The James Buchanan Rocket football team almost turned the corner in 2018.
JB posted a 4-win season, but 2-straight losses to end the season prevented it from having its first winning season in 23 years.
The 2019 gridiron squad will use that motivation to try and finally break that long non-winning season streak.
The first game of the 2019 season is Friday, 7 p.m. at Rocket Stadium where JB will host York Vo-Tech.
“We’ve told the players we’re just going to take quarter by quarter, game by game,” JB coach David Miller said. “We’ve been improving the last couple years and we came close last year. The players really want to get that first winning season for the first time in 24 years.”
The Rockets return 6 starters on offense and 5 on defense.
Offensively, JB will have a big hole to fill at running back as Cormac Houpt, who rushed for a school-record 1,477 yards and 16 touchdowns, has graduated and is now playing at Gettysburg College.
But the Rockets do a veteran signal-caller returning as quarterback Sebastian Wise is back for his third season. Last year Wise passed for 1,207 yards and 13 TDs.
“Having Sebastian back is definitely a plus,” Miller said. “He’s a leader and has been taking charge in the huddle.”
Taking over the running back duties will be junior Hunter Smith, junior Logan Miller and freshman Dorian Gust.
Across the offensive front line will be senior Daulton Bock at center and seniors Dylan Layton and Spencer Riley at the guards. The tackles will be some kind of combination of seniors Shaun Reed and Trey Setting and freshman Chase Henry.
“All the running backs have potential, but they are unproven,” Miller said. “Our offense as whole has a lot of question marks because we did OK in our scrimmages, but we still have a lot to work on.”
The receiving corp will be led by senior Daulton Bray and juniors Grant Ellis, Mason Line and junior Caden Stoner.
On the defensive side, coach Miller said he feels a little more comfortable with where its at.
“We’re still mostly going to run a 3-3-5,” coach Miller said. “Like most times our defense is ahead of the offense. I’m happy with who we have on that side.”
The defensive front will start with Reed at nose guard while Layton and Setting will be at the tackles. Senior Connor Ressler, senior Connor Donley and Henry will also rotate in on the line. Getting the start at the three linebacker spots will be junior Caleb Wise, Smith and Miller.
Patrolling in the secondary will be Line and Stoner at the corners while Bray and Ellis will be the safeties. Also in the secondary mix will be Gust and sophomore CJ Gearhart.
If the Rockets can stay away from injuries and gel as the season progresses, this group could be the one to end the streak.
“I feel these boys can do it,” coach Miller said. “Our depth is as good as it’s been.”