Monday wasn’t just Chris Mulvey’s first official day on the Our Lady of Lourdes High School football team, it was also his first day as a student.
So how did the junior Roy C. Ketcham transfer like his first preseason practice on Boardman Road?
“I made it a little bit physical,” Mulvey said with a smile on his face.
As the Warriors prepare for the new season, with sights set on a third consecutive trip to the Section 1 Class B championship game, Mulvey is one of several key additions to the roster, and one of the reasons coach Brian Walsh hopes his offensive line can return to being the backbone of the team.
“Last year we could not run the ball, because our line was so inexperienced,” Walsh said. “This year, we have a lot of those guys back. They’ve gotten stronger.
“It’s not the line I had two years ago when I had all those big guys, but hopefully this year we can run the ball better.”
Lourdes earned its first sectional football title in 2012, running often behind a hulking line anchored by Devlin Brennan. Walsh said an inability to run the ball a year ago was a key reason why his team lost to Pleasantville in the sectional final.
The coach listed Mulvey at guard and returning left tackle Allan Rappleyea and center Kevin Doyle as the key components to this year’s group, in addition to fullback Chris Kiernan, who sat out last year.
“I’m making sure they’re tough,” said Mulvey, who worked out with the Warriors through the summer. “They’re strong. They got a lot better than last year, I’ll tell you that right now. They’re stronger. They’re lifting more. They’re in the weight room every day.
“Everyone’s going to be talking about the O-line.”
While the line should help running backs such as junior Danny Cox ease the loss of 2014 graduate Bryce Gioia, and protect third-year starting quarterback Dean Rotger, another newcomer may assist in the passing game, both offensively and defensively.
Monday was Devin Bower’s first workout with the entire Lourdes team after moving to the area from Chandler, Arizona. His family relocated from the mid-Hudson Valley shortly after he was born, and has returned due to work obligations.
Though he played linebacker exclusively in Arizona, Bower expects to play both safety and wide receiver for Lourdes. Teammates raved about the transfer’s speed.
“They expect big things out of me, and I’m excited to play with them,” said Bower, who ran routes with Rotger and a few teammates outside of practice recently. “I could tackle back in Arizona, but I’m really excited to start catching the ball. If everyone keeps calling me ‘the fast kid from Arizona,’ I guess I can run.”
Junior Luke Timm is also expected to be a key weapon among the receivers for Rotger, who threw for 1,665 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago.
Walsh praised his junior class, which he said “grew up” on the way to the sectional-final loss last year.
“We have a great group of kids, one of the best groups I’ve ever had, just in terms of the kids (and) their work ethic,” Walsh said. “We had great participation in our offseason workouts, the weight room. The kids are doing great. I tell you, it’s a very self-motivated group. They’re really a pleasure to work with.”
The goal, Rotger said, is nothing less than a return to the state playoffs, beginning with a Sept. 6 date at Nanuet.
“Every kid on this team is so hungry to win, and they’re just determined,” he said. “They’re all out here working.”
Mike Benischek: email@example.com, 845-437-4722, Twitter: @BenischekPJ