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It may not be the case in the first few games, but Pottsville could develop into a very good team this year. They will have to overcome the loss of some key players to graduation, but they have the size and talent to win a lot of games.
“We have a chance to be a pretty good football team at some point,” said Head Coach Kevin Keating.
Coach Keating sees two things that his team must do in order to become that good team. First they need to stay healthy. Injuries have severely hampered this team over the past two years, including two torn ACLs last year to key two-way players early in the season. This year the Crimson Tide want to change their luck as far as health is concerned.
Second, the Tide need to find some depth at the running back position. They lost two very good runners from last year’s team. Cliff Newton rushed for 971 yards on 157 carries and Derek Knight ran for 927 yards in 163 carries. They will be tough to replace.
Mike Wythe will be at the fullback position this year, and he did play some last year, rushing for 134 yards on 21 carries.
Shawn Brennan, a senior, will make the switch from quarterback to running back, while Travis Blankenhorn and Aaron Kupperavage are halfback contenters.
Charlie Schuster will also be back after rushing for 141 yards on 27 carries, good enough for third on the team.
The key will be if one or two of these guys can get on the field and be a difference maker. Can they find another pair of 900 yard rushers out of the bunch?
At quarterback the Crimson Tide have lost another key player. Last year Tyler Heffner throw 79 of the team’s 80 passes. He has graduated and they will be going to a young and inexperienced player at quarterback. The battle for that spot is between junior Tyler Moser and sophomore Patrick Keating, who, yes, is the coach’s son.
The pressure will be off the young quarterbacks a little bit because Pottsville runs a more traditional Wing T offense. last year they ran 81% of the time.
More good news for the young quarterback and running backs comes from the offensive line. They Tide are stack there with experience and size. These guys will produce some holes for the running backs and give the quarterback time to make his passes. The offensive and defensive lines are the strength of this team and will be a big reason for the success they may have this year.
It starts with cetner Matt McCall (231 pounds). Dan Conville (251 pounds) is also back after being named to the All-Berks team last year.
Second year starters Tucker Smink and Stan Burke will also be back. Smink is 241 pounds and Burke is at 245. Also Dan Grosser, a 6-4 1/2, 276 pound kid is decribed by Coach Keating as the “best prospect” he has on the team.
Junior Ryan Bertsch is a 6’-3” 245 pounder who will fit righ in with the rest of the line.
It’s a big and brusing set of linemen on this team and the Tide will count heavily on them to stay healthy.
They will be just as effective on the defensive line as well, as most of them are two-way players. They will be a nightmare for opposing offensive lines trying to keep them out of the backfield.
Other key players start with Travis Blankenhorn. He started as a freshman last year and also played varsity basketball and baseball. He’s a pure athlete who will play several different positions for the Crimson Tide.
“He’s the real deal,” said Coach Keating. “He can play as a running back or wide out on offense, and will return as a defensive back. He can do it all. He reminds me of the (Alex) Anzalone kid from Wyomissing.”
Also come back is Mike Weis who led the linebackers in tackles last year.
“Our down people are the strength of this team,” said Keating. “We have a lot of qualify and depth. But I’m a little nervous about our skill position guys. At this point we just don’t know about them.”
That will be the big question. With the offensive line as strong as it is, that will help the young backfield mature and gain confidence. Will it be enough to make this team a contender? It will be fun finding out.