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Monday, September 26, 2022
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2021 Preview: Cedar Cliff Colts

Coach: Colin Gillen

Classification: 5A

League/division: Mid-Penn Conference/Keystone   

2020 record: 4-4, 3-2

Postseason: Did not qualify

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Comp-Att., Yards, TD

Ethan Dorrell: 17-28, 148, 2

Rushing: Att-Yards, Avg., TD

Zackariah Little: 39-185, 4.7, 3

Ethan Dorrell: 18-53, 2.9, 1

Receiving: Rec.-Yards, Avg., TD

Trenten Smith: 30-310, 10.3, 3

Mark Paradine: 10-195, 19.5, 1

KEY PLAYERS: Trenten Smith, sr., WR-DB; KC Robinson, sr., TE-DL; Mark Paradine, sr., WR-DB; Gabe Kocher, sr., OL; Logan Heiple, sr., OL; Claude Godineaux, sr., OL-DL; Hunter Garced, sr., DL; Zackariah Little, sr., LB; Jontae Morris, sr., RB-DB; Alexander Sanders, sr., DL; Ethan Dorrell, jr., QB; Derek Witmer, jr., K-P.

OUTLOOK: There’s plenty to love about this Cedar Cliff team. Stout line play in the trenches, the return of the dynamic Jontae Morris from an ACL injury and firepower at the skill positions provide plenty of reasons to be bullish on the Colts. While we know winning the Keystone Division is always a challenge with perennial contender Bishop McDevitt in the fray, this is a team more than capable of staking their flag to the top of the hill when the dust settles on the regular season.

3 THINGS TO KNOW
1. Leader of the cavalry

After a season splitting reps with senior Gannon McMeans, incoming junior Ethan Dorrell returns to take over the starring role as QB1 in the Colts offense. The 5-foot-10, 155-pound general connected on 60% of his passing attempted (17-of-28, 148 yards) during the COVID-shortened 2020 circuit. He’ll have plenty of help from his mates on offense with Trenten Smith’s big-play abilities at wideout and a year of experience honing his route-running abilities, a pair of do-it-all tight ends in KC Robinson and Daniel Schraeder, plus a healthy Jontae Morris (more on him later) taking a share of the carries in the backfield. A stout line up front headlined by Claude Godineaux, Logan Heiple and Gabe Kocher should provide Dorrell with the time he needs to get comfortable in the pocket. “We’re very pleased with his development and his decision making,” Colts coach Collin Gillen said of Dorrell.” He’s a high-level thinker and has a lot of good knowledge of the game that he’s building. He’s just lacking experience that he needs to gain. He’s done a nice job being able to get through his progression. Last year being a young guy, it was tough to keep your eyes off the rush, and be able to negotiate the pocket and get through a progression. That’s typical of a young quarterback where if their first read isn’t there, they are looking to tuck it and run. Team camp and a full offseason of 7-on-7s and interactions with other team where he has been able to get in the pocket with some rush around him and get through progressions has been great for him.”

2. Running-by-committee

Cedar Cliff leaned heavily on its lead back over the last three years, with their main ball carrier toting the rock 150 (Jamir Reynolds-Vasquez, 2020), 365 (Jaheim Morris, 2019) and 273 (Morris, 2018) carries. And who could blame Gillen and crew for leaning on their heavy hitters when two of your top three rushers in school history rolled through the halls of Cedar Cliff over the last five years. Expect that workload to be spread out more evenly, however, in 2021. Jontae Morris returns after a devastating ACL injury in Week 1 of the 2020 season derailed what could have been a breakout season for the 5-10, 160-pound senior. “It was huge,” Gillen said of the loss of Morris last season. “It was devastating for us. He had two touches before he went out. One was a touchdown, the other was a 15-year gain on a swing pass. We had guys that were able to step in, but Reynolds-Vasquez becomes the full-time starting tail back and also was our starting safety.” The double duty, Gillen said, somewhat wore Reynolds-Vasquez out near the end of the season. Keeping Morris, who is perhaps the Colts’ best home-run threat and a key contributor on defense, fresh will be key Cedar Cliff making a deep run in the playoffs. He’ll have plenty of help carrying the load in the backfield with Zack Little, Ricardo Harmon — who Gillen described as a hammer between the tackles and a physical punisher in the Jerome Bettis (former Pittsburgh Steelers running back) mold — and Mikey Jones mixing in.


3. A defense to be excited about

The excitement in Gillen’s voice was evident as the conversation turned to the Colts defense. And why not? That Morris lad we mentioned above — Gillen called him a lockdown corner and one of the best he has coached thanks to a blend of technique, aggressiveness and physicality. His mate on the other hash, Trenten Smith, will also be a strong contributor in coverage. A pair of quick studies, Elijah Wilbourn and Mikey Jones, project to be starters at the safety positions as sophomores. Jones’ ability to play in on the run and also in coverage could be a key to the Colts defensive becoming a dominant unit. “The years that we have been very good defensively are the years that we have a kid that we are able to play the run in and be physical in the box but also play back on a hash and play half-field coverage,” Gillen said. “Kids like Brennan Quigley and Trysten McDonald were. He (Jones) is cut from that mold.” Opponents won’t find a break up front, either with Robinson (6-1, 220), Hunter Garced (6-3, 235), Alexander Sanders (6-2, 250) and Godineaux (6-2, 310) up front wreaking havoc. “Our defensive line is exceptional,” Gillen said. “Those four guys are legit. They are going to give a lot of people some fits in the run game and also the pass rush, so we are extremely excited about those guys.”

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