Football Preview: Hoff, Weathers able to change Marple Newtown’s forecast

NEWTOWN SQUARE >> Abel Hoff wasn’t certain when he had learned it, but when he needed it, he summoned the knowledge on-demand.

Hoff’s Marple Newtown team was playing Lower Merion last September, he recalled at a recent practice, when the situation called for a novel approach. Both he and quarterback Marcus Weathers surveyed the Aces defense, and together, they allowed a whisper of an inkling be amplified to an articulated plan.

“Last summer, we would practice audibles and we were like, ‘We’re probably never going to use it,’” Hoff said. “And then one game, it just happened so fast, and we audibled and looked at each other real quick, and we threw it for a touchdown.

“Being able to make those changes off of what we see is really big.”

What Hoff and Weathers did on a micro scale that evening will have to be replicated and expanded to cover 10 weeks, and possibly more.

Few teams in the Central League are forced to replace as vital a cog as the Tigers must. But then, not many have the kind of infrastructure that supports such alterations.

Marple Newtown loses the services of All-Delco running back Adrian Sapnas, all 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns of him from last year. But while finding a new running back is a customary challenge, anchoring that search on a veteran signal-caller in Weathers and a dangerous weapon like Hoff, whose 70 receptions set a Delaware county record last season, is hardly commonplace.

Marple Newtown quarterback Marcus Weathers is looking to continue his growth in his second season in coach Chris Gicking's spread offense. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)
Marple Newtown quarterback Marcus Weathers is looking to continue his growth in his second season in coach Chris Gicking’s spread offense. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)

Hoff’s revelation also speaks to the flexibility inherent in coach Chris Gicking’s spread offense. In his first year at the helm, the Tigers smashed a slew of offensive school records, including points scored. And that was with a junior quarterback growing into the schemes by the week.

“It was difficult last year coming in because I was a junior, it was my first year starting,” Weathers said. “But this year, we did a lot of work in the offseason and in the spring, but it’s a lot of just check downs, going into your reads.”

The basis of Sapnas’ success hasn’t evaporated. While it’s unsure who’ll replace his carries — a trio of sophomores are vying for that honor, while Weathers will have to do more on the ground — the line that blasted open the holes Sapnas exploited returns almost intact. That line is led by Kyle Kelly, Pat Carr, Ryan Rhoads and Luke Lozowicki.

The same continuity reigns on defense, epitomized by leading tackler Gino DiCamillo and hulking defensive ends Matt Trainor and Noah Turner. Though it may not seem as obvious, the Tigers will benefit from an extra year under Gicking on the other side of the ball as well, though those benefits are mostly in terms of mentality rather than granular points of scheme.

“With this year, the main focus is to be physical,” Trainor said. “Physicality is one of our main things. That’s something that we struggled with last year, not (being) very physical. That’s something we have to bring back.”

Any changes will undoubtedly revolve around Hoff, who may not completely fill the offensive void left by Sapnas but is certainly one of the leading candidates to assume Sapnas’ mantle as the focal point of attention for opposing defenses. To those ends, Hoff and Sapnas stay in touch, exchanging encouragement and tips that delve deeper than Xs and Os.

The 5-9, 165-pound wideout has fielded an offer from Millersville and has had contact with a number of programs from Division I to Division III.

Weathers regards him as “a security blanket. He’s always there.” Those kinds of plaudits mean Hoff won’t sneak under the radar like he did last year, with the element of surprise that accompanied Gicking’s offense last year having vanished one scoring explosion at a time.

That imperative to innovate is the new impetus pushing Hoff and Weathers — to spring workouts, to 6 a.m. route-running, to pushing the needle even further.

“Last year was, I like to say, it was kind of surprising for me, too, and Marcus,” Hoff said. “We’ve always been working together. Since freshman year, he’s always been my quarterback. …

“I know that teams are probably going to key on me and stuff, but we have a lot of great receivers coming back. So I don’t think that’ll be a problem. We just have to be prepared for that.”

And if worse comes to worst, they’ve proven the ability to figure things out on the fly.

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

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