With the potential of a stout defense, a more versatile offense and a goal of reaching the District 3 playoffs, the Greencastle-Antrim football team hopes to begin the season Friday night on a high note.
The Blue Devils host Big Spring at 7:00 at Kaley Field.
“I’m optimistic — we had a good team camp this summer and a really good scrimmage, and I think we have a tight group,” G-A coach Devin McCauley said. “We want to make districts, but we know for that to happen, a lot of dominos have to fall in the right way.”
A year ago, Greencastle ripped off four wins to begin the season, then lost five in a row in the tough Mid Penn Colonial Division before knocking off rival Shippensburg in the finale for a 5-5 record.
McCauley said, “Our division has been really good. Last year, we were a good team and didn’t make districts. We lost a couple of games where we gave up the lead and we’ve tried to do some more conditioning to keep that from happening again.”
The Blue Devils appear to have the makings of a strong defense, holding New Oxford to no scores in a scrimmage last week.
“We’re happy with the number of athletes we can put on the field on defense,” McCauley said. “We’re physical and smart, so we can do a little more in the way of coverages and stunts. If we stay healthy, this should be a strength for us.”
Parker Funk will start for the third year at one of the defensive tackle positions. Funk (sr., 6-0, 255), a Colonial all-star pick, had 61 tackles last year, including 7 sacks and 4 tackles for loss.
“He played pretty much every snap both ways last year and he’s the anchor of the line,” McCauley said.
At the opposite end is senior Sal Bangura (6-4, 255), who had 27 tackles (4 for loss), while Jeremiah Fogle (jr., 6-2, 245) plays nose guard.
“Bangura is one of the players we’re building around — he’s getting some college attention,” McCauley said.
Last year’s leading tackler, senior Logan Shifflett (5-11, 195), returns at middle linebacker with 92 tackles, 5 for loss and an interception to his credit. He’ll be joined in the middle by JD Flynn (jr., 6-0, 215, 22 tackles) in the middle, while Garrett Blubaugh (sr., 5-9, 175, 4 tackles) and Connor Rennenkamp (jr., 6-3, 230, 6 tackles) man the outside spots.
The safeties will be Trent Merillat (sr., 5-9, 165), who was lost just before the season began last year, and junior Carter McCauley (6-3, 174), who had 39 tackles and a pick last year.
Blake Diller (sr., 6-0, 185), who started at safety last year and had 64 tackles, moves to cornerback, while Carter Coons (sr., 5-0, 160) and Surzano Solomon (sr., 6-2, 200) will rotate on the other side.
Last year’s Greencastle offense revolved around halfback Tavon Cooper, and why not? Cooper gained around 1,900 yards between rushing and receiving and was every defense’s target.
The Blue Devils will have a different look this year, however, with Cooper now graduated.
“We’ll have six or seven different guys carrying the ball this year,” coach McCauley said. “We have some quality depth at running back.”
The halfback position will be handled by Xzavier Ramsey (sr., 5-9, 198), Blubaugh (8 carries, 33 yards) and Merillat. Shifflett (30-84) and Cody Ferree (sr., 5-8, 175, 4-12) are the fullbacks, and at wingback are Coons (5-34) and Solomon.
Diller and McCauley will play at wide receiver, while Rennenkamp is the tight end.
Behind center is returning starter Logan Alvey (sr., 5-11, 165), who had a successful debut season last year. The quarterback connected on 61% of his passes (90-147) for 1,153 yards, 15 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. He also ran 11 times for 30 yards.
McCauley said, “We have an experienced quarterback who had an above-average season. He can slow the game down for us and he knows just what we want him to do.”
Funk will anchor the offensive line from his right guard spot, and he will be joined up front by center Tate Eberly (sr., 5-9, 228), right tackle Sean Hoch (sr., 6-0, 245), left guard Brock Cunningham (sr., 5-10, 218) and left tackle Cameron Harbaugh (jr., 6-2, 240).
“We’re going to have multiple guys touching the ball and we can mix it up with a short to medium passing game,” McCauley said. “The key is getting positive yards. We know we can’t replace Tavon with one guy, but I like spreading it around to different guys.”
Andrew Bowers will move up from JV to handle the kicking duties.
“Each game, especially in the division, should be competitive,” McCauley said, “and I think we’ll be fun to watch.”
Greencastle-Antrim’s 2023 Schedule
Fri, Aug. 25 — Big Spring, 7:00
Fri, Sept. 1 — at Berkeley Springs, W.Va., 7:00
Fri, Sept. 8 — at Delone Catholic, 7:00
Fri, Sept. 15 — at Waynesboro, 7:00
Fri, Sept. 22 — East Pennsboro, 7:00
Fri, Sept. 29 — Northern York, 7:00
Fri, Oct. 6 — at Susquehanna Township, 7:00
Fri, Oct. 13 — Gettysburg, 7:00
Fri, Oct. 20 — at Mechanicsburg, 7:00
Fri, Oct. 27 — Shippensburg, 7:00