WILMINGTON – It’s a new day for St. Mark’s football, with a familiar face leading them from the sideline and increased turnout. The Spartans enter the Joe Wright era on Friday night at Newark with a goal of making the state tournament for the first time since moving to Division II.
Wright, a 2004 St. Mark’s graduate, returned to his alma mater as head coach after a year at the helm at St. Elizabeth. He said about 55 young men came out for the team this summer, many of them freshman. The increased numbers paid dividends during preseason practice.
“It allows us to practice a little faster, a little harder, a little more intense, which is nice. We’re building a little bit of depth so we can keep guys fresh, rotate them in and out,” Wright said in late August.
The youngsters will have plenty of opportunities to make an impression, but the skill positions belong to their more seasoned teammates. Anthony Poppiti and Jelani Bryant, both seniors, were battling to be the starting quarterback. Classmate Carter Benham will be a “jack of all trades,” Wright said, and Victor Marcelo will start at tight end. The backfield will feature a number of running backs.
“It’s not going to be a one-man show for us this year,” Wright said. “We feel comfortable with five running backs and at least six receivers and at least three tight ends, which is huge for us.”
Clearing a path for those offensive weapons is an offensive line with some size and experience. They will be led by all-state senior Joe Cartwright.
During preseason, the coaching staff was trying to figure out how to best take advantage of the athletes it has on defense, the coach said.
“We’re going to be doing a couple of different things. With all of the talent we have, we’re just trying to find the best position for guys and trying to find out what they do well and put them in position to do well,” he said.
Benham said Wright has brought a new approach to St. Mark’s. Getting used to new systems and cadence hasn’t been too difficult.
“It’s been great. Most of the upperclassmen have definitely stepped up to play a bigger role in our offense and defense this year. I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“We’ve got a couple of new kids. We’re running a little different offense, a different style. I think it’s going to be good for the program. I think we’re going to have a good year,” he said.
To get to the playoffs, the Spartans will battle a difficult schedule, which is listed below. It all starts Friday under the lights.
Home games in CAPS
Sept. 7, 7 p.m.: at Newark
Sept. 21, 7 p.m.: at Indian River
Sept. 28, 7 p.m.: ARCHMERE
Oct. 6, 10:30 a.m.: at Mount Pleasant
Oct. 13, 1 p.m.: at Howard (Baynard Stadium)
Oct. 19, 7 p.m.: DELAWARE MILITARY ACADEMY
Oct. 26, 7 p.m.: WOODBRIDGE
Nov. 2, 7 p.m.: ST. ELIZABETH
Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m.: at Salesianum (Baynard Stadium)