The Gettysburg Warriors are coming off their first winning season in two years, and it came under first-year head coach Ray Gouker.
Now, in his second season as the Warriors' coach, Gouker is hoping a smoother offseason program and training camp helped his team get better, now that he and his players know what to expect.
"I think D.J. (Johnson) is hard to replace," Gouker said of the electrifying tailback that racked up 1,131 rushing yards on just 122 carries and 18 touchdowns.
Also gone is bruising runner Zach Hill, who offered a nice complement to Johnson, and three of the players that helped open holes for them -- offensive linemen Chad Love, Travis Martin and Gaige Whitt.
Varsity letters: The team's most effective returning playmaker is wideout Benttion Hendricks.
Hendricks has spent time at quarterback, running back and wide receiver in his career at Gettysburg. The addition of former Gettysburg College assistant Bob Witt should help Hendricks to develop into an even better receiver than the one that caught 24 passes for 457 yards and four scores last season.
"I believe, if coach Witt and Benttion are able to jell, coach Witt is going to bring the little niceties that can make Benttion an outstanding receiver," Gouker said.
Also back is quarterback Chase Whiteman.
A strong-armed signal caller, Whiteman played in all but one game last year -- because of a concussion -- and finished with 884 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. He knows he'll have to up his 46-percent completion rate, however.
"We have a lot of younger guys, so it's going to be different to work around," Whiteman said. "Last year, we had a lot of guys that had the varsity experience, but we'll work with what we've got."
Kurt Hoffman and Jordan Stouch should provide a 1-2 punch at tailback for the Warriors, but both are unproven. Hoffman is the only one who carried the ball last season, and he did so just eight times.
Jason and Jordan Nye also are unproven backs but will be asked to carry more of the load this season.
Alex Meligakes should anchor the offensive and defensive lines with his massive 260-pound frame.
New faces in the crowd: Corey Hardman, Gary Harding and Nick Miller will be counted on to step into starting roles along the offensive and possibly defensive lines, Gouker said.
Gouker said junior Freddy Steimling, who played sparingly last season, has "shown a lot of guts and determination" in working toward a starting role at wide receiver.
Mark your calendar: The Warriors will start with a sturdy test right off the bat when South Western comes to town for the opener.
Gettysburg's first two conference games, against James Buchanan and Northern, could allow the Warriors to get an early jump on their competition in the standings before hosting Greencastle-Antrim. The Warriors will look for revenge against the Blue Devils, a team that throttled them, 61-13, last season.
Running back/defensive back
Who's the one player on your team you wouldn't want to face? Alex Meligakes. He's bulked up pretty big.
What practice drill do you hate running the most? Doing sprints with (coach Chris Haines) is pretty bad, outrageous numbers.
Which NFL player would you compare yourself to, and why? I'd say Danny Woodhead. He's a small, versatile running back.
What pregame music gets you pumped up to play? Pretty much anything. Anything but country.
Do you have a nickname? If so how did you get it? I'd say Stouch. It's just because it's my last name.
What is your favorite move on the field? A head fake and a juke.
What's the best thing about playing football? It's just fun. You get to go out and hit people and have the crowd cheer you on.
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