After notching just two wins over the past two seasons, the Pope John Paul II football team will have a new head coach in Rory Graver and new philosophy.
"We want to get our players to compete to the best of their ability every game, and we want to improve each day,' Graver said. "We feel if we can do those two things we'll have a chance at a pretty successful season this year.'
Graver, a former PJP assistant who served as the offensive coordinator at Upper Merion last year, plans to install a no-huddle attack that will be quarterbacked by either senior Matt Mesaros or junior Matt Duff.
"We want to play fast, we want to play physical and we want to play smart,' Graver said.
Andrew Salvo, Chase Lynch and Tyler Nugent should get the bulk of the carries in what could be a running back-by-committee look, with Michael Collins, Darren Gregory and Joe Greenwald playing key roles on the offensive line.
The defense — which Graver called "young, athletic and physical' — is expected to be led by right outside linebacker Nugent, safety Mesaros and cornerback Duff, with Gregory and Greenwald holding down the fort up front.
"I think we have a very positive mentality,' said the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Mesaros, who could also be packaged as a wideout on offense. "Ever since March when Coach Graver took over, the participation in offseason workouts has been really good and the excitement around the program is there. I think everyone is starting to buy in, and when everyone fully buys in to what we're trying to do here and we play as a team, we can be successful and do some damage in the league.'
This will be the fifth year of the Golden Panthers' program, with the best mark coming in 2011, when PJP went 4-5 in league play and 5-6 overall to earn a District 1-AAA tourney bid.
In each of the past two seasons, the Golden Panthers have gone 1-8 in PAC-10 play and 1-9 overall.
"I think we all just have to come together as one,' said junior wideout/defensive back Jared Lupold. "I expect that every down we're going to compete.'
Which Graver and Co. hope can translate into a positive turnaround.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.