Numbers, expectations rising for Pallotti football

The numbers suggest that second-year St. Vincent Pallotti coach Rick Peacock seems to have his team headed in a positive direction.

The Panthers' roster of 40 players is twice as many as they played with in a few games last season when they struggled to a 3-7 record.

Pallotti also returns veteran junior quarterback Bree Hart and who will be joined in the backfield by senior running back KJ Jernigan, a transfer from DeMatha.

Jernigan gives the running game a boost and increases the chances for the squad to be competitive in the five-team Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference.

"We are legitimately talking about a championship," Peacock said. "Last year, we (the coaching staff) got here late and played the cards we were dealt. We didn't get a chance to have a recruiting class come in. This year, we have a lot of guys what will be able to make contributions. We've had offseason workouts. It's a whole different vibe."

Hart (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) is equally adept at firing the ball down field and taking off when the pocket collapses.

The Pallotti coaching staff expects him to take a big step forward.

"Last year, as a sophomore, he made some great plays and made some mistakes," Peacock said. "This year, we want the game to come to him and take what the defense is giving us. We are just asking him to manage the game and be captain of the ship."

Pallotti bid farewell to Julian Mealy (Clarion University) and two others who split time in the backfield, so the addition of Jernigan is welcomed.

Jernigan gives the Panthers a big-play threat they lacked last season.

"He is a great leader and a hard-nosed kid," Peacock said. "He brings a work ethic and attitude from DeMatha that they have over there. It's rubbing off on a lot of players.

"He will give us a much-needed spark in what we are trying to do," he added. "Our goal is for him to be a 1,000-yard rusher."

Hart and Jernigan will be working behind an offensive line that boasts senior tackle Pete Grenchik (6-4, 310), senior center Rudy Garcia (6-2, 225), junior tackle Jeff Butler (6-4, 265), junior guard Chris Mullins (6-1, 270) and junior guard Gion Whittington (6-1, 240), a transfer from DeMatha.

Talented freshman Mason Clark (6-4, 220) arrived as a wide receiver threat.

"He is a great catch for our program," Peacock said. "We don't normally get guys like him. He was recruited my DeMatha, McDonogh and Good Counsel. He is certainly a Division I-type of kid with his size."

Junior wide receivers Demetri Buggs (6-0, 170) and Deron Smith (5-8, 160), a transfer from Bishop McNamara, senior running back Kevin Holmes (5-5, 170) and sophomore tight end Rob Colvin (6-1, 215) give the Panthers more weapons.

On defense last season, Pallotti allowed a whopping 320 points.

New defensive coordinator Ben Chroniger decrease those numbers with a 4-3 scheme.

"A lot of that was the kids being tired," Peacock said of all the points allowed. "Some of it was the kids not lining up correctly and giving up big plays, which I don't think will be the case this year."

The defensive line is the unit's most experienced area and features Garcia, Colvin, senior Goose Santoro (6-1, 275) and Mullins.

The young linebacking corps includes freshmen Chase Young (6-1, 210) and James Patterson (5-11, 200) and sophomore Justin Mulbah (6-1, 190).

Buggs, Holmes, junior Devin Jiggetts (5-8, 165) and Patterson's twin brother Jaret Patterson (5-11, 160) comprise the secondary.

"Our aggressiveness, attitude and discipline is miles ahead of last year," Peacock said.

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