Coach: John Denniston
League/division: Mid-Penn Conference – Colonial
2020 record: 3-4 Division: 2-4
Postseason: Did not qualify
Passing: Comp-Att., Yards, TD
Keith Oates III: 3-6, 89, 1
Rushing: Att-Yards., Avg., TD
Sy Burgos: 75-711, 9.5, 10
Devin Shepherd: 86-438, 5.1, 3
Receiving: Rec.-Yards, Avg., TD
Joshua Wortherley: 6-102, 17, 1
Sy Burgos: 4-34, 8.5, 0
Key Returning Players: Jaren Boles, sr., OL-DL; Sy Burgos, sr., RB-DB; Jacob Dien, OL-DL; Justin Moore, sr., OL-DL; Devin Shepherd, jr., RB-LB; Colton Yohe, jr., OL; Dakota Campbell, jr., WR-LB-K; Harrison Laman, sr., LB; Zeb Kalib, sr., FS; Josh Angelo, so., DE-OL; Joshua Worthersly, sr., WR-CB; Keith Oates III, so., QB.
OUTLOOK: It’s hard to argue against East Pennsboro being a legitimate contender in this division. The Panthers are big and strong in the trenches and possess perhaps the Colonial’s most explosive back in Sy Burgos. While some teams in the division have the talent in the trenches to hold serve with East Penn, matching up with the depth of the Panthers could be another issue altogether. East Penn’s roster has ballooned from 40 players last year to 50 this fall. This makes all the difference in the world for the Panthers, who can now afford to do things like build up special teams and give adequate rest breaks. After the loaded Colonial beats up on itself and teams become worn down, expect East Penn to be among the last squads standing.
3 THINGS TO KNOW
HUGE UP FRONT
If you’ve been following along with our previews of the Colonial up to this point, you may have noticed that many of the teams in this division have strength in the trenches. East Penn’s cast of bruisers up front — who average out to just over 6-foot-2 and 257 pounds — could be among the best in the division. The Panthers return four starters from the OL: Jaren Boles (6-5, 270), Jacob Dien (6-3, 260), Justin Moore (6-3, 260), and Colton Yohe (6-0, 245). Rounding out the big guys up front is Josh Angelo (6-1, 250), who makes the move to the line after playing fullback last year. “Offensive line will be a strength for us this year,” East Penn coach John Denniston said. “When I look at all the position groups through our program, this is the most solid group of guys we have. They’re a close unit, leaders, friends, good students, and extremely hard workers. These guys have been in the weight room four to five days per week during the offseason. That’s a good group to build your team around.” On the flip side of the ball, Denniston says that the defensive unit will also excel in the trenches, with several of the aforementioned linemen expected to pull two-way duty. He’s confident the group can stay fresh thanks to a capable group of reserves to rotate in and out of the fray, including sophomore Carter Stup (6-0, 290). “We’ve really built our team around our offensive and defensive lines,” Denniston said. “At the end of the day, games are still won and lost in the tackle box.”
While East Penn has the size and strength to match up with just about any team in the division, what may separate the Panthers from the pack is the player the Colonial’s coaches voted on as the preseason offensive MVP: Sy Burgos. The 5-foot-7, 175-pound Burgos was a hard man to track down as a junior RB last year, averaging nearly a first down per carry with 711 yards on 75 carries, to go along with 10 TDs. “We’ll line him up at tailback, slot, and X. He’s very, very fast and when you get the ball in his hands, he’ll make it happen,” Denniston said. “He’s explosive and shifty, you want to get the ball to him in open space.” Staying light on the feet could be a good strategy to contain Burgos, but not his backfield mate Devin Shepherd, a junior power back who measures up at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds. “We view it as we have two terrific running backs,” Denniston said. “They have skills, vision, and don’t take big hits.”
NEW FACE AT QB
In the final game of the 2020 season, the Panthers inserted a freshman QB — Keith Oates III — to make the start. Oates completed 3 of 6 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown that game, and went to work in the offseason to improve his game. Denniston and Co. have been pleased with the progress, and the 6-foot, 200-pound Oates has been named the starter for this season. “Keith has great leadership abilities and is a very talented player,” Denniston said. “What we’re looking for in a QB is someone with a great game IQ, and the ability to lead and bring calmness and leadership into the huddle. We think should be well-suited for that.” Oates won the position over Dakota Campbell and Zeb Kalb, each of whom will still be active in the offense, likely to give Oates a pair of tall targets in the passing game.