Greencastle is celebrating Old Home Week this year, which means plenty of natives are back in town.
Devin McCauley, the Blue Devils’ football coach, knows a lot of those folks. Invariably, they will ask him how the team is going to fare this year.
“Maybe 50 times a day,” McCauley said.
It comes with the territory as the football coach, so McCauley doesn’t mind. The problem is, he wants to know the answer to that very same question.
Greencastle-Antrim is coming off a 4-6 season in which three losses were by a score or less. They lost some quality players, but have a lot of talent returning, too.
“We can put some good athletes on the field,” McCauley said. “I like our group – they’re physical and athletic. But our league is very good. Every game we play in the division (Mid Penn Colonial) is a tough one. There are no longer any easy games in the Colonial.”
The Blue Devil defense lost a number of starters, but their replacements appear to be capable of filling their shoes.
The ringleaders will be a pair of middle linebackers in Jake Yelton and Logan Shifflett. Yelton (sr., 6-1, 210) had 79 tackles, including four for loss, and had three sacks. Shifflett (jr., 5-11, 195) made 88 stops, had three sacks and two tackles behind the line, as well as a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.
McCauley said, “They’re both very physical and can run well, too. They both tackle well and are a strong presence inside.”
On the outside, Darren Kline (sr., 5-10, 205) will be the strong side linebacker, and Anthony Brown (sr. 5-10, 175) will play the weak side. Kline had 48 tackles and two sacks last year.
Greencastle’s three-man front will include tackles Elijah Britner (sr., 6-3, 310) and Parker Funk (jr., 6-0, 225), while Aidan Horan (sr., 5-10, 210) is the nose guard. Britner made three sacks and six tackles for loss last year among his 43 tackles, while Funk had five sacks and 2 TFLs and Horan had one sack.
According to McCauley, the team will also rotate in Tate Eberly (jr., 5-10, 220), Jace Szaflarski (sr., 6-1, 225) and Sallieu Bangura (jr., 6-4, 220).
Senior Seth Stouffer (6-0, 175) returns to man one cornerback position, while Jackson Eby (sr., 5-11, 160) will play on the opposite side. Stouffer had two interceptions and made 57 tackles. Austin Wyand (sr., 5-9, 160) had 30 tackles and is slated to play free safety.
G-A recently lost its strong safety candidate, so finding a replacement is a priority.
On offense, McCauley believes the Blue Devils’ running game should be up to the program’s strong standard, but a new quarterback will be needed to keep defenses honest with some passing yards.
“We will lean on our run game – the guys up front match our scheme well and the backs run hard,” he said. “Plus, our perimeter blocking has improved.”
Tavon Cooper ((5-11, 175) returns for his senior season as the halfback and he showed his versatility last year by running 114 times for 740 yards (6.5 per carry) and five touchdowns, and by catching 21 passes for 212 yards and a score.
“Tavon makes big-time highlight plays and is a threat to score any time we get him the ball,” McCauley said.
Joining Cooper in the backfield will be fullback Xzavier Ramsey (jr., 5-9, 190), who will supply the power inside. He is coming back from an injury that cost him all of last year. Shifflett and Kline may see action in the backfield, too.
Blocking for the backs will be Eberly at center, Szaflarski at right guard, Funk at right tackle, Horan at left guard and Kendal Johnson (sr., 5-11, 230) at left tackle. Kline and Sawyer Brookens (sr., 6-4, 190) will take care of the tight end position.
Wyand will start in the slot, while Stouffer (4 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD) and Eby (7 catches, 88 yards) are the top wide receivers.
Andrew Kerns was the starting quarterback last year, but he transferred to St. Maria Goretti. Junior Logan Alvey (5-11, 160) moves up from the junior varsity team to take over, while junior Conner Wright (6-5, 200) is trying the position for the first time.
McCauley said, “Alvey’s done well so far. He’s been in the system and he’s smart and intelligent. Wright is working at quarterback and receiver — he’s a big-body guy.”
Eby, who starts on offense and defense, will also do the kicking and punting chores, with Bangura handling the kickoffs.
NOTES: As if Eby isn’t doing enough, he also plays on the G-A golf team … Blake Diller is a candidate to fill in at strong safety … Greencastle’s non-league games are at Big Spring this Friday, and at home vs. Berkeley Springs (W.Va.) and Delone Catholic.
SEASON OPENER AT BIG SPRING
The Bulldogs, former Colonial foes of Greencastle, are now in the Mid Penn Capital Division, and had one of their better seasons in recent memory last year, making the District 3 playoffs and finishing 8-4.
Big Spring’s top two running back are gone, but QB Ethan Eisenberg (6-0, 180) is back for his final season. The Bulldogs’ top player on defense is LB Conner Black.
“Going to Big Spring on Friday will be a good test for us,” McCauley said. “We expect a good, physical football game with them.
“We need to get off to a good start, and Big Spring is up first. I believe we’ll be competitive against everybody we play this year and I know we’ll play hard.”