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2020 Preview: Cedar Cliff Colts

By Adam Kulikowski: 

Head coach: Colin Gillen, 7th season (57-16)

Classification: 5A

Division: Mid-Penn Keystone

2019 season: 10-3 (6-0)

Postseason: Lost to Cocalico 45-7 in the District 3 Class 5A championship.

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Comp-Att,Yards, TD

Gannon McMeans: 112-218, 1,442, 14

Rushing: Att-Yards, Avg, TD

Jontae Morris: 17-149, 8.8, 2

Jamir Reynolds-Vasquez: 9-66, 7.3, 1

Receiving: Rec-Yards, Avg, TD

Ramon Garcia: 8-74, 9.3, 0

Elijah Ikeda: 7-61, 8.7, 2

Key returners: Seth Gillen, sr., OG; Antonio Rodriquez, sr., OT; Gannon McMeans, sr., QB; Elijah Ikeda, sr., FB-LB; Adam Enrico, sr., TE; Ramon Garcia, sr., WR; Jamir Reynolds-Vasquez, sr., FS-WR; Ben Eisenhower, sr., DL; Alex Widmer, sr., K; Matt Switzler, sr., P; Claude Godineaux, jr., OT; Jontae Morris, jr., CB.

Outlook: The back-to-back Keystone Division champion Colts possess plenty of pieces to compete for their third straight division title and more. Who they ride this year, however, will be far different from the 2019 campaign which featured a heavy dose of the Colts’ all-time leading rusher, Jaheim Morris, who toted the rock 365 times for more than 2,400 yards and 27 scores during his senior circuit in the Mid-Penn Conference. Look for Colin Gillen’s Colts to lean a little more on the arm of Gannon McMeans as a pair of young backs, Jamir Reynolds-Vasquez and Jontae Morris (yep, the younger brother of Jaheim), find their footing in the backfield. The Colts’ quest to repeat as division champs begins Friday against a more athletic — but still rebuilding — Lower Dauphin squad.

 1 Gannon ready for a bigger role: With a year of start experience under his belt, McMeans is ready for a bigger role in the offense. That’s good, because the Colts are breaking in a new stable of skill positions players after the departure of Morris and Gillen’s top five receivers from the 2019 campaign. Early indications are that McMeans, who worked through the offseason to improve his accuracy after completing 51% of his pass attempts as a junior, is ready for the challenge. “I was extremely pleased with our quarterback play,” Gillen said of the work done by McMeans and backup Ethan Dorrell during Friday’s scrimmage with East Pennsboro. “We have two very good quarterbacks in Gannon and Ethan Dorrell, a sophomore. Both made excellent decisions, and Gannon did a phenomenal job extending plays with his legs, keeping his eyes downfield. He’s a great leader and a kid that has learned the offense now with four years [of experience] reading the coverages.” Added Gillen: “Last year, we were asking our quarterback to be more of a game manager, whereas this year we are asking him to make more decisions. We will be more balanced 50-50 (run-pass) this year as we had been in years past. … I think he’s ready. Last year, when you are a first-year starter, having a returning tailback like we had and a great defense, it was easy to just have him manage the game. This year, we are going to be more dynamic on offense. We were one-dimensional last year, and that was something in the offseason that we really focused on. I think we are ready to take that step.”

2. Backfield rotation: The natural thing to think after your all-time leading rusher departs for Millersville University would be that the running game will take a step back. While there’s no doubt the Colt won’t call any back’s number more than 300 times during the 2020 season, Gillen believes his backfield has a pair of backs who would start on just about any team in the state. Enter Reynolds-Vasquez and Jontae Morris. Both are returning starters on defense — Reynolds at free safety and Morris at corner — and now each will have an expanded role on offense in the more-balanced Colts offense. “We have two stellar tailbacks,” Gillen said. “Jamir had a great night [Friday in the scrimmage]. Had a couple touchdowns — one of which was a long run that was like an ESPN highlight — and Morris, a different runner who is taller, leaner more of a slasher kid. He’s very physical. He reminds me of his brother with a little less wiggle. He’s a quick north-south kid who also starts at corner. I joke that we have two tailbacks who would start on 95 percent of the teams in Pa. Both are dynamic runners. Both are physical finishers.” Both will play key roles in the Colts success in 2020.

 3. The stoppers: One of the best defenses in the Mid-Penn Conference last year figures to rank among the best in the league again in 2020. Their strength starts up front with junior Claude Godineaux and Mid-Penn All-Star Ben Eisenhower anchoring the defensive line. Elijah Ikeda and Adam Enrico will provide stability to the linebacker group as other young lads find their varsity footing after the graduation of team-leading tackler Kevin Lusk. Add in an experienced secondary featuring Reynolds and Morris — and a newcomer in Trenten Smith, who has the potential to be a standout corner in his first campaign — and you see the ingredients needed for a defense who should keep opponents in check most Friday nights. “Our outside linebackers are young but have physical tools they need,” Gillen said. “They just don’t have a lot of game experience. So allowing them some time to develop will be critical. I’m really excited for us in the box. Teams are going to have very tough sleighing running in the box against us this year.”

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