Neshaminy returns to the gridiron angry in 2015

LANGHORNE – Two years ago, Neshaminy senior Hunter Kelly was a sophomore, playing left tackle for a Skins team that captured a District 1-AAAA championship. For a first-year varsity player, it was a season to believe in and more than he had ever imagined.

Just about every player graduated from that championship squad, however, leaving just five varsity players returning in 2014. A new coach came in, sure, but that wasn’t enough to plug the gaps created by all those departures.

Opening losses to national powerhouse Gonzaga and district playoff qualifier Downingtown West put Neshaminy in an early 0-2 hole, one from which they never recovered.

Two more losses to Pennridge and CB South sandwiched around wins over Council Rock South and Abington had the Skins on their way to a 4-6 season.

“It was tough – really tough; it was really hard to handle,” said Kelly. “We wanted to come back and have a similar season. Not having one was difficult to say the least and made us angry for this season.”

Contrary to last year, Neshaminy has a host of players returning to the gridiron in 2015. What’s more, the Skins are big and beefy up front, starting with Kelly, who is 6-3, 285 pounds.

Parker Minotti might only be 225 pounds but he comes back to the lineup with a lot of agility. Junior AJ Sanko is only 202 pounds but first-year head coach Steve Wilmot says he has superior technique.

You throw in juniors Eddie Parry, (6-0, 285) at right guard and Chris Wilson (6-5, 290) at right tackle and Neshaminy might just be able to move mountains this season. Wilson is the only one on the unit with no starting experience.

Add in 3-year starter Bill Ritchey, a first team All-SOL National Conference designee and 6-2, 235 pounds at tight end and wellah!

“There’s a lot of size and experience so now it just comes down to just doing it,” says Wilmot.

In for the departed running back D’Andre Pollard (Villanova) is junior Will Dogba. The 5-9, 175-pound back carried the ball just 19 times last season, gaining 113 yards. That’s almost six yards per carry so if he can repeat that with a lot more totes of the pigskin, Neshaminy should do fine.

Junior Mason Jones (2nd team All-SOL) is back for his second year starting on varsity and the team has experience at split end with junior Zach Tredway (6-3, 165) and senior Denzel Hughes (6-2, 180) returning. Tredway made second team All-SOL and Hughes was named first team so there is talent at the flanker position.

“Guys like Denzel Hughes and Zach Tredway, they’re experienced players who are coming back so we’re looking for big years out of them,” said Jones.

“We also have guys like Jake Gordon, Jack Spingler and Dave Nuckles who we’re looking to step up and fill in some spots.”

Two years ago, Pollard broke a 51-year school rushing record when he registered over 2,900 yards, 39 touchdowns and 234 points. Last year with an inexperienced O-line – just 1,219 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The question is, can Neshaminy return with a dominant rushing attack in 2015?

“We can run the ball; that’s our main focus – to still be that pound the football team that we’ve always been,” said Jones. “I think with our ability to pass, it will help us run the ball even more this year.”

Defensively, the Skins just were not themselves in 2014, giving up 70 points combined in their first two games and 73 points combined in back to back losses to Pennridge and CB South.

Returning to run the defense is senior Daulton Fox (6-2, 205).

“Daulton is on the same page as coach (Neil) French and he knows what the coach is looking for. He makes our checks and shifts our line when it needs to be shifted.

“He’s a year ahead of where he was last year so that should pay dividends heading into this year.”

There’s even more experience coming back to the lineup on defense. Three of the team’s four linebackers including Fox, Jack Spingler (6-2, 185) and Kyle Smith (5-11, 200) return along with Ritchey and Harmon Yalartai (6-1, 261) at the defensive end position.

Hughes (2nd team All-SOL, defense) is the only returning player at corner but Dave Nuckles, a 5-11, 155-pound senior cornerback and Tredway, a 6-3, 165 pound junior safety are quite capable in the backfield, says Wilmot.

A coach who has toiled on Heartbreak Ridge for the past 21 years, Wilmot says there are no surprises among the players with him at the helm.

“There was a lot of uncertainty last year,” said Wilmot.

“The kids know what to expect from me this year; they know what they’re getting.”

Neshaminy opens Saturday (Sept. 5) at Super Essex Conference (New Jersey) rival Montclair then returns home to take on Downingtown West Friday, Sept 11 before finishing its non-league slate off Sept. 18 vs. CR South.

A powerhouse in North Jersey, Montclair captured a third straight Section 1, Group 5 NJSIAA championship last season with a 26-14 win over Passaic Tech.

OFFENSE (projected starters)

QUARTERBACK: Mason Jones, Jr. (6-2, 180)

RUNNING BACK: TB Will Dogba, Jr. (5-9, 175), H-BACK Hayden Rooney, Jr. (6-0, 197), H-BACK Ben Stern, Sr. (5-8, 195).

TIGHT END: Bill Ritchey, Sr. (6-2, 233)

SE/WR: Zach Tredway, Jr. (6-3, 165), Denzel Hughes, Sr. (6-2, 180)

O-LINE: LT Hunter Kelly, Sr. (6-3, 285), LG Parker Minotti, Sr. (6-4, 225), C AJ Sanko, Jr. (5-8, 202), RG Eddie Parry, Jr. (6-0, 285), RT Chris Wilson, Jr. (6-5, 290).


D-LINE: DE Harmon Yalartai, Sr. (6-1, 261), NG Eddie Parry, DT Hunter Kelly, DE Bill Ritchey, Sr.

LINEBACKER: OLB Jack Spingler, Sr. (6-2, 185) ILB Daulton Fox, Sr. (6-2, 205) ILB Nick Lynch, Sr. (5-11, 195) OLB Kyle Smith, Sr. (5-11, 200).

SAFETY: FS Zach Tredway, Jr.

CORNERBACK: Dave Nuckles, Sr. (5-11, 155), Denzel Hughes, Sr. (6-2, 180)

KICKER/PUNTER: Dylan McDonald, Jr. (6-2, 165)

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