John Carroll Patriots

Coach: Rich Stichel Jr.

2010 record: 5-4

Returning starters: 6

Top returnees: Alex Gambrell, Kicker, Jr.; Denzel Varner, Offensive line/Defensive end, Sr.; Rapheal Oduok, Fullback/Linebacker, Sr.; Luke Navin, Offensive tackle/Linebacker, Sr.; Avery Callan, Wide receiver/Defensive end, Sr.; John Galarraga, Center/Linebacker, Sr.

Top newcomers: Brandon Lewis, Quarterback, Jr.; Gus Lan, Fullback, So.; Dan Kelble, Offensive line/Defensive line, Jr.; Devon Ruane, Offensive line/Defensive line, Jr.; Austin Markley, Wide receiver, Jr.; Luke Reinhart, Saftey, Fr.; Allen Bryant, Running back, Fr.

Outlook: When you look at the John Carroll Patriot offense, the first thing you see is a wall of experience linemen, prepared to knock you back yard after yard.  If you are lucky enough to break that line, you are then introduced to a very young backfield of specialty players, but don’t let their youth fool you.

“The kids on the varsity team are young this year,” John Carroll Head Coach Rich Stichel said.  “We have no senior skill position players, and they are all returning, including the kicker.  But they all played JV together last year, so the camaraderie is there and will help us.”

The chemistry between the young backs should see a great deal of success for the Patriot offense, as is began to show at North Harford, Saturday.  Connecting on passes and carving large running plays, the Pats were a team on the move amongst other Harford County opponents.

“We should just be able to move the ball consistently, as we had trouble in the past,” Stichel explained.  “They all have been together, all went to a pre-season camp and it showed in Saturday’s scrimmage.”

One thing not seen at the Saturday scrimmage was the golden foot of junior kicker Alex Gambrell, who can take a kickoff from the 35-yard line and boot the ball clear into the endzone.

“Our kicking game will be unmatched as opponents will be forced to start from their own 20, and our range in field goals will be from 50 yards and beyond,” Stichel said in praise of Gambrell.  “Making an offense start from the 20-yard line every time is huge.  You look at the NFL, they are complaining, now and imagine that in high school.

kicking“It is hard to drive the ball 80 yards and score.  I don’t care if you are Gilman, Calvert Hall or whomever, if you have to drive the ball 80 yards every time, you are going to make mistakes.  So having that advantage will be very big for us this year.”

Gambrell attended the Kohl’s Football Kicking Camp this off-season, being ranked 21 in the nation with his ability to boot the ball.  His work at the camp makes him a 4.5 star recruit for college teams.

A lot of the Patriots’ team growth occurred over the summer, where the players took to the weight room and began their preparation for the 2011 season.  There, Stichel was able to see his players become bigger, stronger and faster, which he is confident will translate to the field.

“Our weight room has been a lot better than in past years,” Stichel said.  “We have more members in our 750-club and a kid in our 900 club.  We have more consistency in the weight room, we are stronger as an overall team and we are faster.

“We just want to make a run for the championship.  That is our goal every year and we think we have the team this year to do it.  We have a true team this year, no real Division I prospects at the skilled positions, but we play as a team and the kids are coming together more than last year.”

You can email CJ Malinowski at cj@varsitysportsnetwork.com, and follow him on twitter.