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Council Rock North aiming high in Brandon McIlwain’s last year

NEWTOWN – After making quick exits in the last two District One Quad A tournaments, Council Rock North is looking to go far in this, senior Brandon McIlwain’s final year at quarterback.

Last season, the University of South Carolina-bound signal caller propelled the Indians to a 6-4 overall record (4-3 in the SOL Continental) and a second consecutive berth in the postseason. However, the Indians sputtered to the finish line in 2014, losing three straight including a 48-14 thrashing suffered at the hands of SOL American Conference champ Upper Dublin in the opening round of districts.

For his part, McIlwain threw for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall. With his feet, the dual threat quarterback rushed for over 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. At the season’s conclusion, he was named First Team All-SOL Continental Conference at quarterback.

While receiving targets Devon Bibbens (6-0, 180 pounds) and Tyler Nowmos (5-10, 180) are back for their final campaigns in an Indians’ uniform, 2014 flankers Matt Chandlee, Tyler Hone and Matt Cabo have graduated.

Tight end James Closser (6-2, 220) is back for his senior year and will also be a force to contend with at linebacker. He earned first team All-SOL honors last year on defense. Bibbens was second-team all-league on offense last season.

In addition to McIlwain, the Rock is leaning on senior Brian Choi to carry the football, a role filled by former running back Chris Welde, who has also graduated. Last season, Welde earned First Team All-SOL honors and was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player by his coaches.

Charged with creating the gaps along the offensive line are tackles Pat Bartlett and sophomore Dom Hipple. Junior Ethan Himes is at left guard, senior Pat Saraullo’s the right guard and junior Shane Oros mans the center position. At 6-3, 275 pounds, Bartlett is capable of moving mountains. He earned Second Team All-SOL honors last year as a sophomore. Hipple is 5-10, 245 pounds. All of the O-linemen are over 200 pounds except Saraullo, at 185.

Defensively, a battle is brewing for the nose tackle position vacated by former NT Collin Campanelli. It’s between Brandon Peck, a senior, and junior T.J. Ayrer. At 6-foot tall, Peck retains an edge in size over Ayrer, who is 5-9. The ends are manned by seniors Thomas Hewitt (6-2, 190 pounds) and Colin Drotar (6-foot, 215). Hewitt earned Second Team all-league honors last year on defense.

The Indians will be hard-pressed to replace the services of departed D-ends Kyle Thorpe (First Team All-SOL) and Connor Guzy, who played the H-back on offense and was responsible for long snapping duties. Defensively, the 6-3, 250-pound Guzy registered over 45 tackles the last two years in Newtown. He pounds the gridiron now for Western Michigan.

In addition to Closser, the linebacker corps includes senior Seth Leuz (5-9, 180), along with juniors Mason Luff (5-10, 195) and Andrew Kelly (5-6, 155). Luff is the man in the middle.

Sean Yoder (5-9, 160) and McIlwain (6-1, 215) are back at their safety positions. Bibbens, senior Jackson Parker and sophomore Matt Shenot (5-9, 170) will play at corner. Bibbens and Parker are the returning starters.

North kicks off the season 7 p.m. Friday night (Sept. 4) at home against Perkiomen Valley. A year ago, the Indians tagged the PAC-10 champions with a 29-27 loss in the opener. Up 22-0 at the half, the Rock had to withstand a furious comeback bid by the Vikings, who won nine straight after that before losing a district playoff opener to 2014 D-1 semifinalist Downingtown East.

Week two, the Indians host CB South Sept. 11 at Walt Snyder Stadium, then it’s on to District 1 defending champ Pennsbury Sept. 18. All three non-league foes were district playoff qualifiers in 2014.

The Rock opens its SOL Continental slate Saturday, Sept. 26 at War Memorial Field vs. CB East.

OFFENSE (projected starters)

QB: Brandon McIlwain (Sr.)

RUNNING BACK: Brian Choi (Sr.)

TE: James Closser (Sr.)

SE/WR: Devon Bibbens (Sr.), Tyler Nowmos (Sr.),

O-LINE: LT Pat Bartlett (Jr.), LG Ethan Himes (Jr.), C Shane Oros (Jr.) RG Pat Saraullo (Sr.), RT Dom Hipple (So.)

DEFENSE

D-LINE: DE Colin Drotar (Sr.), NT T.J. Ayrer (Jr.)/Brandon Peck (Sr.), DE Thomas Hewitt (Sr.)

LINEBACKER: OLB Seth Leuz (Sr.), OLB James Closser (Sr.), MLB Mason Luff (Jr.) OLB Andrew Kelly (Jr.)

SAFETY: Sean Yoder (Sr.), Brandon McIlwain (Sr.)

CORNERBACK: Jackson Parker (Sr.), Matt Shenot (So.), Devon Bibbens (Sr.)

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