By Andy Sandrik:
Coach: Devin McCauley
League/division: Mid-Penn Colonial
2019 record: 1-9, 0-6 in Colonial
Postseason: Did not qualify
Passing: Comp-Att., Yards, TD
Zach Cole: 95-212, 1,386, 10
Rushing: Att.,-Yards, Avg., TD
David Niebauer: 183-762, 4.2, 0
Receiving: Rec.,-Yards, Avg., TD
Adam Root: 33-807, 24.5, 6
David Niebauer: 26-204, 7.8, 0
Key Players: Adam Root, Sr., WR; David Niebauer, Jr., RB; Zach Cole, Sr., QB; Isaiah Toney-Mayhugh, Sr., RB; Landon Searles, Sr., G-DT; Taylor Conrad, Jr., LB-QB; Ethan Shan, Jr., DB; Jake Kumfert, Jr., G; Blaine Ocker, Sr., G-DT; Levi Bingaman, Jr., WR-CB; Bruce Lepore, Sr., LB
OUTLOOK: It’s going to be really easy for opponents to look at Greencastle’s one-win season from last year and mark the Blue Devils down as an automatic win. That would be a mistake. Greencastle returns 15 starters, most of whom were back in the weight room within days of the conclusion of last year’s hard season.
Wins will still be hard to come by for the Blue Devils, but look for McCauley’s boys to move up from the Colonial Division basement, and don’t be surprised if Greencastle finds itself in position to spring an upset or two, perhaps with a big boot from the leg of Kirkwood.
3 THINGS TO KNOW
1. Long-range threat: Perhaps the best college prospect on the Greencastle squad is kicker Nate Kirkwood, who was named First Team in the Colonial Division as a sophomore last fall. In his first season on a football field, Kirkwood knocked four out of five field goal attempts through the uprights, including three from more 40 yards. He was also reliable on extra-point attempts, banging in 18 of 21 tries.
As McCauley tells the story, Kirkwood was a “soccer kid” who had never kicked before. He entered Greencastle’s kicking competition against a quality opponent and ran away with the job.
Kirkwood has a career-long field goal of 45 yards, and McCauley indicated that he won’t shy away from giving his kicker chances to put points on the board from even longer distances.
“We feel Nate has potential for the next level,” McCauley said. “It’s nice to have a weapon like this with pretty good range, where we know we can get some points any time we pass the 40.”
Kirkwood, who comes from a military family and has eyes on an academy, has made unofficial visits with Air Force and Navy.
2. “Most athletic group we’ve had in years:” Greencastle won’t be favored in a lot of its division games, but with the talent the Blue Devils have returned for this fall, it’s hard to imagine that McCauley’s boys won’t, at the very least, have a puncher’s chance.
Greencastle brings back all three of its statistical leaders: junior RB David Niebauer, senior QB Zach Cole and senior WR Adam Root. Niebauer is a threat for a 1,000-yard season, and could have even more room to run if the Cole-to-Root connection continues to flourish.
“Niebauer is a tough, strong kid who can see the ball well,” McCauley said. “Zach is big, and strong and throws the ball well, and Root can high-point the ball as good as anyone. He’s worked on his route running, he’s good and fast, and he spreads the field well.”
McCauley added that we will likely know sophomore RB Tavon Cooper’s name by the end of the season, and that senior RB Cameron Medina, a transfer from Frederick (Maryland), will also see some time. Taylor Conrad, Greencastle’s starting middle linebacker, is a capable back-up QB who poses a threat as both a runner and passer.
“Our offensive line has also matured physically, so we’re excited to have all of this to build on,” McCauley said. “Last year we were a one-trick pony, but now we have various ways to spread out the attack. This is the most athletic group we’ve had in years.”
3. Defense seeks improvement: If you want to boil Greencastle’s 1-9 record from 2019 down to the simplest of explanations, you can start with this: the Blue Devils allowed 42.6 points per game last season. Even if Greencastle’s offensive fixtures perform beyond their expectations, wins will still be hard to come by if the Blue Devils can’t find a way to make more stops. McCauley is looking for his big guys up front to clog the gaps, so Conrad can make plays from his linebacker spot.
“He’s a difference maker in the middle,” McCauley said. “He’s a quiet player, but he makes plays. He’s football savvy and is the heart and soul of our defense.”
Greencastle, which will be looking to get a boost with the transfer of senior LB Bruce Lepore from Waynesboro, is hoping that last season’s baptism under fire will pay dividends this fall. “I think the kids understand their responsibilities better,” McCauley said. “We’re talking about knowing our assignments, being agressive and tackling.”