By Andy Sandrik:
Head coach: Jeff Weachter
Division: Mid-Penn Keystone
2019 Season: 8-4, 5-1 in Keystone
Postseason: Lost to Lampeter-Strasburg in the District 3-4A quarterfinal
Passing: Comp-Att, Yards, TD
Lek Powell: 155-254, 2,054, 18
Rushing: Att-Yards, Avg., TD
Marquese Williams: 155-1,019, 6.6, 15
Receiving: Rec-Yards,Avg., TD
Mario Easterly: 52-761, 14.4, 7
Omari Hopkind: 20-492, 24.6, 3
Key Players: QB Lek Powell, Sr., QB; Marquese Williams, So., RB; Mario Easterly, Jr., WB-DB; Kamil Foster, Jr., WR-DB; Gabe Arena, So., OL-DL; Julian Bakos, Sr., OLB-DE; Jamoni Heron George, Jr., LB; Riley Robell, So., LB; Danny McHale, Sr., OL-DL; Omari Hopkins, Sr.,; Dedrick Tinker, Sr., WR-RB-DB
OUTLOOK: If this year were like any other year, we’d be talking about this team’s chances to compete for a state title. But the reality of this fall is that the Crusaders will be competing for one of just four spots in the district playoffs, and losses — either by final score or game cancellations — could leave Bishop McDevitt on the outside looking in. The good news, in case you haven’t heard, is that the Crusaders are an excellent football team. They will be favored in every regular season game they play this fall. If McDevitt can play a full schedule this season, and earn a signature win over Cedar Cliff and/or Cumberland Valley, we like the Crusaders chances to not only qualify for the postseason, but to make a run.
3 THINGS TO KNOW
1. Williams hitting the OL books
Following an electric freshman season that featured 15 TDs and more than 1,000 yards, it’s hard to imagine McDevitt marching out an even better version of RB Marquese Williams this fall. Yet Weachter reports that Williams has only gotten bigger, faster and smarter since last season.
Williams has done everything that’s been asked of him, even study the playbook: From the perspective of a lineman.
“We made Marquese learn the blocking schemes as if he’s a lineman,” Weachter said. “We made LeSean (McCoy) do the same thing. When you do that, your understanding of how to run the ball is better.”
That understanding goes beyond the running back, as Weachter can count on Williams for not only yards, but opposition intel as well. Weachter acknowledges that technological improvements, like instant replay, have made it easier for coaches to pick up on what’s happening between the lines, but he said it’s still important to get the feedback from his RB.
“Marquese has great peripheral vision like Shady, so he can talk more about what he’s seeing,” Weachter said. “He can talk more on a coaches level now about what he’s seeing and what he likes.
“He has just physically and mentally matured since last year, so he’s going to be tough to handle.”
2. Altered Schedule
Harrisburg and Milton Hershey are off the schedule because of COVID-19 season cancellations. McDevitt won’t be meeting national power St. Mary’s Ryken, as scheduled, either. Even Middletown, a PIAA tournament regular, won’t be able to challenge the Crusaders after making the move from the Keystone Division to the Capital.
The question for McDevitt is can its schedule, in its current form, prepare the Crusaders for a deep postseason run? Another question worth considering, as the number of District 3 4A qualifiers has dipped from 10 teams to four: Will McDevitt be able to rack up enough power points to qualify for the dance?
Not so fast, Weachter says.
“Losing all of those teams is a little frustrating, but I’m just happy that we’re getting to hopefully play some games,” Weachter said. “I haven’t looked at the other 4A teams, but I know we have two 6A teams on our schedule and the rest are all 5A, so you’ve got to win anyway. You just have to win, and hope you get in.”
If there’s a silver lining to the schedule changes, it’s that the Crusaders can continue their rivalry with Cumberland Valley, which was added to the schedule for Oct. 16 to replace Harrisburg. This game will be played one week after Keystone heavy hitter Cedar Cliff welcomes McDevitt to West Shore Stadium. These two games will not only give us a better idea of how good the Crusaders really are, these contests could go a long way in determining whether Weachter’s squad make it to the playoffs at all.
3. “We’ll go as far as our O-Line takes us”
Even if McDevitt didn’t have Williams, the Crusaders would still be loaded at the skill positions. QB Lek Powell developed a steady hand last season and returns this fall with an even stronger arm. He has a deeply talented wide receiving corps of Mario Easterly, Omari Hopkins, Kamil Foster, and Dedrick Tinker.
McDevitt’s defense, with DE/LB Julian Bankos wreaking havoc to lead by example, will ensure that the Crusaders are in every game this year.
The biggest question mark for McDevitt lies with the young offensive line, which struggled at times last seasons, but returns with a year of on-the-job experience. These dudes are big — check out the measurements for Kameron Zeangle (6-0, 250), Cole Brandenburg (6-7, 240), Ethan Straining (6-2, 230), and Gabriel Arena (6-4, 250) — but aside from senior Bradenburg, all are sophomores.
Weachter is banking on 2019’s baptism under fire to pay dividends for his boys in the trenches this season.
“We’ll go where our offensive line goes,” Weachter said. “We were young last year and we’re still young this year, but we’ve seen improvements. We’ve got some good size for the offensive line to gel, and if we can do that, and get some good secondary play, we’ll be a really good football team.”