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High school football 2014: Colonial League capsule previews

BANGOR

Coach: Donnie Hawk, 2nd season (3-7)

Last Year: 3-7 overall, 3-7 Colonial

Impact Players: Sr. RB/LB Sean Wolderich; Jr. RB/LB Cam Strohe; Sr. QB Mike Hlatkey; Sr. TE/DE Josh Williams; Sr. OL/DT Bruce Lemon; Sr. OL/Dt Trevor Abl; Sr. OL/DT Eli Vough; So. RB/DB Salvaughn Voss; Sr. TE/LB Dallas Labar.

Bye team: Northern Lehigh

Biggest question: How quickly will the Slaters embrace running the Single-Wing offense full-time?

Outlook: Hawk believes in this new offense and seems to have the personnel up front to run it. What he doesn't have is an experienced backfield behind them. There will be growing pains, but Bangor worked hard over the summer to adapt to the new system. The Slaters should compete for a .500 season and a potential postseason berth and might not be a team you want to see in the final month of the season.

CATASAUQUA

Coach: Phil Dorn, 1st season (8th season overall, 23-49)

Last Year: 13-2 overall, 9-1 Colonial (Colonial co-champs, District 11 2A champs, lost to Imhotep Charter 49-0 in PIAA quarterfinals)

Impact Players: Sr. OG/LB Satchal Stauffer, Sr. WR/DB Ricky Houser. Sr. QB/DB Brandon Keks; Jr. QB/DB Cristian Burker; Sr. WR/LB Jake Kober; Sr. K Joe Harakal..

Bye team: Pen Argyl

Biggest question: How do you stay competitive after losing four all-state players, including the area's player of the year (quarterback Zack Bradley) and 20 of 22 starters?

Outlook: The Rough Riders won 33 games over the last three years, 25 in the past two, but the vast majority of those players have moved on to college — Stauffer and Houser are the only returning starters. From the day he was hired, Dorn has told his players that "every great program graduates great seniors," and challenged this year's seniors to be the "next class that everyone talks about." The reality is, however, that a collection of talent as Catasauqua had the last few years doesn't come along very often, especially at a smaller school. The Roughies will play hard, but with a lot of inexperienced, unproven players, they're likely in for a rough time this season.

NORTHERN LEHIGH

Coach: Joe Tout, 9th season (60-32)

Last Year: 2-8 overall, 2-8 Colonial

Impact Players: Jr. T/DT Cameron Kates; Sr. TB/DB Nate Farber; Sr. RB/LB Austin Arnold; Jr. RB/LB Austin Lancs; Jr. QB/LB Chad Cedarburg; Sr. OL/DL Stephen Scheib; Sr. OL/DL Keith Schmidt; Jr. OL/LB Ethan Caldwell; Jr. TE/DE Brandon Smith

Bye team: Bangor

Biggest question: Will the sophomores who were forced to play last year due to injuries keep developing?

Outlook: The Bulldogs suffered through an injury-plagued 2013 season, but the silver lining is that the sophomores that Tout was forced to use are a year ahead in their development. With a 1,000-yard back (Farber) and four returning offensive linemen (plus the tight end), the Northern Lehigh running game should be strong. Cedarburg, one of those injured last year, is back at quarterback and has experience at the lower levels. As excited as he is about the offense, Tout believes defense will be this team's main strength. It sounds as though the Bulldogs will be back in the league and playoff scramble.

NORTHWESTERN

Coach: Josh Snyder, 3rd season (12-10)

Last Year: 9-3 overall, 7-3 Colonial (beat North Schuylkill 19-18 in Eastern Conference Class 2A championship)

Impact Players: Sr. WR/DB Cam Richardson; Sr. QB/LB Frank Dangello; Jr. RB/LB Harry Hull; Jr. OL/DL Chet Karpyn; Jr. RB/DB Dylan Snyder; Jr. OT/DT Chris Trumbauer; Sr. WR/LB Taylor Breininger; Sr. C/DE Jason Pechacek.

Bye team: Palisades

Biggest question: Can the Tigers build on last year's success and handle the role of being the hunted this year in the Colonial League?

Outlook: When asked to pick the best teams in the league this year, nearly every coach began with Northwestern. The Tigers return one of the most balanced offenses behind Hull and Dangello, an explosive playmaker on both sides in Richardson, and an experienced offensive line. But everybody will be gunning for Northwestern, beginning with a Week 1 battle with improving Notre Dame. Barring injuries, however, the Tigers will be playing in the postseason and very possibly as league champions.

NOTRE DAME

Coach: Chuck Muller, 6th season (13-37)

Last Year: 5-5 overall, 5-5 Colonial

Impact Players: Sr. RB/DB Trey Watson; So. RB/DB Mitch Daniel; Sr. RB/DB Kyle Arrington; Sr. QB/DB Nike Brotzman; Jr. QB Nike Basenese; Sr. C/LB Scott Maldonado; Sr. DE Josh Holloway; Jr. DT/OL Cody Georges; So. QB Drew Harris; WR/LB Mike Peapos Jr.; Jr. FB/LB Trevon Jordan.

Bye team: Southern Lehigh

Biggest question: How quickly will the line, as well as several newcomers, mesh together?

Outlook: Notre Dame has been steadily improving since back-to-back winless seasons in 2008/2009, and Muller said the program is past the point where it just wants to be competitive. The addition of Arrington from Bethlehem Catholic gives the Crusaders a dangerous trio of running backs, and Muller expects one of the three quarterbacks, including two newcomers (Brotzman and Basenese), to step up. The biggest concern is up front, where the line is big but also untested. If the linemen come through, Notre Dame could be a dangerous team to deal with.

PALISADES

Coach: Kevin Ronalds, 3rd season (14-9; 13th season overall, 48-78)

Last Year: 8-4 overall, 7-3 Colonial (lost to Catasauqua 54-28 in District 11 Class 2A championship)

Impact Players: Sr. RB/LB Christian Gretzinger; Sr. QB/DB Nick Sanders; Sr. OL/DL Wyatt Schilling; Jr. WR/DB Blake Cassalia; Sr. WR/DB Devin Ramsden; Jr. QB/DB Austin Krauss.

Bye team: Northwestern

Biggest question: Can Gretzinger and the Pirates stay healthy enough to challenge for the title and a playoff spot?

Outlook: Gretzinger led the area in carries last year with 277 and ran for nearly 1,600 yards, so that's a nice building block offensively. Krauss and Sanders were battling through the summer for the quarterback job, but Ronalds said both will be on the field no matter who wins the spot. The Pirates have 15 freshman on their 39-man roster, and injuries could force some of them to contribute quickly. Although there's just one returning starting offensive lineman, many of the rest have experience. Defensively, the Pirates have an experienced secondary but need to develop up front. As long as Gretzinger remains upright, Palisades should be in the playoff and title hunts.

PALMERTON

Coach: Chris Walkowiak, 4th season (6-24)

Last Year: 2-8 overall, 2-8 Colonial

Impact Players: Sr. LB/RB Tre Nelson; Sr. WR/DB Domonic Shiavone; Sr. WR/DB Jerry Pereira; Sr. G/DE Tyler Rodgers; Jr. QB/LB Zach Buck; So. QB/DB Garrett Pershey; Sr. C/DE Jake Horn; Jr. OL/DL Jericho Berger; Jr. RB/DE Ray Washington; So. RB/LB Mike Stasko; SJr. WR/DB Nick Sander; Sr. OL/LB Evan Tayntor; Sr. OL/DL Matt Semmel.

Bye team: Saucon Valley.

Biggest question: Will the Blue Bombers be physical enough and disciplined enough to compete for 48 minutes with the better teams in the league?

Outlook: Palmerton's skill players are held in high regard in the league, and the Bombers have size up front and experience all around. Nelson is one of the best two-way players in the league. Walkowiak has harped on focus, execution and discipline this summer — he wants the Bombers to be more consistent on offense, protect the football, and be stronger in the face of adversity. If the Bombers can do that, they should be competing for their first playoff berth since 2008.

PEN ARGYL

Coach: Paul Reduzzi, 8th season (52-30; 127-78 overall)

Last Year: 7-4 overall, 7-3 Colonial (lost to Catasauqua 41-14 in District 11 Class 2A semifinals)

Impact Players: Sr. WR/DB Chris Muller; Sr. TE/DE Alex Bartleson; So. QB/DB Logan Ruppert; Jr. WR/DB James Klinger; Sr. OL/LB Jacob Krincek; Sr. OL/DB Zak Ruppert; So. RB/DE Austin Heisler; Sr. RB/LB Ryan Silvius; Sr. WR/DB Tanner Fehr; So. OL/DL Chris Lawson.

Bye team: Catasauqua

Biggest question: How quickly will a young offensive line jell around three-year starter Zak Ruppert?

Outlook: The Knights offense is in transition from a Single-Wing to the more-common multiple single read, and Reduzzi is giving a sophomore the keys to the new car. Even with the losses of offensive sparks Mike DePaolo, Ryan Hunt and Nick Oyer, Reduzzi believes his offense will be just as effective as it was a year ago. The Green Knights have been to the playoffs five straight years and "rebuilding" is a nasty word in the locker room. Reduzzi expects to compete for a district berth, and chances are that's just where Pen Argyl will be in October.

SALISBURY

Coach: Andy Cerco, 3rd season (3-17)

Last Year: 2-8 overall, 2-8 Colonial

Impact Players: Sr. FB/LB Teddy Denver; Jr. OL/DL Alex Nicholas; Jr. OL/DL Brett Sonntag; Jr. WR/MLB Mason Donaldson; Jr. G/NT Brenden Diaz; So. OL/DE Blake Anthony; Jr. OL/DL Isaac Rivera; Jr. TE/LB Kyle Hartzell; Jr. QB Tevon Weber.

Bye team: Wilson

Biggest question: Will the running game improve enough to balance Weber's passing?

Outlook: Weber threw for over 1,000 yards in basically four games last year, so the Falcons should be able to fly through the air. The running game was basically non-existent last year because of injuries up front, and Cerco is hoping the line holds up better this season. Salisbury went from one win to two in Cerco's second season. "Progress is progress," Cerco said. "If we get three this year, that's wonderful." Cerco and the Falcons want more, but the task is still about trying to lay a foundation.

SAUCON VALLEY

Coach: Matt Evancho, 8th season (37-39)

Last Year: 9-3 overall, 7-3 Colonial (beat Wilkes-Barre Coughlin 50-49 in Eastern Conference Class 3A championship)

Impact Players: Jr. TE/DE Mike Kane; Jr. RB/DB Evan Culver; Sr. RB/LB Stephen Herbold; So. RB/LB Devin Fontanez; Jr. RB/LB Mike Paolini; Jr. QB/DB Zach Thatcher; Jr. WR/DB Nate Harka; Sr. WR/DB Chris Megan; So. WR/DB Kory Kemmerer; Sr. WR/DB Justin Propsher.

Bye team: Palmerton

Biggest question: What kind of performance on both sides of the line of scrimmage will the Panthers have?

Outlook: You don't lose the school's first 2,000-yard rusher (Nick Savant) and a 1,000-yard passer (Keith Mosher) without some sort of drop-off offensively. Evancho said the Panthers will be spreading the load around, but It all depends on the line up front. On the other side, three of the five returning defensive starters are in the secondary, so that should be a strength. But again, it's what's up front that's going to be a concern. Evancho said the expectation is to be playing a more meaningful game in Week 11 than the contingency game scheduled with Quakertown; the Panthers may have to settle for that this year.

SOUTHERN LEHIGH

Coach: John Toman, 9th season (52-38)

Last Year: 10-2 overall, 9-1 Colonial (Colonial co-champs; lost to Bethlehem Catholic 27-24 in overtime in District 11 Class 3A championship)

Impact Players: Sr. QB/DB Travis Edmond; Sr. TE/DE Chad Heffelfinger; Jr. WR/DB Ethan Price; Sr. WR/DB Matt Watkins; Sr. RB/DB Brycen Holland; Sr. RB/DB Austin Hughes; So. RB/DB Timmy Walter; Sr. OL/DL Matt Long; Jr. FB/LB Dylan Niedhalski.

Bye team: Notre Dame

Biggest question: How quickly can the two big gaps on both sides of the ball — the offensive line and the linebackers — develop into a cohesivie unit?

Outlook: Having the league's top returning quarterback (Edmond) is a nice place to start defending a championship. He will need to find a new go-to guy (Heffelfinger?) now that Jake DelPiore has graduated. Ryan is the only returning regular on the offensive line, and Niedhalski the only returning linebacker with significant experience. Still, Toman has bult a program that can seemingly sustain graduation hits (the JV team was unbeaten last year), and with Northwestern as the consensus preseason favorite, there's little pressure on the Spartans. That Week 7 showdown with the Tigers could determine the league title.

WILSON

Coach: Matt Senneca, 1st season

Last Year: 0-10 overall, 0-10 Colonial

Impact Players: Sr. RB/DB Nick Labatch; So. QB/DB Michael Glovas; Sr. RB/DB Rashaan Herbert; Sr. OL/DL Zach Bergstresser; Sr. WR/OLB Nick Arcury; Sr. OL/LB Jahid Beamon; Jr. WR/LB Jaykwon Jefferson; Jr. TE/LB Mike Fabian; Sr. LB/LB Logan Murray; Jr. QB/DB Nick Maston.

Bye team: Salisbury

Biggest question: How quickly can Wilson adapt to Senneca's new offensive and defensive systems?

Outlook: Senneca took on one of the most challenging tasks in the area. Just four years after an undeated league championship, the Warriors suffered their first winless season last year, and have won just five games over the past three seasons. But Senneca is focusing on the future, not the past, and expects to see improvement. Given the depth the league seems to have this year, Wilson may be lucky if that improvement produces a win or two. But even that's a start back up the ladder.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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