength, will be formidable again.
With Way and Zach Colette back on the offensive line and Joey Nearhoof, Serbelio Quintanilla and Blake Ford expected to contribute on the defensive front, Luette plans to use a two-platoon system in the trenches.
"That may turn out to be the strongest part of our team this year." Luette said. "We have a mix of older and younger guys in there."
If the Cavaliers can post a couple of early-season victories, they will better their chances of playing in week 11.
But South Carroll has one of the toughest early schedules in the state, taking on a recent state champion (Linganore), a perennial playoff team (Patuxent), and defending Class 2A state titlist Middletown before facing an experienced and deep Winters Mill squad in the county opener.
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