After reaching the District 3 Class AAA semifinals in 2014, Red Land dealt with its share of hiccups last season.
Still, there were several bright spots despite the 3-7 record, and Patriots coach Chad Weaver has nearly all of those key elements returning.
“We were young last season,” said Weaver, whose returning players accounted for nearly every yard of offense gained last season.
While the defense doesn’t return as much statistically, many of the players who will play on that side of the ball saw a fair amount of playing time in 2015.
It’s great news for a program looking to become a perennial contender in the Mid Penn.
“We are trying to be that steady make-a-run kind of team. We are trying to instill that as what we do,” Weaver said. “I don’t want them to rest on what previous people have done, but we want to do the same things if not more.”
Quarterbacks: Jake Radic is back for his second year. As a junior, Radic improved as 2015 wore on, finishing with 13 touchdowns passing. "He’s got the potential to be a very good quarterback,” Weaver said.
Running backs: Workhorse Justin Johnson is coming off a 1,238-yard, 11-touchdown season. Weaver is looking for someone to spell Johnson for a few plays.
Receivers: Experienced senior Hunter Briner, who has started since he was a freshman, led the team with 27 catches last season. A few others are showing potential to add depth here.
Offensive line: Only one starter up front graduated last year, and three-year tackle Brayden Coe is a player to build around. Center Keith Pate, plus guards Luke Gardner and Gavin Fournier also return to form an experienced line.
Defensive line: Coe made 34 tackles with two sacks last season and Weaver moved solid LB Joe Crocenzi (57 tackles) to end, saying: “I think he is going to be one of the better ones in the mid-state.”
Linebackers: Noah Parsons (46 tackles) is back in the middle. He will be flanked by players that didn’t start but played quality minutes. Weaver would like to limit Johnson’s snaps on this side of the ball.
Secondary: The secondary will be athletic, but, outside of Briner (14 tackles, 2 interceptions), young. Expect a few sophomores to battle for minutes.
Three-year kicker Chad Stout, a soccer standout, will placekick, kick off and likely punt, although Briner may punt as well.
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Save the date
Rival Cedar Cliff is always Red Land’s big game and they play Oct. 21, but in a schedule change the Patriots open against perennial power Bishop McDevitt Aug. 26.
A pair of tough road games to open the season will give Weaver and company a good early test. Whatever happens, with its experienced firepower and line, Red Land could have a great run this season.
In the huddle
Class: 5A, Mid Penn Keystone Division
Enrollment: 882 (444 male)
Head coach: Chad Weaver (29-28 in five seasons) (DC)
Assistant coaches: Tom Peifer (OC), Dave Payne, John Weaver, Chris Ott, Zach Boisvert, Scott Cawthern, Pat MacAdam, John Greene, John Redes
Aug. 26 — Red Land at Bishop McDevitt, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — Red Land at Cocalico, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — Carlisle at Red Land, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — Red Land at Dover, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — Red Land at Susquehanna Township, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30* — Lower Dauphin at Red Land, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — Red Land, bye
Oct. 14 — Hershey at Red Land, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — Cedar Cliff at Red Land, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 — Red Land at Central Dauphin, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 — Mechanicsburg at Red Land, 7 p.m.
W // York Suburban // 17-7
L // @ Carlisle // 49-54
W // Dover // 38-21
L // Hershey // 7-34
L // @ Susquehanna Township // 14-50
L // Lower Dauphin // 0-35
L // @ Big Spring // 7-21
W // Mechanicsburg // 48-16
L // @ Bishop McDevitt // 14-41
L // @ Cedar Cliff // 34-56