Bob Tattersall, entering his 49th season on the sideline at Wilmington Friends, didn’t get to be Delaware’s all-time leader in high school football coaching wins by looking ahead.
“Each season is so different,” Tattersall said Friday. “Play your games, don’t talk about what’s down the road, and see what happens.”
The Quakers are about to see what happens in 2016, and it will likely be another successful year. Wilmington Friends reached the semifinals of the DIAA Division II playoffs the last two seasons, and has enough talent and experience to contend again.
It all starts with senior quarterback Justin Beneck, who is 20-3 as the Quakers’ starter over the past two years.
“He’s very solid,” Tattersall said. “We don’t throw the ball 30 times a game, but he’s very capable. He’s a running threat and a passing threat.”
Friends also returns halfback-linebacker Henry Gise, who has the versatility to be a factor all over the field.
“The problem we have with Gise is he’s one of our best runners, he’s one of our best blockers and he’s one of our best receivers,” Tattersall said. “Unfortunately, there’s only one of him. Where do you want him?”
Senior FB-LB Andrew Jaworski, who has committed to Colgate, will anchor the middle on both sides. And linemen Christopher Wallace, Jason Saville, Sean Cochran, Daniel Abedi, Matthew Denney and Josh Payne provide strength and experience up front.
But Friends could receive a major challenge from two others in the four-team Independent Conference.
TATNALL went 6-4 last year, its first winning season in four years, and just about all of the Hornets return. They should be especially explosive on offensive behind 1,500-yard rusher Sam Ragland, WR Cam Easton and TE Oliver Campbell.
TOWER HILL made its third straight D-II playoff appearance last season, and the Hillers have plenty of firepower coming back. RBs Anthony Falco, Harry Quimby and Michael Gallagher should keep their unique single-wing attack churning out the first downs.
ST. ANDREW’S struggled through an 0-9 season last year, but LBs Ryan Godfrey and Jaryd Jones and linemen Alec Maloney and Avi Veluchamy are coming back determined to improve.
Among the state’s nonconference teams, ARCHMERE has some momentum after closing last season on a five-game winning streak. RBs Patrick Udovich and Daniel Bark and linemen Kevin Olsen, Connor Reggieri, Michael Devine and Anthony Soscia will try to pick up where the Auks left off.
CARAVEL went through a rare down season at 3-6 last year, but just about all of the Buccaneers are back. Junior QB Alex Barker leads a few key transfers from Eastern Christian Academy that could provide an even bigger boost, but a schedule loaded with four Division I opponents (Concord, Elkton (Md.), Salesianum and Cape Henlopen) could pose some major hurdles.
CONRAD continues to improve, going from 1-9 to 3-7 to 5-5 to 6-4 over the last four years. RB Elijah Walton and linemen Billy Baldwin, Jake Brown, Chris DeAngelo and Mike Shields are among the returnees looking to take another step up.
DELAWARE MILITARY ACADEMY has established itself as a perennial Division II playoff contender. Three-year starting QB Jacob Hudson and LBs Marcus Brooks and Brennan Hazewski are among a stout group of Seahawks that expects to make a major postseason push.
RED LION CHRISTIAN returned to varsity football for the first time in three years last season. The Lions managed to win two games, but will have freshmen playing many key roles this year. FB-LB Jake Pancake, DE-RB Dashaun Cain and S-WR Daniel McNeil are the only returning starters.
ST. ELIZABETH showed major improvement with the midseason addition of transfer Mickey Henry, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound two-way lineman who has committed to the University of Delaware. Henry returns to open holes for talented junior RB Chris Cropper, making the Vikings a D-II playoff contender.
Four of ST. MARK’S losses came by a total of 12 points last season, leaving the Spartans to believe a major turnaround is possible in their second season in Division II. QB Billy Sullivan, TE-DE David Balint and DB-WR Austin Colmery will be among the returnees trying to make it happen.
SALESIANUM lost the Division I state championship game in overtime last season, so the Sals have plenty of motivation. Randy Sinnott, Zeb Wright, Sean Keating, Dom Marra and Josh Patrick return to form perhaps the state’s best offensive line. LBs Peyton Mullin and Bill Stradley and DBs Mike Drake and John Andreoli return on the defense as Sallies gears up for what should be another successful season.
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.