Similar to the characters in the current HBO series "The Leftovers,' a lot of Pioneer Athletic Conference football coaches will be adjusting to life without some of their most prized players over the past few seasons.
Unlike the fictional drama, though, those players didn't simply disappear into thin air, they merely graduated.
That said, the void left by the spate of significant senior losses has resonated loudly around the PAC-10, to say the least.'¢ Two-time defending league champion Pottsgrove graduated nine starters from its vaunted defense as well as top offensive weapon Marquis Barefield (1,578 rushing yards, 27 total touchdowns).'
Spring-Ford, meanwhile, graduated its entire defense, not to mention feature back Jarred Jones (last season's area rushing leader with 1,861 yards and 29 touchdowns) and top receiver Gary Hopkins.'
Perkiomen Valley bid farewell to two-time All-Area Player of the Year Rasaan Stewart — along with the dynamic receiving duo of Clay Domine and Dakota Clanagan, 1,000-yard rusher Mark Bonomo and nine defensive starters.'
Methacton lost a majority of its potent skill corps with the graduation of fullback Mike Cassidy and the potent wideout pair of Dillon Alderfer and Kyle Lowery (who were also key defensive players).'
And Boyertown said goodbye to virtually its entire offensive and defensive lines in addition to quarterback Griffin Pasik, workhorse back Cody Richmond (1,625 rushing yards) and top receiver Nick Brough from a record-setting offense.
The area's top 12 rushers graduated, along with all but one of the top 12 receivers from last year.
"This,' said Perkiomen Valley coach Scott Reed, "is the year you find out who the new crop is.'
Pottsgrove (9-0 PAC-10, 11-1 overall last year) features arguably the league's two top returnees in star two-way lineman Patrick Finn and fellow senior Michael Fowler, a multi-threat on offense and ballhawking corner on defense. The Falcons also enter the season riding a record 23-game PAC-10 winning streak.
Spring-Ford (8-1, 10-3) has been part of the league championship conversation from the time coach Chad Brubaker took over in 2010, and this season shouldn't be any different.
The Rams return quarterback Brandon Leacraft and a deep cadre of receivers led by Danny Matthews, Brandon Barone and versatile Stone Scarcelle.
In the backfield, newcomer Trey Jarmon (a second-team Ches-Mont National Conference pick last year at West Chester East) and Matt Gibson are expected to get a bulk of the carries in a newly-installed no-huddle attack.
"From a coaching standpoint, honestly, these types of years can be the most rewarding,' said Brubaker, who has compiled a 41-11 mark with the Rams. "They can also potentially be the most frustrating. I think we have a tremendous coaching staff, with multiple guys that have previous head coaching experience. They work hard, they're creative and they have good ideas, so our kids are going to be prepared. I'm not worried about that; they're going to know what to do. We just have to hopefully be good enough to execute what we have to do.'
The includes on defense, where the Rams must rebuild a unit that was spearheaded by lineman Mason Romano and Robby Varner (both first team All-Area selections).
"We're trying to get guys in the right spots,' Brubaker said. "We have 11 guys to replace. It's not that some of the guys don't have experience, but we're going to have to get guys comfortable. We're still trying to figure out who is going to be our strong-side end, our ' Sam' linebacker, our ' Mike' (linebacker). We're kind of switching kids around to get the best complement of skills and ability.'
Perkiomen Valley (7-2, 10-3), which is 22-11 over the past three seasons, should still have enough skill and ability to be a league contender despite its heavy losses.
The Vikings return Seth Jonassen, a 6-3, 285-pound senior two-way tackle and first-team All-Area selection and some potentially productive skill people.
The main question will be at quarterback, where as of this writing sophomore Stephen Sturm was expected to take over after Stewart (now a defensive back at Villanova) had manned that position for the past three seasons and generated a career total of 7,392 yards of total offense, second in league history.
Taiyir Wilson and Liam Grande should be the primary receiving targets, while Ryan O'Donnell and speedy sophomore David Williams appear to be the squad's top rushing threats.
"I think there's potential,' Reed said. "We have a group coming up that was successful in JV last year. Obviously it's going to be life without some of those stars, but I think the good thing we have on our side was that these kids got to compete with those guys last year in practice at a pretty high level, and they got to be around that atmosphere of big games and the playoffs. I think throughout the offseason they seemed plenty excited about it. They know what it's going to take, it's just a matter of whether we can go out and do that.'
Methacton (6-3, 7-4) enjoyed its third straight winning season for the first time in 21 years last fall. Now, coach Paul Lepre's squad hopes to put together four consecutive .500-plus seasons for the first time since the program began in 1962.
The Warriors will look to the duo of dual threat senior quarterback Conner Derrickson (1,115 passing yards, 574 rushing yards, 24 combined TDs) — who guided the team to seven wins over the final nine games after being inserted as a starter — and slotback/safety Akeem Walcott.
Returnees Jake Keim, Justin Bossard, Luke Miller and Ryan Hoehl head up an experienced offensive line.
On the other side of the ball, Lepre feels a secondary composed of Walcott, Dylan Feaster, Dontae Thomas and Louis Cotteta will be a strength.
"Those guys can play some shutdown football on the edges, which I think will give our interior guys an opportunity to move around and play some attacking-type of defense up front,' Lepre said.
Phoenixville (4-5, 4-9) is one of four league squads which will have a new head coach, as former Pequea Valley head coach Evan Breisblatt takes over.
The Phantoms will feature one of the league's most versatile and dangerous weapons in junior Matt Palubinsky, a 6-3, 200-pounder expected to be deployed in several different ways on offense while also being a key defensive contributor at safety.
Senior guard/linebacker Zack Gallow is expected to be a force on both sides of the ball, though Phoenixville was dealt a big blow when two-way lineman Dave Rosati suffered a knee injury in the preseason that could keep him out for the first few weeks of the season.
Boyertown (5-4, 7-4) also has a new head coach in former St. Pius X head man George Parkinson, who plans a disciplined, fundamental approach.
Safety Justin Siejk, running back/defensive back Mike Murphy and linebacker Anthony Borzillo lead the way for the Bears, with junior Lawrence Garnett expected to take over at quarterback.
Owen J. Roberts (3-6, 3-9) is trying to reverse a sub-par three-year trend by switching from its traditional 4-3 defensive front to a 3-4 look.
The Wildcats will be led by the duo of 6-3, 285-pound nose guard Kolten Hainsey and junior quarterback/safety Mitch Bradford. With the graduation of stalwart tailback Wyatt Scott (1,365 yards last year), look for senior Brad Kinckner to head up a more balanced rushing attack, while linebacker/fullback Bill Scherfel and offensive guard/defensive end Will Dawson should also play key roles on both sides of the ball.
Pottstown (1-8, 1-11) could be poised for a bounce-back campaign, with senior quarterback Gary Wise and junior safety/running back Brandon Tinson leading the charge for coach Don Grinstead's Trojans.
Pope John Paul II (1-8, 1-9) welcomes a new coach in former Golden Panthers assistant Rory Graver. Graver will look to quarterback/safety Matt Mesaros, wideout/defensive back Jared Lupold, two-way lineman Joe Greenwald and quarterback/defensive back Matt Duff as the Golden Panthers attempt to move back up the league ladder.
Upper Perkiomen (1-8, 1-9) — which graduated a couple of big-time offensive threats in running back Aidan Schaffer (1,051 yards) and league-leading receiver Travis Kline (46 catches, 855 yards) — will also have a new coach in Tom Hontz, formerly an Indians assistant as well as highly successful wrestling coach at Upper Perk.
Key players for the Tribe include junior lineman Mahlon Shaffer, junior running back Mike Felix, senior tight end Owen Leister, senior wideout Jake Pirri and junior linebacker Dylan Croissette.
And whether you're talking about perennially strong Pottsgrove, underclass-laden Upper Perkiomen or virtually any other PAC-10 squad, the theme is pretty much the same.
"It's not like the talent's not there,' Reed said. "We just don't know the names yet — but it's their turn.'
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.