For five months, Delone Catholic head coach Corey Zortman was hoping that the Squires would be able to play football this season, but he admitted recently that he wasn’t very optimistic about the prospects.
“I have no real words for how difficult, trying, whatever you want to call it. It’s been different, that’s for sure,” the sixth-year head coach said. “It was hard to get past my own mental block of thinking that we weren’t gonna play.”
The offseason routine was going along as usual until COVID-19 threw a wrench into everything in mid-March. Then things changed dramatically for everyone.
“Without being able to do the in-person stuff, we had to trust that the guys would put in the work on their own. I was optimistic that they would and we stayed in touch with them frequently,” Zortman said. “We were able to get back together on July 8 and we worked out four times a week, until it was time to start practice. Our participation has been better than usual. It’s been close to 100 percent every day.”
For the second straight year, the Squires will have a new starter at quarterback with junior Coltyn Keller and sophomore Ryder Noel vying to take over the duties that were filled by Kevin Mowrey a year ago. Mowrey threw for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns, while running for five more.
“I haven’t really settled on my quarterback yet,” Zortman said. “We’ve got two guys battling for it and they’re very close. We’ll see who wins the job.”
The backfield will have to absorb the loss of the top two yards gainers on the ground from the Times Area as Joe Hernandez (1,011 yards, 9 TDs) graduated and Josh Fulton (935 yards, 14 TDs) transferred out.
Fulton, who played his freshman year at Biglerville before spending the past two seasons at Delone, is back in Canner Land for his senior year. In addition to his rushing prowess, he posted 113 tackles and six sacks from his linebacker spot.
“Josh is a very good player and we’ll miss him dearly,” Zortman said. “He’s a great kid and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Seniors Tate Neiderer (615 yards, 5 TDs) and Cory Heffner are in line to see the bulk of the carries this season.
“Tate will be our feature back,” Zortman said. “We’re moving Cory Hefner from receiver and we expect good things from him, as well. We have a lot of speed back there.”
Zortman mentioned senior Zach Fields and junior Dylan Staub as potential contributors out of the backfield, as well.
The offensive line returns just one starter, senior Nick Groft, but the Squires expect good things from sophomores Trent Giraffa and Alex Timmins. Junior offensive tackle Gage Wildasin will miss the season due to injury. Zortman noted seniors Joe Landsman, Colin Snyder and Ryan King, along with juniors Sam Scovitch and Elijah Staub as being in line for some work on the O-Line and D-Line, possibly both.
Groft (50 tackles, 4 sacks), along with fellow senior Wyatt Schussler (21 tackles) are expected to anchor the defensive line.
At linebacker, Neiderer (87 tackles) and senior Michael O’Brien (65 tackles) are the top two names returning, while Fields (29 tackles) returns from injury after playing in just five games a year ago. Dylan Staub, along with Keller drew mentions as possible reinforcements at linebacker.
Hefner (24 tackles), Noel and senior Dylan Zimmerman (22 tackles) are expected to fill out the secondary.
Junior Justin Emeigh will fill the spots at both punter and place kicker.
Like everyone else in the YAIAA, the Squires will play only a division schedule and that will commence on Friday when they host York Tech.
“The guys have done a great job of following the rules and protocols that have been put in place,” Zortman said. “They’re appreciative of the chance that they have to play. Because I’ll be honest, I didn’t think we’d have this opportunity, so we plan to make the best of it.”
They are scheduled to play seven regular season games, though if they qualify for the District 3 Class 1A playoffs, they would only play six, as the title game is scheduled for Oct 30. There are only four schools in 1A, with the the top two playing for the championship.
“We have a very unique schedule this year,” Zortman said. “Our goals are the same, though. We want to win our league and make districts.”
Follow Tom Sixeas on Twitter at @TomSixeas