York, PA - New coach Richard Brubaker is starting his first gig as a varsity head coach but has served Eastern for the past 11 years in a variety of positions.
Brubaker, a South Western grad who is stepping into the shoes of
departed coach Jeff Shutter, believes he has a lot of the pieces already in place to improve upon last year's 3-7 record.
It helps that the Golden Knights lost only two starters on both sides of the ball and return 14 seniors.
"With such a good base of starters from last year, the best thing is we can do more with them this year," Brubaker said.
"Last year we didn't really tackle that well, and we gave up too many big plays, so if we improve defensively, we can be competitive in our league (YAIAA Division III)."
Brubaker knows there are few easy games on the Knights' schedule, but he is convinced that if his squad can master the fundamentals, it can play with anyone.
"We've got a great senior class and a really good sophomore class coming up," he added. "They've done a good job of working in the offseason, so I think we are very capable of being over .500 this year."
Filling the void: Starting quarterback Mark Holloway graduated, but senior Chase Beaverson is ready to step right in.
It's not as if he does not have experience doing this already. Holloway battled an ankle injury last season, and Beaverson started six of the Knights' 10 games.
Eastern also lost its starting center, but the good news is that it returns four linemen, all of them three-year starters.
Varsity letters: The offensive line is all seniors. Buck Kauffman, Alec McKee and Mace Grafton are three-year starters, and Joel Lawrence is a two-year starter. The entire defensive line is back, as well.
Junior running back Alex Cooley ran for 1,204 yards last season, and senior Jake Kautz is expected to make an impact at wide receiver.
Seniors Mitch Laratonda (CB) and Spencer Yost (S) will anchor the secondary. Senior Tyler Kessler will man the middle linebacker slot and bring his power to the fullback position. Defensive end Caleb Hertzler also will fill in at tackle.
New faces in the crowd: Freshman Jake Kessler, Tyler's "little" brother, is turning heads with his athleticism. Kessler stands 6-foot-2, weighs 170 pounds and "runs like a senior," according to Brubaker.
"He's going to make an impact," the coach said.
Sophomore Jon Witman -- yes, the son of that Jon Witman, the NFL player and Eastern's most famous football alumnus -- also is projected to play at fullback and linebacker.
Mark your calendar: Columbia in Week 1 is a rival game for Eastern.
"We're going to take 'em one game at a time and try to improve as we go, but this one is pretty important for us," Brubaker said.
Also, Sept. 30 against Hanover is Champions Day, when Eastern will honor the two championship teams in school history.
Who is the one player on your team that you wouldn't want to face? It has to be Alec McKee. He is a bit bigger than I am, and he can hit really hard.
What practice drill do you hate the most? Of course, it's got to be conditioning. It's definitely needed, but it's hard work. Hills are the worst.
Which NFL player would you compare to yourself? Maurkice Pouncey (center for the Pittsburgh Steelers)
What pregame music gets you pumped? We usually like to rock out to some country music. Any artist. We have a radio, and we just tune it to country.
Do you have a nickname Buck's a good enough nickname.
What's your favorite move on the field? I like the pull. I love the counter and the trap. I get to blow people up on the end.
What's the best thing about playing football? I love the intensity and the aggressiveness and the way you pit one guy against another.
Related· 2010 preview: Knights focus on stopping the run