Football

Central League 2022 Season Preview

 

Written by: Alec Eskin on Tuesday, August 16th, 2022

 

The Central League has had quite a few teams go far in the last few years. For instance, the Garnet Valley Jaguars won the District One Title, including runs to the final four of District One the last five years (excluding the 2020 year due to COVID), as well as the Ridley Green Raiders making it to the District One Semifinal Round. The Garnet Valley Jaguars are currently the four-time defending Central League Champions but are going to face some steep competition from the rest of the Central League. Conestoga, Ridley, and some other teams in the Central League could give them a run for their money. Let’s take a look at what each team in the Central League brings to the table. . .

Marple Newtown

Lets start off in 5A where the Marple Newtown Tigers are coming off of an 8-4 regular season where they had the District One 5A playoffs but would eventually lose in the first round to the eventual District One 5A Champion Strath Haven Panthers. They are led by head coach They lost star running back Charlie Box, Eric McKee, and Matt Cantwell. However, they retained starting quarterback David Bertoline and have a lot of depth in the program. Marple has had a lot of success over the last five years and looks to be in contention for a wide open Central League this year.

Penncrest

The Penncrest Lions are coming off of a rough season to say the least, finishing 1-9 in the regular season with their only win coming against Harriton. The Lions are led by head coach Paul Graham who took over the head coaching duties after Ryan Smith resigned mid-season last year. Notable losses are Nick Chelo, Jerry Coia, Jimmy Cage, and Connor McCarney. This summer, former Garnet Valley defensive coordinator Jeff Allison joined the Lions in the same position, Graham’s last assignment before becoming head coach. This team will have a long way to go to be in contention in the Central League and in District One 5A.

Returning players: Dom Deluca, OL/DL, 6’3, 275 lbs., ’23 Sean O’Donnell, QB/FS, 6’0, 185 lbs., ’23 Matt Ferry, FB/OLB, 6’0, 185 lbs., ’24 Liam Gilmore, WR/CB, 5’10, 150 lbs., ’24 Dan Le, OL/DL, 5’8, 200 lbs., ’24

“We have an extremely tight knit senior class that is full of leaders that we are very excited for going into this season. A senior class of high character kids that has stuck together, pushing this program in the direction it needs to go in all off season. We also return a plethora of athletes all over the field on both sides of the football that got ample time last year. We had a tremendous off season, changing how we do things every step of the way, and are excited to take the field this fall” said Graham.

Radnor

The Radnor Raptors struggled mightily last year, ending up with a 3-7 regular season record when all was said and done. The Raptors are led by brand new head coach Kyle Yieter after his portage Tom Ryan resigned in January. Yeiter will definitely look to get this team on a roll after the last few years under Ryan. Their notable losses are CJ Murphy, Damian Falcone, and Jack Condran.  Matthew Szychulski, Dominick Laudicina, Connor Eustice, Aidan Roselle are going to be big returns for the Raptors and will definitely bolster their roster for the 2022 season.

Springfield

Springfield was the last team to win the Central League title before Garnet Valley in 2017. But since then, they have not been the same kind of team. The Cougars are led by head coach Chris Britton. Last year, they made it into the first round of the 5A District One Playoffs before losing to Unionville. Their notable losses this year are Nate Cain and Rob Longo. The Cougars could potentially be a dark horse candidate to do damage in 5A this year if their younger players develop and the upper-class players perform like they did in the past year.

Returning: Sr QB Jake Rama, Sr RB Bryan Minnott, Jr RB Tyler Gougler, Sr WR Aidan Kreydt, Sr WR Mike O’Donnell, Sr OT Tyler Klambara,Jr DT Gus Bryan, Jr LB Ethan Marshall, Jr OLB Ryan Johnston and Sr OLB Jack Lemon

Britton says “Having a balanced attack will be important to be competitive in our league. Focusing on fundamentals in all three phases and playing selfless, and as a team is crucial to success early.”

Upper Darby

Now, moving into the 6A section of the Central League, the Upper Darby Royals have been having some troubles over the last two years. Last year, the Royals finished 5-5 in the regular season and just missed the 6A playoffs. They are led by head coach Dave Barr. He is going into his third year in this position after his predecessor Rich Gentille was fired and caused a negative reaction in the Upper Darby community. Their notable losses are Julien Laventure and Covenant Horace. A notable return for the Royals is Montez Ellis. They will look to improve on their 5-5 regular season and get back to the District One 6A Playoffs.

Lower Merion

The Lower Merion Aces made an improvement last year, finishing with a record of 3-7 during the regular season. They beat Harriton, Penncrest, and Pottstown. The Aces are led by head coach Joe Augustine, who has been on the job for a few years. The Aces notable losses are Andre Gilmore II, Paul Liang, and Jay Zheng. Their notable returns are Xavier Archawski OT 6’6 285lbs Sr., Charlie Coyle LB/FB 6’2 210lbs Sr, Sam Zheng 5’10 190lbs WR/CB Sr. Mekhia Smith QB 6’1 190lbs Jr, Ben Booker 5’11 210lbs RB/LB Jr, Andrew Cook 5’10 240lbs LB Jr and Aidan Fliszar 6’1 195lbs TE/LB Sr.

Said coach Augustine: “We are very excited for this year, we have a lot of talented kids who have really stepped up and grew our program. We have grown and improved each year and we look to continue this year.” 

Conestoga

The Conestoga Pioneers have been steadily improving for the last four years and made the District One 6A Playoffs for the first time in five years before losing to Ridley in the first round after playing them the previous week. Coach Diamond says “Coming off a 7-3 regular season and PIAA District 1 Playoff Birth, the Pioneers look to carry that momentum into the 2022 season. Conestoga will rely on a strong defensive line and an experienced defense to pave the way. Offensively, the Pioneers will look to be balanced in the run game to help set up the pass. “

The Pioneers have steadily improved over the last four years and made a giant leap last year, finishing 7-3 from 3-7 in 2019. They are led by up-and-coming head coach Matt Diamond going into his fifth year on the job. Conestoga returns 10 players with starting experience.  Their notable losses this year are Calvin Shirley and Christian Lariviere. Their notable returns this year are Brody Eaton – DE/TE, Bryce Beltrante – DB/WR, Jake Allred, Jon Quici – RB/LB, Jimmy Marturano, Drew Mershel – OL/DL, Jeremy Friend, Colin McGrath – OL/DL, Tommy Costigan – WR/LB & Peter Costigan QB/LB

Ridley

The Ridley Green Raiders are being picked this year as the favorites to win the Central League after the large amount of success they had last year. They finished second in the Central League last year, made it to the District One Semifinals while upsetting the number two seeded North Penn Knight, and have many returning starters. They are led by head coach Dave Wood, entering his seventh year of coaching. Their offense was led by now senior quarterback Johnny Heller, going to Eastern University and Tahir Mills, who is now a freshman at East Stroudsburg. Those are their only notable losses.

Coach Woods Thoughts:

2022 offensive outlook: we have 4 out of 5 starters back on the offensive line along with 3 other players that saw a lot of time on the ol. we have great depth at the wr position and a couple of rb’s back that had a good amount of carries for us. our te is also back and we have created some off-season depth at that position too. our qb is only a soph, but did see action in varsity games last year. the biggest questions will be who takes over the number 1 rb position and how quickly our qb takes control of the offense. 2022

defensive outlook: 3 out of 4 secondary kids are back along with all 4 of our starting linebackers from a year ago. we have two starters back up front with another couple of players that saw a good amount of time last year. our biggest question will be how physical can we get in the running game and creating more turnovers in the secondary. the ultimate goal is to eliminate the big plays and hold teams to field goals.

2022 special teams outlook:  other than the kicker we lost, everyone else is coming back on special teams — punter, long snapper and kickoff and punt returner. we have to do a better job with our coverage units on special teams and continue to work hard putting a body on a body in the return game because at any time we feel we can score when the ball is kicked to us.

Offensive Starters Returning: Sr. Ot Antonio Saahir, 6’2 235 Sr Og Hayden Brown, 6’2 230 Sr Ot Anthony Berry, 6’2 240 Sr Oc David Rainey, 5’10 190 Sr Slot Paul Jackson, 5’9 180 Jr Wr Khameen Powell, 6’1 175 Sr Wr Stephen O’donovan, 5’9 175 Sr Wr Kimir Stephenson, 6’1 165 Sr Te Nahaj Saleem, 6’1 205 Defensive Starters Returning: (Ex. Sr. Dt John Smith, 6-5, 320) Sr Db Jp Lynam, 5’8 165 Sr Db Stephen O’donovan, 5’9 175 Sr Db Joe O’donovan, 5’9 170 Sr Olb Paul Jackson, 5’9 180 Sr Olb Nahaj Saleem, 6’1 205 Sr Dl Hayden Brown, 6’2 230 Sr Dl Jayson Howarth, 6’0 200 Sr Dl Dean Conant, 5’11 185 So Ilb Connor Kelly, 5’11 185 Sr Ilb Antonio Saahir, 6’2 235

Haverford

The Haverford Fords last year took a step back after losing their longtime head coach Joe Gallagher. They finished 5-5 regular season last year, getting in as the 16th seed before losing to Garnet Valley in the first round of the District One Playoffs. The Fords are led by second year head coach Luke Dougherty. Their notable losses are Peter Corcoran, Mario Tascione, Mike Powell, and Tommy Caruso. “We have experience against quality opponents. Our schedule is tough and we look forward to another strong Central League schedule. We will lean on our senior leadership while some younger guys develop” said Gallagher.

The Fords return: Tommy Wright (QB, 6’3″, 210, Sr) Ethan Mahan (WR/DB, 5’11”, 190, SR) Ben Fleming (WR/DB, 5’11”, 180, SR) Tyler Rogers (WR/DB, 6’0″, 170, SR) Justin Marciano (TE/LB, 6’0″, 190, SR) Collin Cassidy (RB/LB, 5’10”, 205, SR) Jake Snell (RB/DB, 5’10”, 190, SR) Allen Zengel (LB, 5’10”, 185, SR) Tommy Dixon (OL/DL, 5’9″, 220, SR) Henry Gillespie (OL/DL, 6’1″, 190, SR) Will Cascarina (OL/DL, 5’11”, 195, SR) Tommy Touhill (OL/DL, 5’10”, 235, SR) Nate Shoemaker (LB, 5’7″, 170, JR)

Garnet Valley

The Garnet Valley Jaguars are historically the perennial team in the Central League. They won the District One Title last year for the first time since 2007 and finished with a 14-1 overall record while winning their first 14 games of the first time in school history. The Jaguars are led by head coach Eric Van Wyk. The Jaguars notable losses are Zach Liberatore, CJ Wood, Max Busenkell, Shane Reynolds, Nick Mahoney, Sam DiTrolio, and Sean Gallagher. “We are excited to continue off of the tradition created last year and the previous years. We are excited for the challenges starting with CB West and the gauntlet of the Central League” said Van Wyk.

Returning Jaguars: Kieran Gallagher OL/DL, Drew Van Horn TE/OLB, Joe Checchio RB/MLB, Jason Bernard RB/MLB and Jack Westburg SLOT/DB

Strath Haven

Head Coach Kevin Clancy has the Panthers clawing at the top every year. This year should be no different. They lost stud RBs Chase Barlow and Matt Shuler, linemen Ethan Barrar, Jake Millet and Nate Perlman but waiting in the wings is Sam Milligan QB, Anthony Crawford FB-LB,Bob Fooskas RB-LB, Ben Farabaugh T-DT Chase Nangle HB-DB,Aiden Sutherland SE-FS.  Newcomers Austin Conner RB-DE, James Fisher RB-DB Sophomore, Cole Miller G-DT JR.

Clancy is “anxious to compete in a very comepetitive Central League”. The Panthers finished 13-2, losing to 5A runners up Imhotep Charter.

Look for Strath Haven to again compete for a Central league title and make a playoff run.

 

District 1 Schedules

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