PREP FOOTBALL 2009: St. John Neumann going after playoff berth in Class 1B

PrepZone Playbook: 10 in 10 Neumann

The Celtics are hoping that last season's ...

Celtics at a glance

Coach: Steve Howey (7th season)

District: 1B-6

Last year: (3-7, 1-2 1A-6)

Key losses: LB/FB Austin Nelz (43 tackles, 66 assists, 69-286 yards rushing; QB Anthony DeMeo (49-127-896 yards passing, 6 TDs, 4 Int; TB Ashley Radcliffe (59-395 yards, 6 TDs); LB Mikey Davis (33 tackles, 30 assists).

Returning starters: TB Will Affleck (140-670 yards, 6TDs), FB/LB James Maher, CB Zach Whiting, DB Wilkins Vilcin, WR/FS Brian Ullrich, TE/DE Garrett Braun, RB/FS – Garrett Ocana, OL/DL Josh Hardy. TE/DE/LB Ray Messner

— Numbers are up.

Spirits are up.

Time is up.

Come Friday night, the St. John Neumann Celtics begin their 2009 varsity football season and what they hope will be a march to the playoffs in a new six-team district.

Yes, Evangelical Christian School of Fort Myers remains among familiar district opponents, and the Sentinels loom as the favorite to take the title.

However, Neumann coach Steve Howey believes his squad could contend for a playoff spot in a district rounded out by Moore Haven, Sarasota-Out-of-Door Academy, Bradenton-St. Stephens and Bradenton Christian. Southwest Florida Christian of Fort Myers will be district-eligible in 2010.

Perennial favorite Glades Day School of Belle Glade is now in another district.

There were 37 Celtics on the roster for this past Friday night’s Kickoff Classic game against Golden Gate. While a 36-7 defeat wasn’t what Neumann was looking for, there were moments of promise, and times when the Celtics showed they will be competitive against schools their own size.

The larger number of players on the varsity team does have a downside. Howey says he has scrapped plans to field a junior varsity squad this season.

“We only played four games last year and we were spread too thin,” Howey says. “This will increase our depth overall on varsity and give the younger players an opportunity to mix in and get some varsity-level experience.”

With quarterback Anthony DeMeo graduating last spring, Gulf Coast sophomore transfer Dylan Woods has won the quarterbacking job. He’s light, but mobile, and has picked up the offense quickly, Howey says.

Much of the offensive burden, no doubt, will fall on the shoulders of senior tailback Will Affleck. Before suffering an injury last year, he ran for 670 yards on 140 carries and scored six touchdowns.

Because of a conflict with his baseball endeavors, Affleck did not take part in spring football workouts. And even though he had a slight ankle sprain in practice the day before the Kickoff Classic, he showed little effect and appeared to ready to churn out the yardage.

In addition to Affleck, Woods will be handing it off to tough-running Garrett Ocana and James Maher.

One of Neumann’s biggest challenges will be on defense, where the Celtics will have to fill the shoes of Austin Nelz. He had 43 solo tackles and 66 assists a year ago and also filled in late in the season as a running back with 69 carries for 286 yards.

Fear not. Linebacker Josh Beatty, a senior, has returned to Neumann after attending school in Massachusetts last year. He was a Celtic his freshmen and sophomore seasons.

Other top linebacking prospects include A.J. Maynor and Conner Reynolds, both freshmen. Howey is looking for solid play from defensive ends Garrett Braun and Ray Messner and free safety Maher. Anchoring the line both offensively and defensively is 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior tackle Josh Hardy.

Howey says this year’s team has a different feel about it.

“There is a real team concept with these guys this year,” Howey says. “Our good leaders are out there and the attitude seems really good.”

Placekicking and punting duties are on Zach Wittenburg’s to-do list. Howey thinks Wittenburg’s punting ability is college-caliber.

Roster

1 Zach Whiting CB Sr.

2 MIchael Jimenez WR/CB Sr.

3 James Maher FB/LB Sr.

4 Andres Alonso RB/DB Jr.

5 Conner Reynolds FB/LB Fr.

7 Will Affleck RB/DB Sr.

8 Dylan Woods QB So.

9 Jason Cole QB/DB Jr.

10 Dimitri Lombardo QB/WR Fr.

11 Thomas Wedlock C/FS Sr.

15 Kevin Poteet WR/CB 6-0

18 Wilkins Vilcin RB/DB Jr.

20/52 Ray Messner TE/DE/LB Sr.

23 Tom Geier FS/CB Fr.

24 Brian Ullrich WR/FS So.

26 Garrett Braun TE/DE Sr.

31 Troy Burcky FB/LB Jr.

32 Damian Covarrubias RB So.

33 Carlos Rojas RB/LB So.

36 Zach Wittenburg K/P Sr.

42 A.J. Maynor LB Fr.

44 Garrett Ocana RB/FS Jr.

50 Josh Beatty OL/DL Sr.

51 Travis Gossard LT/RT So.

54 Michael Paganes G/DE Jr.

55 Jordan Wiman C/NG Sr.

56 Austin Dremann LB So.

58 Andy White TE/DE Jr.

64 Dustin Cooper G/DT Jr.

65 Ace Evenhuis TE/DE Jr.

67 Chris Giardello OL/DL Fr.

70 Brandon Anderson OL/DL So.

71 Egan Burcky FB/LB Fr.

76 Ralph Coleman OL/DL Fr.

78 Josh Hardy FB/OL/DL Jr.

81 Mike Murlowski WR/FS So.

88 Barry Anderson FB/DL Sr.

E-mail Tom Rife at heart22@comcast.net

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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