There will be a decidedly different look with The Hill School football team this season.
Not just in terms of personnel — a situation the local prep school has to address every fall — but in terms of how the personnel, both new and old, will be utilized. The game plan of head coach Grey Simpson and his staff will be addressing the physical and experience levels of the players, who put it on the line Thursday with a season-opening non-league game at Germantown Academy.
"We're inexperienced up front,' the Hill's third-year field boss said. "We have only two on the line with game experience, starting games here and there due to injury. We're relying on getting as many skill position players on the field as possible.'
One notable revamping in the offensive backfield is at the quarterback position. Grant Smith, the Rams' starting signal-caller the past two seasons, is moving to a dual role as wide receiver and free safety. In his place, Matt Foltz — a resident of the Lancaster area and Donegal graduate — takes over directing the offense as a post-graduate.
"We're moving to an up-tempo offense,' Simpson said. "Grant has worked very hard this summer and seems to be excelling. He's capable of being a tough matchup; when he catches the ball, he's capable of making a big run.
"Matt is capable of pushing the ball downfield,' Simpson added, lauding the 6-foot-6 Foltz for his strong throwing arm. "We'll be looking for the throw to set up the run.'
Another new face in the offensive backfield belongs to Trey Humes, a sophomore from Canada. Humes (5-7, 175) is in the mix at running back along with senior Brandt Beck (6-1, 190) and junior Zach Sheehan (5-5, 142)
"Trey's an example of a kid who can give a dynamic offensive presence,' Simpson said.
In the receiving corps, Smith (6-3, 200) is joined by underclassmen wideouts Richie Tabarinni (5-11, 152), a sophomore; and Colten McMenamin (5-6, 160), a junior. At tight end are seniors Brian Bamberger (6-1, 190) and Nik Gjika (6-1, 206).
Working the line will be senior Will Rich (6-2, 319) at center, senior Justin Kaller (6-1, 245) and junior Tom Sivick (6-2, 240) at the guards, and junior Jacob Matus (6-3, 205) and senior John Hill (6-3, 212) at the tackles.
"We knew we were going to have an inexperienced group up front,' Simpson said. "We want to be big in playmakers on the offensive side, which we have to do every year at the Hill School.
"The coaching staff has to be ready for that each year ... adjusting schemes, being able to utilize the players' skills, spreading the ball out quick. Our staff is ready and able to make tweaks.'
By virtue of his previous experience at quarterback, Smith gives the Rams' coaching staff some options for utilization of his talents.
"We talked about it,' Simpson said. "We'll see where we can put Grant to exploit the other teams' weaknesses. We're already starting to see ways to move him around. With him, an opponent has to think about him doing pitches and passes.'
Post-graduates will play prominent roles on the defensive side, too.
Beck, a three-year starter for the Hill, will be moving from defensive end to outside linebacker with the idea of assuming a larger role in pass coverage. Bamberger, a member of Wyomissing High's PIAA Class AA state-championship team last fall, joins Beck and Gjika in the middle along with Sheehan, senior Josh Lucas (5-5, 162) and juniors Jake Myers (5-8, 162) and Jack Overholt (6-1, 186).
The defensive backfield has sophomores Bryce Allen (5-10, 140) and Jeremy Jacobs (5-7, 160) in the mix alongside Smith and McMenamin.
The principal candidates on the D-line are all underclassmen: Juniors Hunter Hudspeth-Blackburn (5-9, 163) and Connor Loughname (5-9, 170) at the ends, with freshman Dymir Davis-Carruth (5-6, 170) at nose guard.
Simpson revealed he will be taking over the Hill's defensive coordinator responsibilities. He'll call on the experience culled from six years as a high-school coach in South Florida in this role.
"Up front, we may not look the part of a typical line,' he said. "Our kids can move to the ball, and they'll be great tacklers.
"It's a twofold thing: Velocity and our inexperience. We'll put our best 11 players on the field.'
Handling the kicking chores is another post-grad. Jay Wright (6-2, 190), a graduate of George Washington High in the Philadelphia Public League, will be the team's place kicker and punter as he looks for another season to further fuel his aspirations to play Division I ball in college.
"We're certainly excited,' Simpson said. "We have all the pieces in place.'
The Hill will further tune up for Mid-Atlantic Prep League play with additional non-league games at Episcopal Academy (Sept. 20, 7 p.m.) and against Springside Chestnut Hill (Sept. 27, 2:30 p.m.). Following an off-week, the Rams open their MAPL schedule by hosting Peddie School 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12.
Hill School RamsHead coach: Grey Simpson, 3rd season, 4-12 career record.Last year: 1-4 Mid-Atlantic Prep League, 1-7 overall. Offense: WR-Grant Smith (Sr., 6-3, 200), Richie Tabarinni (Soph., 5-11, 152) and Colten McMenamin (Jr., 5-6, 160) ; TE-Brian Bamberger (Sr., 6-1, 190) and Nik Gjika (Sr., 6-1, 206); G-Justin Kaller (Sr., 6-1, 245) and Tom Sivick (Jr., 6-2, 240); T-Jacob Matus (Jr., 6-3, 205) and John Hill (Sr., 6-3, 212) ; C-Will Rich (Sr., 6'2', 319); RB-Trey Humes (Soph., 5-7, 175), Brandt Beck (Sr., 6-1, 190), and Zack Sheehan (Jr., 5-5, 142); QB-Matt Foltz (Sr., 6-6, 210). Defense: DE-Hunter Hudspeth-Blackburn (Jr., 5-9, 163) and Connor Loughnane (Jr., 5-9, 170); NG-Dymir Davis-Carruth (Fr., 5-6, 170); LB-Beck, Bamberger, Sheehan, Gjika, Josh Lucas (Sr., 5-5, 162), Jake Myers (Jr., 5-8, 162), and Jack Overholt (Jr., 6-1, 186); DB-Bryce Allen (So., 5-10, 140), Smith, McMenamin and Jeremy Jacobs (So., 5-7, 160).Special Teams: PK- Jake Wright (Sr., 6-2, 190); P-Wright.