When Salesianum takes the field Saturday night in the season opener against Concord, some things will be very familiar. It will be Baynard Stadium, under the lights, with a band. The team will be in its home blue uniforms with the gold helmets.
But so much about the 2018 Sals is different.
Very few starters — three, by coach Bill DiNardo’s count — return from a squad that went 6-4 last season. For the most part, the players who have emerged as the starters have some game experience, but not to this extent.
“We are very untested,” DiNardo said. “The kids are working hard, but we have very few kids who have varsity playing experience. Most of the kids we have are coming from the JV and also the freshman team. A lot of sophomores are going to be in the mix.”
Junior Gabe Puzzangara takes over the starting quarterback position, and his ball carriers, fullback Jesse Wheatley and running back Andrew Watkins, are new to starting as well. There is some experience in the receiving corps, with Logan Bushweller and Sean Regan returning.
“I think our receivers are good. Bushweller and Regan are both established receivers. Our quarterback, Puzzangara, has had a nice summer. I think he’s going to be a good, solid guy. I like our two running backs. They’re both very good,” DiNardo said.
Bushweller, a senior, noted that the offensive and defensive line also will consist of a bunch of new starters, but the Sals will be ready to compete. His classmate, Brendan Pacheco, believes some people may be discounting Salesianum this season, but that may be a mistake.
The Sals will play the same opponents as last season, with six games against Delaware schools and two each from Pennsylvania and Maryland. Three of their six in-state foes made the state tournament. It will not be an easy road back if the Sals are to return to the state tournament.
“It is a brutal schedule. We have to bring it every single week,” DiNardo said.
Bushweller said the team is excited about the schedule and the journey that awaits. They know the program’s extended fan base will be watching closely.
“The expectations are always to make the playoffs and compete for a championship every year. That’s our plan, to get back to that.”
Home games in CAPS
Sept. 14, 7:30 p.m.: SUSSEX TECH
Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m.: FATHER JUDGE (Pa.)
Sept. 28, 7 p.m.: at Urbana (Md.)
Oct. 5, 7 p.m.: at Episcopal (Pa.)
Oct. 20, 1 p.m.: at William Penn
Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m.: WESTMINSTER (Md.)
Nov. 2, 7 p.m.: at Smyrna
Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m.: ST. MARK’S