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Northeast challenged by losses Eagles to replace 11 starting players


Destiny brought Northeast football coach Bart Rader an All-County linebacker last year.

Disaster took away two starters and any hope of a winning season.

Seniors Derek Dolch (ankle) and Steve Gorski (knee) were felled by season-ending injuries, off-setting the arrival of Lamont Miller from Ohio and forcing Rader to accept a .500 record.

The Eagles had won three of their first four games to equal the previous year's victory total, and thoughts of a playoff berth had begun to swirl over the Pasadena school.

"I thought we'd do better than 5-5," Rader said.

So did his players, many of whom since have departed -- 11 starters in all, including the entire backfield.

"After the injuries, we had to try to turn things around, keep the intensity and not get down about anything," said Chris Kelly, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior. "We had to do the best we could and not let their losses get in the way."

But they did get in the way, as will the losses of the many other starters to graduation. And that's the immediate challenge confronting Rader and his staff.

"We have a long way to go," Rader said. "It'll probably be a fairly tough season for us this year."

It'll go much smoother if senior Michael Carre, a transfer from Sparrows Point, can adequately replace quarterback K.C. Murphy. If not, Rader will turn to either junior Todd O'Brien or sophomore Jeff Dolch.

Finding someone to fill in for Miller, who recorded seven sacks and averaged 5.2 yards a carry, and running mate Charles Hoffman is a dicier proposition. The returnees looking to grind out yardage include Kelly and seniors Tim Bisesi and Alan Grunder.

Grunder, a starter at linebacker, broke his right arm during the first week of practice and will miss the Sept. 4 opener against Chesapeake-Baltimore County.

"The backfield situation is questionable," Rader said. "Kelly is reliable, but the others. . .I couldn't tell you who's going to start."

Whoever gets the call will run behind a "fairly decent" line that Rader said includes a 240-pound guard and two 225-pound tackles.

"But we don't have a big running back," he added.

Kelly played mostly at flanker when Northeast had the ball last season, but he says the transition to halfback has gone "pretty well."

"We're not a 20-, 30-yards-a-carry team," he said. "We just hope to be consistent on offense, and we think we have an offensive line that can do that for us.

"If we can just pound away at a team and get four or five yards a carry, I think we'll be all right."

Northeast will operate out of the familiar wing-T formation, with a little run-and-shoot mixed in.

"We don't run out of it, though, just shoot," Rader said.

The defensive line had two sophomore starters for last Monday's scrimmage against Severn in John Williams and Adrian Spears, and the unit performed better than expected.

"I thought that would be one of our weak points," said assistant coach Mike Cotham.

The schedule almost is identical to last season, so another fast start is possible. And better yet, Rader says, "This should be a team that improves through the year."

That is, unless more injuries wreck the delicate balance of a squad seriously lacking in depth.

Grunder, sporting a cast on his arm, spent the early part of last Tuesday's practice punting the football while his teammates ran laps through the tall grass behind the school.

Kelly checked the tape that held three fingers together on his right hand. He broke the middle finger while lifting weights over the summer, but said it should be fine in another week.

Rader just hopes that his team has met its quota of mishaps, or things won't be fine at Northeast this fall.

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