Lack of depth may be a factor late in football games at Lansdowne High this season, but coach Shaun Murphy is confident the guys he has on the 22-player roster will be there to fill in the gaps as they try and improve on last year’s 3-7 record.
Murphy, in his fifth season as head coach, watched his team finish 3-7 in his first season, before going 1-8 and 0-10 in his next two seasons.
Last year’s victories began with a 38-30 overtime win over Sparrows Point and continued with triumphs over Patapsco, 28-14, and Loch Raven, 38-13, in the season finale.
The veterans returning this season cherished those victories, but not like the previous years.
“They realized they can win and they have that winning mentality they have been striving for,” Murphy said. “We are coming up on my fifth season as coach and it has taken every bit of five seasons to develop that and to get them hungry for it.”
Murphy reminded them last season that winning in no longer a shock.
“After each win I kept telling the kids we are no longer surprised,” he said. “In the past, it was almost like we won the Super Bowl every time we won a game. Last year, we were disappointed when we lost, it wasn’t like it was expected. We expected towin and when we won, we got hungrier for each win and I definitely see it carrying over to this season.”
Two players expected to carry the load offensively are senior co-captains Jerald Hurt and Marcus Sessoms.
Hurt (5-feet, 10 inches, 185 pounds) was the featured back and played linebacker last season and figures to do so again.
“We are very excited about him. He has come back faster and stronger,” Murphy said.
Sophomore Jerrell Simpkins (5-11, 210) will also help in the backfield after recovering from a nagging groin injury.
“He did well for us on defense as a freshman and we are hoping he can produce a little bit more on the offensive side,” said Murphy, who looks to improve the passing game under Sessoms.
Sessoms (6-3, 195) was projected as a tight end last season, but moved to quarterback where he will play this season.
His key threats at wide receiver are seniors Chris Jones (6-1, 195) and Loquan Harrison (5-11, 185). Jones has been in the program four years and Harrison is in his first season.
Junior newcomer Michael Corsey t(6-2, 200) takes over at tight end where Sessoms previously played.
“Sessoms is just an amazing kid. He’s a gym rat in all of his sports,” Murphy said. “He stays here. I have to kick him out of the weight room every single day.”
Sessoms, who was an all-division first team midfielder in only his second season of lacrosse and also played basketball, will be protected by a formidable offensive line, led by senior right tackle Jeremy Mercer (5-11, 210).
“He (Mercer) has been with me for four years and he’s just a great kid,” Murphy said. “He’s one of my hardest workers out there.”
Joining him on the right side of the line is senior guard Anthony Brown (5-7, 205).
“He’s a very gifted football player and wrestler.” Murphy said.
Twins Brian and Brandon Nguyen (both 5-10, 225) bolster the line, along with sophomore center Nico Aries (6-0, 190), a transfer from St. Frances.
“This is probably one of the best lines I’ve ever had,” said Murphy, noting a first-year senior could also be in the mix. “We got a surprise addition in Hugo Lopez (6-2, 215), who came out as a senior and had never played football before and he has just been a man-child.
It’s fun coaching him because he’s got no bad habits because he’s never played before.”
The dedication of the returning veterans have already impressed the coach.
“The focus has been there, through summer lifting, through seven on seven, through the bond that these kids have and even though we don’t have a lot of depth they have each other’s back,” Murphy said. “We’ve been trying to develop that family concept ever since I started here and it really has shown in this group and it’s been amazing. They embodied that concept.”
The rest of the squad includes seniors Jaquan Bryant (RB, LB), Ethan Cichorz (OL, DL), Charles McNeil (WR, CB), Caleb Murphy (TE, DE), Deonte Cole (WR, LB) and Peyton Collins (WR, CB), junior Ryan Rent (C, DL), sophomores Citadel Anyoha (WR, RB, CB) and Josh Johnson (WR, CB) and freshman Lorenzo Tippins (FB, DL).