ARDEN – Christ School’s chances of returning to the postseason in 2015 may have been sidetracked by a scalpel and a stick.
But a Shuler on the sidelines should help brighten the playoff picture.
Coach Mark Moroz’s eighth Greenies team will not include running back Sage Holley, who would have been WNC’s top returning rusher after carrying 206 times for 1,545 yards and 16 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Holley recently underwent surgery for a torn labrum suffered during weight training and will return in the spring to continue his promising lacrosse career.
The loss of Holley “is a huge blow to our team,” Moroz said. “He’s the best fullback I’ve ever had here. Replacing him will be difficult.”
Christ School also lost virtually its entire offensive line to graduation, necessitating a switch to the spread offense from the Power-I attack that produced 99 points in back-to-back wins over rival Asheville School in the regular-season finale and the NCISAA Division II quarterfinals.
That’s where a WNC Sports Hall of Fame quarterback comes in handy.
Heath Shuler, who starred at Swain County High and Tennessee in the late 1980s and early 1990s, will join Moroz’s staff as an assistant coach in charge of the quarterbacks.
“I plan to have him in the press box during games,” said Moroz, who also serves as offensive coordinator. “He’ll make a great difference there as far as what to call and reading tendencies.”
Shuler will work with three candidates to replace Landon Archangelo, who earned a scholarship to NCAA Division II Shippensburg (Pennsylvania). Senior Zach Ayotte, last season’s backup, will compete with juniors Drew Johnson and Michael Reynolds.
By the way, the Greenies’ starting junior varsity quarterback may be Navy Shuler, an eighth-grader who will join his father on campus.
Whoever wins the starting job under center will look first to senior wide receiver Marcellos Allison, who earned NCISAA All-State honors last season while catching 23 passes for 507 yards and six touchdowns. Allison also averaged 4.5 tackles per game as a member of the secondary.
Moroz cited three other players from whom he expects important contributions: sophomore running back John Critz, who starred for the JVs last season, junior wide receiver/defensive back Tyler Redmond and junior punter Noah Gminski, the 6-8 son of former Duke All-America center Mike Gminski who does not play varsity basketball but may also see time as a receiver.
The reconstruction of the offensive line will be a challenge. Last season’s unit included tackle Joe Keeler, who will be a walk-on at Tennessee, tackle Walker Lanning (Western Carolina), nose guard Austin Cooke (North Greenville) and tackle/guard Malik Johnson (North Carolina A&T).
Moroz will know more about his 50-man roster when practice begins Aug. 12, nine days before the Greenies have a scrimmage at Rabun Gap (Ga.).
The schedule also includes home games against powerhouses Davidson Day and Christ Church (Greenville, South Carolina), which owns the second-longest high school winning streak in the nation at 54 games.
“We are going to be very, very young,” said Moroz, a former All-ACC offensive tackle at Wake Forest. “Our schedule is tougher (than last year). It’s very challenging.”
However, don’t assume that Moroz will be averse to facing the challenge presented by an offensive overhaul. The native of Welland, Ontario, played two seasons (2004-05) in the wide-open Canadian Football League for the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Twelve to a side and a 55-yard field. The floor is yours, Congressman Shuler.
CHRIST SCHOOL GREENIES
Affiliation: NCISAA Division II.
Coach: Mark Moroz (55-22 career record).
2014 record: 7-4.
Returning starters: Six (two offense, four defense).