It will be a new look for Saint Mark’s in a lot of positions when the 2019 football season kicks off Friday night, but the Spartans are confident they will be ready to compete all over the field.
“I think this year it’s about staying consistent, staying humble. We use that momentum moving forward rather than just sitting on our laurels. We take that momentum from a big beginning and we work it out into a big late season and hopefully into the postseason,” senior Patrick Palm said.
The changes begin at quarterback, where coach Joe Wright has been using seniors Jack LaFrankie and Luke Moore. There are a lot of candidates to run the ball, including senior Zion Glover, junior Andrew Vogel and sophomore Jeremiah Moore. One position where they have starters coming back is receiver, with senior Blaec Sanders and junior Christian Colmery providing solid targets.
“They’re a year older, a year deeper into the system. So, we’re expecting big things from those guys,” Wright said.
Glover will be a key piece of the offense. The reigning state champion in the 100-meter dash said his track background is a help.
“It’s definitely very helpful. I play receiver this year, so on a post route or any type of fade route it’s really hard to keep up with me. It’s a nice advantage,” he said.
One of the keys during preseason camp has been for the coaches to identify the right fit for players in the offense, he added.
“We’ve got some skill players that we really, really like, and our job as coaches and play-callers is just to find plays to get the ball in their hands and get them space and let them do what they do best,” Wright said.
“We’re not going to ask them to do something that they’re not that good at. We’re going to find their strengths and put them in position to utilize their strengths.”
The roster includes a bunch of freshmen and some sophomores, but Sanders doesn’t see that as a liability.
“We have a lot of young guys, but a lot of them have stepped up, too, because we lost a lot of seniors last year,” he said.
A lot of injuries on the offensive line last season created opportunities for several players to get significant time, and now that group has moved into starting roles.
The team is working toward the program’s first postseason berth since 2014. The Spartans looked to be in a good spot last season, opening with a 4-1 mark, but injuries and a brutal schedule took their toll as they dropped four of their last five. Wright, a former Saint Mark’s quarterback, said he has seen a more cohesive unit that has been working all offseason to improve. The players are also more familiar with the coach’s system as Wright enters his second season at the helm of his alma mater.
“One of the things we’ve been working on ever since the spring was becoming more of a team. We’re a family here. The school preaches it. We preach it as a coaching staff. I went here, a lot of the coaches went here, so this is part of our family. We’re coming together as more of a family this year, and I think that’s one of our strengths that will carry over when you’ve guys who want to battle for one another,” Wright said.
The schedule also has some new looks this year, and it remains challenging. There are three Division I teams on the horizon, including Salesianum in the regular-season finale. Road opponents include St. Elizabeth, Archmere, Appoquinimink, Delaware Military and Kennett (Pa.), while the rival Sals are the premier opponent visiting the Graveyard.
Palm said the Spartans will be ready. “We respect all of our opponents. It doesn’t matter who it is. We come ready to play like it’s the biggest game of our lives. We’re coming week one ready to go.”
Wright said the schedule last year challenged both the players and the coaching staff, but it helped the team in the long run.
“If you get in the playoffs, anything can happen. We want to make sure our guys are prepared for the playoffs,” he said.
Glover would love to be on the team that ends the five-season playoff drought. “I think we have a really good chance to make the playoffs this year and continue the legacy of Saint Mark’s.”
Sanders said a key is not taking a day off, even when the temperatures are in the 90s or an extra hour of sleep is tempting.
“It starts today. It starts at practice. You can’t slack off. You have to give 100 percent in everything we do. We can’t wait until the first week; you have to start now,” he said.
Home games in CAPS
Sept. 14, 7:30 p.m.: St. Elizabeth (at Caravel)
Sept. 20, 7 p.m.: WILMINGTON CHARTER
Sept. 28, 2 p.m.: Archmere
Oct. 4, 7 p.m.: Appoquinimink
Oct. 11, 7 p.m.: NEWARK
Oct. 18, 7 p.m.: Delaware Military
Oct. 25, 7 p.m.: Kennett (Pa.)
Nov. 1, 7 p.m.: GLASGOW
Nov. 8, 7 p.m.: SALESIANUM