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Central League Preview and Team-by-Team Breakdowns

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 Conestoga’s Milton Robinson returns to the Pioneers’ backfield this fall. (Pete Bannan – DFM)

Tredyffrin >> Former Conestoga football star Matt Diamond, who took over the Pioneer head coaching job last spring, spoke briefly with a reporter on the second day of pre-season practice about the team’s theme for 2018.

“Our team theme this year is, ‘What does it mean to be a Pioneer?’” said Diamond. “It means to forge your own path, and to cut down obstacles in your way, to rely on your work ethic and determination.”

Conestoga head coach Matt Diamond

The last couple of years, the Pioneers have faced their share of obstacles. In the wake of the tumultuous events that led to the resignation of long-time head coach John Vogan in 2016, Conestoga, usually a solid contender in the Central League, struggled to records of 2-8 and 1-9 the past two years.

But for Diamond, who was a first team all-area quarterback and defensive back for Conestoga in the late 1990s (and an all-league defensive back at Gettysburg College), the Pioneers are starting with a whole new clean slate.

“We have about 60 kids out here this first week of practice, and they’re really excited about the new start,” said Diamond. “We [the coaches] have really been excited about how the kids have bought into our program.

“As the head coach you have a very influential role on these young men, and I am excited to have them working hard to achieve their goals. There is no place I would rather be coaching at than Conestoga – I have seen many great kids come through this program.”

Teaching comes naturally to Diamond, who along with wife Krissy is a teacher in the T/E school system – Matt at Valley Forge Elementary School and Krissy at Devon Elementary. They are the parents of four children.

The last two years, Diamond served as a Conestoga football assistant to Marquis Weeks, a former Pioneer football star who was a teammate of Matt’s at Stoga. This fall, Weeks is coaching the running backs at Great Valley High School.

“Marquis is a close friend of mine, we still stay in touch, and through him I learned a lot about how to handle different situations that arise throughout a season,” said Diamond. “He helped show me what the overall big picture of the head coaching job entails.”

Diamond sees the Pioneers’ biggest strength this fall as their quickness.

“While we would love to have more size on our roster, we see a strength being our team speed,” said Diamond. “We can take advantage of some pin- and pull-blocking techniques that can utilize our quickness.”

At quarterback, both junior Chris McGovern (6-2, 190) and senior Cameron Marcus (5-11, 170) have looked good in pre-season, according to Diamond.

“Both have had a good camp – Cameron is a strong runner, and Chris can throw the deep ball,” said Diamond.

Conestoga has several promising running backs, including senior fullback and co-captain Ryan Duffy (5-10, 192), senior tailback and co-captain Milton Robinson (5-11, 180) and junior tailback Liam Kirk (5-11, 180).

“Ryan’s a tough kid and a good blocker,” said Diamond. “Milton and Liam have shown good patience waiting for holes to develop, and they have good speed as well.”

Duffy, the Pioneers’ Offensive Player to Watch (see below), said, “I’m going to be help drive the running side of our offense, blocking, and making sure we stay aggressive at all points of our offense – on long drives, short drives, beginning of the game, after halftime, at the end of the game.”

At wide receiver, Conestoga has a couple of juniors who can catch the ball – Brady Carpenter and Mike Prestipino.

“Brady is tall, with good speed and good hands,” said Diamond. “Mike is more of a slot receiver. He can run clean routes and is a good blocker.”

Up front, the Pioneers feature junior center Matt Hamilton (5-10, 210), senior guard and co-captain Blair Horning (6-0, 230) and junior tackles Mitchell Benjamin (6-2, 235) and Casey Campbell.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Pioneers will be led on the front line by junior defensive end Scott Smith (5-11, 178), and in the linebacking spots by senior LB and co-captain P.J. Hewitt.

“As a senior linebacker, P.J. is our emotional leader on defense,” said Diamond.

Hewitt said, “On defense, it’s all about enthusiasm, intensity, emotion, so I try to lead the defensive intensity, because everything falls into place after that. As a co-captain, I’ve got to keep everything positive, make sure the young guys learn what they’ve got to do – the older guys know what they’ve got to do – and take care of business.

“Being a Pioneer is all about resiliency. Everyone [in the league] looks at us, sort of puts us aside, thinking we’re not as good as them – this year, we’ll going to show them that we are.”

Ryan Duffy

The defensive backfield will be filled by two-way players Liam Kirk (cornerback), Mike Prestipino (cornerback) and Milton Robinson (safety).

Offensive player to watch

Ryan Duffy. The 5-10, 192-pound senior fullback and co-captain is valued for a variety of roles. “He’s a tough kid, and a good blocker,” said Diamond.

PJ Hewitt

Defensive Player to watch

P.J. Hewitt. The 5-11, 185-pound senior linebacker and co-captain is considered the emotional leader of the Pioneers’ defense.

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