La Salle loaded in the trenches

SPRINGFIELD >> Ask La Salle High’s new head football coach John Steinmetz about his team’s strengths, and the smile comes quick and wide.

The Explorers return four starters on the offensive line from a season ago, and Steinmetz, whose coaching resume is 30-plus years long, knows the transition of having a new starter under center (Chris Ferguson) and two new running backs (transfers Syaire Madden and Isaiah Jones) is made a lot easier when they’re well protected.

“We’re real happy about the guys we have up front,” Steinmetz said. “They understand what they need to do and what we expect from them.
“That will make things a lot easier on Ferg and the entire offense, really.”

By name, the pillars up front are center Jim Morrissey, flanked by Matt McDermott, Conor McCracken, Ryan Schutta and Tom Garvin.

And as happy as Steinmetz is about his trenchmen, they’re just as happy to be there.

“Everything has been very smooth,” McDermott said. “With Coach Steinmetz coming in, it just feels right, for both the seniors and the young guys, too.”

With the emphasis on utilizing the speed of Madden, Jones, wideout Winston Eubanks and returning back Charles Headen, the linemen know their collective football IQs are as important as their experience and their girth.

“Right now, we have to focus on becoming a better team,” Morrissey said. “All we’re talking about is North Penn (the Explorers’ opener), but our goal is to win states.”

That means dealing with rival St. Joseph’s Prep and the likes of North Penn, DeMatha, McDonough, Archbishop Wood and the other stud-laden teams on the La Salle schedule.

“We’ve been having fun,” Steinmetz said. “We’re working with great people every day. (New offensive coordinator) Ryan Doyle is naturally keeping a lot of things in our offense, but we’ll be throwing in the occasional trap or draw.”

And the guys up front will be paramount in allowing those types of plays to unfold.

“Coach has been here a long time, so there hasn’t been much of a difference,” said returning running back Nick Rinella. “There are some differences in our offense, and our linemen are real important in making those things happen.”

If all goes as expected, the Explorers will be where they want to be come November and December.

“We want to get back to the PCL title game,” Rinella said. “The PCL is one of the top conferences around, and we like that.

“We want to prove we’re one of the best.”

Top Photo: Coach John Steinmetz runs drills during La Salle College High School’s varsity team’s practice on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. (Adrianna Hoff/—The Times Herald)

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