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The Greater Catholic League’s North Division is like a like a volcano, spewing lava that’s getting ready to erupt.
The Alter Knights have dominated for the last two seasons winning back-to-back Division IV state titles. Now, it is the other schools that are ready to be a part of the explosion.
There were many underclassmen that made significant marks for Carroll, Chaminade-Julienne and Bishop Fenwick in 2009.
Will all four teams make the playoffs is less of a question than who will win the conference title? Who wins the title may not be the team that turns in the deepest post-season run.
Here is a complete overview of the GCL North:
Division IV, Region 16
Head Coach: Ed Domsitz (243-131 overall record)
2009 Record: 15-0, 7-0 GCL (Division IV State Champions)
Overview: What can you do for an encore? The Alter Knights have set the bar pretty high for themselves and everyone else who follows. With 28 straight wins, the loss of 13 senior starters and riding back-to-back Division IV State Championships it is going to be awfully hard for the 2010 squad to rise to those standards.
“We should be strong and quick,” longtime head coach Ed Domsitz stated. “We have a good nucleus returning on offense.”
It all begins under center with senior quarterback Zane Pitzer. He ran for 938 yards and 21 touchdowns while leading the Knights to an undefeated season, as a junior. Running back Justin Winters chipped in with another 832 yards on the ground. Matt Hurtubise adds depth to the backfield. Joe Thuney and Jimmy Hess will be asked to provide leadership to a young and inexperienced line.
On defense there are plenty of concerns. The Knights will be hard pressed to match last year’s team performance in allowing just 6.6 points per contest. Linemen Dylan Ames and Billy Eisenhauer are seasoned veterans. The secondary is also solid with Teddy Link, TJ Dorow and Colin Cochran, all who are capable of giving foes multiple looks from their positions. Alter has lost two linebackers to the University of Wisconsin the past two years. Finding players as gifted as Chris Borland and Cody Byers to fill that position will be coach team’s biggest challenge.
Division III, Region 12
Head Coach: Andy Helms (70-45 overall)
2009 Record: 8-3, 5-2
Overview: A young Eagles’ squad surprised everybody last year when they made the playoffs for the first time in four years. This season things will be different, foes will be hunting them down. With the loss of 12 starters things won’t be easy for this squad. Nevertheless nobody wants to see this talented group on their schedule.
Defensive standouts Donovan Layne, Darrien Howard and Marco Gresham will return to lead a defense that only allowed 9.1 points a game last year. Layne and Gresham are terrors in the secondary. The duo combined for five fumble recoveries and three interceptions in ’09. The play of Darian Reynolds could make this a fearsome backfield. Howard, a sophomore, has greatness written all over him. Justin Vaughn will be even better after playing next to him for a year. Pressure begins up front with big men J.T. Johnson and Jarred Jones. Depth will be a huge issue early on and that could make or break the Eagles.
The skill players that return on offense are as good as they get. Junior quarterback Mike Simpson threw for 1,588 yards, 14 touchdowns and just eight interceptions as a sophomore. He loses three of his top four receivers, but senior Tim Szabo is back after averaging 22.4 yards on 21 receptions. Bringing balance to the attack is running back Aaron Stokes, who is coming off 901-yard, eight-touchdown campaign. On the line Lee Hollis, Jeremiah Sutton and Tony Bishop return, yet there are two very huge holes to fill up front.
Kicker Dillon Lett could be the x-factor in close games. He had five field goals the first five weeks of ’09, but none after that.
Division II, Region 8
Head Coach: Steve Bartlett (165-91)
2009 Record: 6-4, 5-2
Overview: The Carroll Patriots look for a trip back to the playoffs for the first time in three years. It’s a place where they had been eight of the previous nine seasons under head coach Steve Bartlett. This team is loaded and deep, so getting back to Week 11 and beyond is very feasible.
The cornerstone of the offense is big 6-foot-3, 300 pound lineman, Neil Cates, a Third-Team All-Ohio performer a year ago. Classmate Joe Londergan solidifies a formidable frontline. Quarterback Kevin Seals is back for his second year under center. The backfield of Alex Wolodkiewicz and Quentin Steverson provides a great one-two punch. Wolodkiewicz ran for 762 yards and seven scores in ’09. Senior receiver Matt Fornshil is an integral part of stretching the defense. He finished his junior year strong with nine catches for 203 yards and two scores over the team’s last three games.
Defensively Kyle Johnson continues to get better each week. With Wes Kohler and Jamison Espino flanking him that trend should continue. Down on the line is First-Team All-GCL North performer, Ben Lange along with Ryan Blanford, Aaron Richardson and Tommy Willis. Blanford led the team with 3.5 sacks last year.
BISHOP FENWICK FALCONS
Division IV, Region 16
Head Coach: Fred Cranford (14-26)
2009 Record: 5-5, 2-5
Overview: The Falcons started out 5-0 in ’09 before dropping their last five tilts. The team was in all of those games, but couldn’t make it over the hump. Or did they?
Fifth-year head coach Fred Cranford has his players and program playing with improved confidence. This year he is presented with one of his biggest challenges yet in replacing a talent group of senior leaders, who were major contributors on both sides of the ball.
The most established commodity in the Falcons’ offense is running back Joey Robertson. He will be looked upon to carry the load. With 1,405 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in 20 varsity games the only thing left to question is his durability. He has only carried the ball more than 18 times in a game once in his career. Also back are Jimmy Turvey, Stephen Munafo and Zach Kurtz, who combined to catch 52 balls for 646 yards and two touchdowns. Line and quarterback play will need to step up for this team to be successful.
The core on defense of Nick Marchetti, Garrett Wyatt, Marty Austing, Patrick Crane, Jace Tincher, Kurtz, and Munafo proved they could get it done in ’09. The group had 8.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and six interceptions between them. Crane led the way with four picks.
Stamina will be the key for the Falcons. They were outscored by more than 10 points per game down the stretch after outscoring their opponents by 17 during their five-game win streak to start the season.
Greg is a co-founder of TSF and is now entering his ninth season as a Featured Analyst for the website. The Xavier University grad also serves as the Content Manager for the website and is widely considered one of the top high school football experts in the region. If you are interested in covering your team, please CONTACT US.