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Central League 2017 Preview and Team-by-Team Breakdowns

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Garnet Valley, Springfield look like top teams in strong Central League

For Digital First Media — Matt Chandik
Garnet Valley quarterback Ryan Hamby rushes with the ball during a recent practice.

Marple Newtown, Ridley and Springfield shared the Central League title in 2016. Garnet Valley finished one game back and Haverford was two games behind in the championship race.

The Tigers and Cougars, along with Strath Haven and Radnor, qualified for the District 1 Class 5A playoffs in the first year of the six-classification format. Ridley, Garnet Valley and Haverford reached the 6A tournament.

So don’t be surprised if the championship race comes down to the wire again, and involves multiple teams.

The question is, which teams will that be?

Well, let’s start with Garnet Valley. Mike Ricci has built quite a juggernaut in Concord and has one of the teams to beat in the league again.

Garnet Valley, ranked No. 5 in the PA Prep Live preseason Top 20, has three offensive linemen (center Tommy Mahoney and guards Jake Erley and Ryan Shomo) and two running backs (Matt Lassik and Danny Guy) returning from a team that went 12-2 overall and made a magical run to the District 1 Class 6A championship game, where it lost to North Penn.

Lassik and Guy combined for more than a third of Garnet Valley’s school-record 3,886 rushing yards a year ago. Lassik had 879 yards and 12 TDs on 141 carries, which included a 35-carry, 244-yard, four-TD performance in GV’s 44-27 win over third-seeded Perkiomen Valley in the district semis. Guy had 439 yards and five scores.

Springfield, ranked No. 14 in the PA Prep Live preseason Top 20, should be right there, too. Many believe the Cougars arrived a year ahead of schedule when they reached the District 1 Class 5A final last year. Head coach Chris Britton has a number of returnees including his entire defensive line from a team which went 12-2 overall and 8-1 in the league.

All-Delco Justin Shields leads that defensive line, which includes fellow seniors Derek Strain, Dan Pennestri and Kevin Deal. The Cougars pitched three shutouts last season and Garnet Valley and Academy Park were the only teams to top the 20-point mark against Springfield.

The Cougars have some weapons back on offense, too. Ja’Den McKenzie ran for 1,280 yards and 13 touchdowns en route to second team All-Delco honors. Philip Shovlin had 534 yards and four scores on 123 attempts. He earned All-Delco honors in track.

Rob Dudley – DCNN
Marple Newtown quarterback Anthony Paoletti (right) drops back to pass from the pocket. Paoletti completed 18 of 47 passes for 322 yards against Garnet Valley.

Don’t look past Marple Newtown, ranked No. 11. Anytime you have the best quarterback in the league coming back, you’re a threat to win the league title. Anthony Paoletti earned first-team All-Delco honors and, barring injury, will break the county record for passing yards in a career, which is held by his coach, Chris Gicking.

The University of Delaware commit threw for a county record 2,793 yards as a junior and needs 1,216 yards to break Gicking’s school and county record of 5,897 career passing yards. Paoletti, though, isn’t the only skill player back. Senior receiver Dash Dulgerian caught 42 passes for 888 yards and 10 touchdowns, and junior back Marlon Weathers ran for 1,130 yards and 17 TDs last season.

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Dave Wood made a good impression in his first year as the head coach at Ridley. Wood guided the Green Raiders (11-2, 8-1) to a share of the title and a berth in the District 1 Class 6A playoffs for the first time since 2012. The Green Raiders, though, were decimated by graduation (33 players) and will be hard-pressed to repeat that playoff run from a year ago.

Keep an eye on Haverford, too. Head coach Joe Gallagher has a quarterback (Jake Ruane) who threw for more than 2,000 yards a year ago and an All-Delco wide receiver/linebacker (Jordan Mosley) who will play his college ball at Maryland in the Big Ten. Ruane threw for 2,119 yards and 16 touchdowns as a sophomore. Mosley was on the receiving end on 51 of those completions for a school-record 996 yards and 10 scores.   

Upper Darby’s Derrick Korboi is among the other players to watch. He earned first-team All-Central League honors as an offensive and defensive lineman a year ago. Conestoga’s Jackson Niness earned first-team all-league honors on defense at linebacker and second-team as a tight end. All-Central linebacker Kyle Addis is back to lead Radnor.

One new coach joins the league. Andrew Pidgeon takes over at Penncrest. He was the offensive coordinator at Cardinal O’Hara last year. Pidgeon is no stranger to the Central League. He was an All-Delco quarterback at Ridley in 2008. 

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