Football Preview: Archibong, Cella lead Springfield’s rebuilding effort

SPRINGFIELD >> Most high school football coaches will tell you they can’t get enough of senior experience and senior leadership.

The only problem with that is when you have a lot of seniors and your team enjoys success, the coach is burdened with trying to replace the players who made it all happen. Such is the case with Springfield High School and head coach Chris Britton.

The Cougars swept through the Central League last year, finishing the regular season 11-0 before losing to Great Valley 21-0 in the second round of the AAA District One playoffs.

Britton’s team was led by quarterback Brian Allen, who passed for 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 1,024 yards and 12 more TDs.

Britton said finding a replacement for Allen wasn’t his only challenge.

“It’s not just with the passer, it’s all the skill positions, all the receivers, all the backs we have to replace; it was a senior-laden team,” Britton said. “That’s the battle every year, trying to replace people coming in and coming out. We have a good line coming back, a lot of kids that played are coming back. We’ll build everything around that and see how quickly the underclassmen can follow up.”

Britton said he thinks the juniors who played a significant amount of time in 2014 will step right in to fill the leadership roles.

“I think they (juniors) had some good leadership in that group, they got a lot of playing time,” Britton said. “They were leaders last year. Replacing good players and leaders is the price of having a good year. We’ve had a lot of kids who played as juniors, but they weren’t starters. So we’ve had kids that played, it’s now their time to be the starter.”

Linemen Matt Cella, left, and Dan Archibong have had a ball succeeding with Springfield in recent years, but now they’re leaders of a rebuilding Cougars squad. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)
Linemen Matt Cella, left, and Dan Archibong have had a ball succeeding with Springfield in recent years, but now they’re leaders of a rebuilding Cougars squad. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)

Two juniors who were not only starters last year but had a lot to do with the Cougars winning the Central League were tight end/defensive end Dan Archibong and two-way lineman Matt Cella.

Archibong didn’t have stats that lit up a scoring sheet, but the 6-5, 250-pounder was a force on defense and as a tight end, provided size and speed plus blocking to make Springfield’s multiple spread offense productive.

The same goes for Cella. The 6-3, 290 pound Cella has the muscle and quickness to handle the tackle position on the offensive line as well as defensive end.

“Just from a leadership standpoint Archibong and Matt Cella, they’ve been around for a while, they’ve been in our program,” Britton said. “Matt’s been a starter for three years, Archibong’s been starting for two. They kind of know how we want everything done and to do it the right way. Offensively and defensively we’re going to lean on them a lot. They’re going to lead by example.”

Britton said that as of training camp, the quarterback spot was up for grabs.

“It’s an open battle,” Britton said. “We have two guys going for it, Moreno Ndini and Brandon DiChiacchio, they’re both juniors. They both got a little bit of varsity time last year, and they played all of the JV schedule. One might be better with throwing, but they’re both all-around athletes. We’re just going to go with the hot hand, whoever wins it at the end of camp will be the starter.”

Britton was asked if he will sink or swim with the signal caller who wins the camp battle.

“It depends on how this plays out,” Britton said. “If one becomes the leader, I think you’ve go to go with that guy. I’ve heard the same thing, if you’ve got two quarterbacks, you’ve got none. They each present a different skill set. At times you’d like to have them both. But I think it will work itself out naturally.”

Archibong said he and the other linemen are supporting both quarterback candidates.

“We’re going get behind each guy,” said Archibong, who says he has committed to play at Temple next year. “We can’t get down on one guy if he makes a mistake, we just have to support whoever is back there.”

Britton said whoever is on the sideline, must be ready at a moment’s notice.

“You’re only a snap away from getting in.”

Defensively, Britton singled out senior Ricky Sterling at linebacker as well as Bonner-Prendie All-Catholic transfer Tom Becker, a senior, who will also play linebacker.

He also said Justin Sheilds, a sophomore will be strong at defensive tackle.

Britton knows his Central League opponents are not going to be showing any sympathy because he lost so many seniors. It is as tough a league as there is in the Delaware Valley.

“I think the league as whole has gotten stronger,” Britton said. “We don’t have any team where you can kind of relax anymore. We open against Interboro then the next week it’s Ridley. There won’t be any easy wins this year. Everybody has raised the bar a little bit, everybody is doing the offseason stuff now. No one is mailing it in.”

For Archibong, he is not thinking about how many seniors graduated. He said the loss to Great Valley still stings. He has one thought on his mind going into his final year as a Cougar…

“To win the district championship,” he said.

This story appears in the Delco Times Football Preview, available on newsstands Friday.

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