Coming off a top four finish in the state, Suburban One National Conference rival Neshaminy could be hard-pressed for a repeat performance in 2014.
Quite simply, the ' Skins may not have the horses to mimic the 13-2 campaign they posted last year that included a District 1 Class AAAA championship. That's not going to stop senior RB D'Andre Pollard and his teammates from trying.
Tight end Luke Carrezola (Connecticut), running backs Trokon Buesmaill and Denny Lord (Kutztown), D-lineman Dorian Arthur (West Chester) and O-lineman Mike Palmer (Shippensburg) are just some of the names Neshaminy won't have in its lineup this season. With graduation, 18 starters from 2013 have departed the ranks.
Luckily, Pollard — a First Team All-SOL selection in 2013 — isn't one of them. The 5-7, 157-pound speedster raced for over 2,900 yards on 326 carries, registering nearly nine yards (8.98) per carry last season. In 15 games last year, Pollard reached paydirt 39 times.
He says a lot of the younger guys got their feet wet in 2013.
"We lost a lot of seniors but we have a lot of players that got in a lot of time last year,' stated Pollard. "A lot of the games, we were up by a fair amount of points so a lot of our younger guys got a lot of experience.
"I think we're going to fill those shoes pretty well.'
Indeed, in Neshaminy's 13 wins, the Skins outscored their opponents by more than 30 points. That margin of victory won't mean a thing when the team takes the field against Gonzaga College High Aug. 29 at Harry Franks Stadium in Langhorne.
Unlike Neshaminy, the nationally-ranked Eagles (#25, USA Today) have plenty of returning players including QB Nick Johnson, a Virginia recruit who threw for over 960 yards and five touchdowns in just six games last year.
"You want to play games with meaning,' said first-year head coach Mike Frederick. "You do that by winning the games on your schedule. Then every game becomes important and you do it by challenging the best teams you can play.'
While Pollard is back, he's just one of four returning starters in the lineup. Gone is quarterback Tyler Wombaugh as well as First Team-All SOL National Conference receiver Hamiid Pack. Lineman John Koch (First Team) and Dan Johnson (Second Team) have also departed the ranks.
While the battles along the O-line and the D-line are still taking place, the new coach says the focus of the offense will be at the skill positions.
"We're going to play to our strengths and that changes every year,' said Frederick. "We are pretty talented when it comes to the skill positions so we're going to utilize that.'
"We're trying to structure things around where we're talented and taking advantage of matchups.
"We know where we're young and inexperienced and we know where we should have an advantage and we'll try to put people in good positions to make good plays and then let them go have some fun.'
Currently, there is a battle taking place at quarterback: sophomore Mason Jones and senior Joe Abdo are fighting for the right to call the signals this season. Junior Bill Ritchie (6-2, 227) and senior Trevor Lay (6-3, 190) are battling for Carrezola's old spot at tight end.
Senior fullbacks Cale Kitchenman (5-10, 210) and Dan Dogba (5-9, 206) will fill the void left by Blake Sullivan. Sophomore Wil Dogba (5-8, 168) and senior Matt Magdelinskas (5-10, 165) will spell Pollard at running back.
Taking over Cole Creighton's kick return duties is Denzel Hughes (6-1, 166). Magdelinskas will fill Creighton's spot on defense.
Defensively, the team lost a lot of its linebackers, particularly Trokon Buesmaill, Denny Lord (Kutztown) and Matt Bianchino. This year, the team is relying on Dan Dogba and Kitchenman, along with Daulton Fox (6-0, 170) who could see time playing the part of the rover.
Taking up positions at defensive tackle are seniors Hunter Kelly (6-2, 265) and Evans Clious (nose) along with Bruce Graeber, a big, strong junior who captured SOL and District 1 wrestling championships as a heavyweight last season. Juniors Billy Ritchie (anchor) and Harmon Yalartai (open) will round things out on the ends
At punter, soccer player Kevin Goetz is battling with Lay for that spot while sophomore Dylan McDonald has returned at placekicker.
With the realignment of the SOL National Conference that took place in the offseason, the Skins will need all those players competing at peak performance.
Added to the division with Neshaminy, Pennsbury, Abington and Bensalem are North Penn, Pennridge, Souderton and CB South. Moved to the Continental Conference are both Rocks and perennial cellar-dweller Truman. William Tennent has moved to the American Conference.
"We like the realignment,' said Pollard. "Most of those teams that are coming into our league, we've played in the past.'
"Playing some of these teams early in the season will definitely give us an advantage come playoffs.
"We get to see some of their strengths, weaknesses — some of their tendencies.'
The Skins open their league season Sept. 19 at home against Abington after non-league matchups with Gonzaga, Downingtown West and Council Rock South. They won't see North Penn until Oct. 24 at home then wrap up the season on Halloween night at home against Pennsbury.
Now remember, before Neshaminy went on its 4-game playoff run in 2013, it got spanked by the Falcons in a 31-3 regular season loss. Skins fans are hoping Halloween night isn't that scary this year.
"We talk around here about playing anyone , anytime anywhere and I believe it,' said Frederick.
"I've never gone into a game as a player or a coach not thinking we were going to win a game.
"I think the staff and the players are the same way.
"The mindset here is we're going to figure out a way to win.
NOTES: Neshaminy will scrimmage at Norristown at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 then host Downingtown East at 4 p.m. Thursday Aug. 21 in a scrimmage at home.
Date Day Opponent Time
Aug. 16, Saturday AT Norristown TBA (S)
Aug. 21, Thursday Downingtown East 4 p.m. (S)
Aug. 29, Friday Gonzaga College HS 7 p.m.
Sept. 05, Friday AT Downingtown West 7 p.m.
Sept. 12, Friday C.R. South (HoF) 7 p.m.
Sept. 19, Friday Abington 7 p.m.
Sept. 26, Friday AT Pennridge 7 p.m.
Oct. 02, Thursday C.B. South 7 p.m.
Oct. 10, Friday AT Souderton 7 p.m.
Oct. 17, Friday AT Bensalem 7 p.m.
Oct. 24, Friday North Penn 7 p.m.
Oct. 31, Friday Pennsbury 7 p.m.