NEast Philly contributors Pat McNally and Bill Achuff will have continuing coverage of the high school football previews for the 2009 season. First up is the public league. Below are stats and key elements for the four major public teams in the Northeast.
Click below for coach and player information, plus records from last year.
GEORGE WASHINGTON EAGLES
Coach: Ron Cohen Final Record: 4-0 league, 10-2 overall (Beat Northeast in triple overtime for dist. 12 championship, beat LaSalle for first city title since 1979, lost to Liberty in AAAA playoffs) 334 PF, 172 PA
Key players lost: O lineman James Luckey, Kicker Will McFillin, d linemen Bryant Davis and Waverly Harris, d back Jamal Williams, RB Kessan Christopher Key Players returning: O lineman Sharrif Floyd, End James Fowler, QB Aaron Wilmer, linebacker Martin Haynes
Offense: Quarterback Aaron Wilmer threw 17 touchdown passes last year, but many of his targets are gone. Most notable is All-Public end James Fowler, who is battling physical problems due to an accident. Because of his injuries, he is projected as the team’s starting guard. Another All-Public player expected to make an impact, running back Kessan Christopher, has transferred. The last remaining receiver, Tom Marano, is no longer playing on the team. Nate Smith, English Peay and Martin Haynes will be Wilmer’s main targets, but will have to learn on the job.
The Eagles will still have a very good offensive line. Senior Center Hafuz Tahiraj will be surrounded by Fowler and All-Public lineman Sharrif Floyd. Tackles Adel Kanan and Shawn Fleet are new starters, but have experience. The tight end will be Brandon Chudnoff.
Defense: Floyd and Kanin will be the anchors on the inside line “They are big and tough,” Cohen said. Chudnoff and in Haynes will play defensive end. Fowler is expected to contribute at linebacker, along with Vernon Dupree. The defensive backs are a young group, with junior Daquan Cooper, “Seasoned sophomore” Nate Smith (4 interceptions in 2008), Peay and Elliot Leonard.
Cohen is hoping that a soccer player with very little experience will turn out to be the kicker he needs to replace Will McFillin. Nate Smith will handle the punting.
Forecast: The Eagles took a huge unexpected hit when Fowler was injured and Christopher transferred. But with tough line play, they will be hard to beat. Mistakes and a lack of offense resulted in a 16-0 loss to Parkland last week. But Cohen always gets his guys to play smart football as the season progresses. Look for them to once again be in the mix.
In an interesting twist, Cohen has added two new coaches to his team. Long-time offensive coach John McInterny has retired, and his replacement comes from the exiting coaching staff of Archbishop Ryan. Will McFillin will take over the offense. In another interesting note, Cohen has also been receiving help from former Raiders head coach Glen Galeone.
Coach: Mike Capriotti FINAL RECORD 3-1 league, 9-3 overall (lost to Northeast in Playoffs, 3-0) 250 PF, 59 PA
Key Players lost to graduation/transfer: Defensive Lineman Akeem Smith (all Public), Center Elvis Diaz (All Public
Key Players returning: Linebacker Taron Mills (All Public)
Offense: The loss of Center Elvis Diaz, who moved to New Jersey, leaves a big hole in the offensive line for the Pioneers. Moving from tackle to center will be Javon Smith. Starting at guard will be junior Brendon Russell, who saw some time last year, as well as Edwin Burgos. Sophomore Aaron Allison will play one tackle, with senior Taheed Smith as the anchor. “He’s my big guy,” Capriotti said of Smith.
Mike McGroarty saw limited action at quarterback last year, passing for only 177 yards and two touchdowns. But Capriotti has seen a lot of improvement, and has high hopes. The running backs will be Tyrell Martin and Tayron Mills, with Zaire Anderson at fullback. The receiving corps will be led by Terrell Allen and Jay Perulty.
Defense: Allison, Russell and Shawn Johnson will play the line, backed up by inside linebackers Tahron Mills and sophomore Geofferon Phillipe, who played on the Frankford Chargers’ national championship team.
“He gets it,” Capriotti said of Phillipe. “He understands football.” Burgess will also see time at linebacker, with Curtis King and Kahleel Dickerson manning the outside. Defensive backs are Martin, Jair Nixon at safety and Trayvon Mays at the other corner.
“I like this team’s work ethic,” Capriotti said. “I’m hoping that the veterans will lead.”
Forecast: If last week’s 7-0 loss to Hatboro-Horsham is any indication, Frankford should have a difficult time scoring points. But the defense looks ready for action, and that could be the key to the Pioneers’ fortunes.
Coach: Chris Reilly Last season: 7-5 overall, 2-2 league (lost to G. Washington in Dist. 12 class AAAA finals, 41-34 in three overtimes)
Key Players lost to graduation: receiver Je’Ron Stokes, running back James Rosseau, Kicker Tim Freiling, Defensive Lineman Anthony Nieves, linebacker Antoine Fowler
Key Players returning: Offensive lineman Maciej Mazur
Offense: Quarterback: Malik Stokes passed for over 1,300 yards last year, including a school record 243 yards against Father Judge last year. It will be tough to match that total this year, with the loss of All-Public receiver Je’Ron Stokes. On the line, All-Public player Maciej Mazur will be joined up with fellow returnee Jerome Brown. Rashan Fligh and Marquis Edwards, both transfers to Northeast, will compliment the rebuilt line. At receiver, much will be expected of Eric Brundidge, who gained over 200 yards last year, but only contributed two touchdowns. Dion Barnes is the tight end, but only caught two passes last year. Tyleel Taylor gained over 500 yards last year, at running back, and will take over the brunt of the rushing plays. Max Camille saw limited action, but should contribute more this season.
Defense: Dion Barnes will lead at defensive end, with Camille at linebacker. Taylor and Brundidge will anchor the defensive backfield.
Forecast: Stokes looked sharp in a loss last week to Norristown, contributing three touchdowns – one a pass and two runs. Reilly is a rookie head coach, but he has a lot of experience. The Vikings should once again be a major player in the Public League.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN RAILSPLITTERS
Coach: Gene Kelly FINAL RECORD 2-2 league, 7-5 overall 172 PF, 186 PA
Key Players lost: RB Amin Shabazz, Dlineman Rasaan Hanner Key Players Returning: QB Joe McCausland, receiver Omar Black, Olineman Hakeem Cooper
Offense: Seven players come back on offense, but the Railsplitters also lost starting center Mike McGlatchin to injury. Quarterback Joe McCausland and running back Omar Black still have a pretty good line to protect them, with tackles Michael Page and William Baldwin, guards Greg Patterson and John Ferarra and center Steve Torry. Hakeem Cooper is the new tight end, and Dylan Gallagher is a two-year starter at receiver.
Defense: Most of the offensive linemen will flip over on defense. Five linebackers start for Lincoln – Cooper, Black, Dan Flores, Obed Lopez and Ollie Baxter. Gallagher, Shawn Banks, Hakeem Marcette and Ernesto Garcia will play the backfield positions.
Special Teams: Florez can punt and kick, but McCausland can also punt and could be used as a decoy. Mike Rendondo will handle kickoffs and extra points.
Forecast: Lincoln had a winning season last year, and Gene Kelly will call this season his last as a head coach. A class individual, it would be great to see Kelly fare well in the PL White Division. Despite an opening 12-7 loss to Dobbins, McCausland and Black showed that they are ready to keep the Railsplitters competitive.