Coach: Todd Rothermel, 10th season (59-36), 14th season overall (92-49)
League/division: Mid-Penn Conference/Liberty
2020 record: 4-2, 3-1
Postseason: Did not qualify
Passing: Comp-Att, Yards, TD
Andrew Bates: 33-79, 455, 4
Rushing: Att-Yards, Avg, TD
Andrew Bates: 79-642, 8.1, 8
Receiving: Rec-Yards, Avg, TD
Andrew Bates: 2-50, 25.0, 1
Caleb Godbout: 1-17, 17.0, 0
KEY PLAYERS: Andrew Bates, sr., QB-LB; Caleb Godbout, sr., WR-DB; Dalton Downin, sr., TE-DE; C.J. Christilaw, sr., ILB; Carter Bennett, sr., DL; Eli Zerance, sr., DL; Tyler Geer, jr., OL-LB; Caleb Lesher, jr., OL-DL; Joe Sprout, so., OL-DE.
OUTLOOK: Although Newport may need to ride the legs and arms of dual-threat quarterback and athletic outside ‘backer Andrew Bates early on, veteran head coach Todd Rothermel is optimistic he can locate some critical pieces that will complement his athletically gifted and multi-talented senior. And if the likes of wideout Caleb Godbout, tight end Dalton Downin and running back Aiden Dishman can provide capable hands and legs, that will take the pressure off Bates and make a potentially dangerous attack downright lethal. A smallish yet experienced front that’s already lost one cog to a season-ending knee injury will also play a significant role. A perked-up attack also will lighten the demands on a defensive unit that has some beef up front to go with some mobile parts at linebacker and in the secondary. Regardless, Rothermel knows opposing defensive coordinators are going to build their game plans around finding Bates and putting him on the ground. Yet if enough things go according to plan and the Buffaloes can avoid lengthy lines in the training room — while surviving a series of character-building crossovers against Steel-High, Middletown and Trinity — Rothermel could be celebrating his 100th career victory sometime this fall. A Liberty title also is a possibility for a bunch that was tagged the favorite when PennLive polled the league’s seven head coaches.
3 THINGS TO KNOW
1. Bates growing more comfortable at QB
Back for his second season as Newport’s starting quarterback after spending his first two years catching passes instead of throwing them, Bates is much more comfortable running the offensive show than he was in 2020. Yet even though skipper Todd Rothermel knows his senior QB can make all sorts of plays with his legs, he’s hoping the passing game takes another step or two forward and provides balance. “He’s done a really, really nice job,” Rothermel said. “He spent time in the offseason going down to Jimmy Cantafio, taking some reps down there at Spooky Nook. … The maturity’s been a big thing. Learning the offense has been good. It took until our last few ballgames to really start to act like a quarterback and understand the terminology. … Really toward the end of last season he started to catch on and started to understand. During today’s practice, he went out and we had a play called, and when it was over I started quizzing him. He said, ‘Well, I could have changed it to this.’ I was like, ‘Then do it. Just do it. If you understand why you’re changing it, then go ahead and do it. I’m never going to yell at you for doing that.’” Yet despite his continual improvement, Bates likely projects as a receiver at the next level and not a quarterback. In fact, PSAC programs Kutztown and East Stroudsburg have shown plenty of interest in a youngster that also is a talented baseball player.
2. Trying something new another plus
For the first time in his head coaching career, Rothermel decided to pack up 35 of his 37 rostered players and truck off to team camp at East Stroudsburg. Not only was the Newport staff able to work with its own players, but the Buffaloes also were able to compete in a variety of situations against other programs at the camp. And, obviously, Jimmy Terwilliger’s ESU staff was available to counsel the Buffs in various aspects of the game. The only negative for ‘Port was Rothermel’s club lost a would-be starting lineman to a knee injury that may ultimately bring his career to a premature end. “Going to team camp was a huge thing for us,” Rothermel said. “It really helped us in terms of teaching. This week (during heat acclimatization week) it was pretty much an hour meeting before we started doing anything. We just committed to going at a fairly slow pace and just teaching and teaching. I really like where we are right now mentally. Now, I might not like where we are next week when we start hitting.”
3. Rothermel counting on others to flash abilities
While Bates may be drawing plenty of preseason attention — and deservedly so — Rothermel hopes a trio of seniors are ready to step into expanded roles and complement their talented classmate. Two of those youngsters — tight end Downin and wideout Godbout — caught one pass between them in 2020 yet may be ready to be dependable targets when Bates puts the ball up. When the Buffs are on defense, inside ‘backer C.J. Christilaw will get plenty of chances to make stops since he’ll be plugged in behind beefy tackles Eli Zerance and Carter Bennett. “He’s finally focused on having a year,” Rothermel said. “But he told me, ‘Oh, I want to have a year.’” Rothermel also is anxious to get the ball in junior running back Dishman’s hands as often as possible. Dishman backed up Thomas Pyle a season ago, but he may be ready to bust out. “To me, watching him in practice, I just see the vision he has where he’s avoiding kids who show up in front of him,” said Rothermel, who has been flashing his expertise by working closely with his down linemen. “I’m excited to see what we’re gonna get out of him. Andy and (Dishman) are the 1-2 punch back there, and I’m excited to see that.”