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Central League Preview and Team-by-Team Breakdowns

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Garnet Valley

Garnet Valley quarterback Cole Palis throws during preseason practice. (Pete Bannan – DFM)

CONCORD >> Cole Palis was the second Garnet Valley quarterback to suffer a significant injury last season.

The Jaguars, though, never skipped a beat.

Palis was next in line when senior Ryan Hamby went on the shelf midway through Garnet’s outstanding 12-2 campaign. Palis shined in relief in a win against Marple Newtown. A knee injury the following week against Harriton cost him several games.

The physical setback gave Palis a chance to reflect and grow into a well-rounded teammate. He offered support to his replacement, sophomore Ryan Gallagher, who started all three of the Jaguars’ victories in the District 1 Class 6A playoffs.

“I think the injury really made me a better teammate and a better person,” said Palis, who is committed to play baseball at University of Penn. “I needed to be there to help Ryan Gallagher when he was in there, just as he and Ryan Hamby were supporting me when I was out there. Obviously, Gallagher was doing a great job when I was gone. The injury for me was unexpected, but gave me confidence that I can overcome anything.”

Palis returned to pilot the Jaguars to a near-upset win over Coatesville in the district final, marking the second straight year the Jags have fallen short in the title game.

“That team was special. They picked me up and kept going like I was there starting the whole time,” Palis said. “It gave me experience and I was able to understand the speed of the game and just knowing where everyone has to be. Everyone has to look to me, and being able to play last year gave me the experience I needed for this year.”

Garnet Valley coach Mike Ricci heaped a ton of praise on Palis, calling him “one of the best athletes who has ever come through Garnet Valley.

“He understands the game and understands what we’re trying to do,” Ricci added. “He’s a great student, a great player, a great leader. Cole is the whole package.”

Despite losing 2018 Daily Times Player of the Year and running back Danny Guy, as well as fellow 1,000-yard rusher Matt Lassik and All-Delco lineman Tom Mahoney to graduation, the Jags are expected to win plenty of games in 2018. The offense will lean upon seniors and returning starters Kyle McCullough (offensive line), Colin Robinson (running back) and Rory Glackin (split end/running back). Robinson displayed his potential in limited action as the No. 3 back in the Jags’ option-based system last season.

Garnet Valley defensive cornerback Nick Westburg grabs a pass during a scrimmage last Thursday. (Pete Bannan – DFM)

Top varsity newcomers on offense include senior linemen George Wisendanger, Jake Colelli, Nick Van Horn, Jack Markussen and Joe Morrone; senior running back Dom LaBriocciosa, senior receivers/split ends Matt Daudert, Jo Jo Harrell and Alec MacKinnon; junior tight ends Kevin Craig and Blaz McDaniel; junior kicker Bryce Stansfield and junior running back Reece Malek. Gallagher, a junior, will back up Palis.

“If the line can get their stuff down, it opens things up for our running backs, and they can be just as great as anybody,” Palis said. “It takes a little time to get ready, but the most important time is camp. We’re with each other 24 hours a day and we’re always interacting with each other. That’s when everybody sort of just gets it and everybody buys in.”

Senior end Cade Brennan, a Bucknell commit, will anchor the Jags’ defensive line unit. Adam Oldrati, another disruptive defensive end, is back for his senior year. One of the Jags’ top strengths is their secondary, which includes returning starters and seniors Nick Westburg (corner), Brandon DiCamillo (corner) and Nick Gabos (safety).

It’s hard to believe, but GV has gone five years without winning a Central League championship. Nonetheless the Jags have remained one of the most formidable teams in the area. Don’t expect that to change.

“Winning a (Central League) championship is nice, but we can’t look (that) far ahead in the distance,” said Westburg, a three-year starter as a defensive back. “We have to treat every game with the same intensity and focus and we can’t think about championships right now. It’s a long season and we are focused on getting better each day.”

Garnet Valley offensive lineman Kyle McCullough.

PLAYER TO WATCH ON OFFENSE

Kyle McCullough >> Garnet Valley traditionally has one of the best offensive line units in the state, and don’t expect that to change this year, though McCullough is the lone returner starter. The 5-10, 260-pound senior is poised to have a big year.

“I feel like I’ve got to help everybody who is new on the line, that it’s my responsibility,” he said. “But we have some great guys coming in and, honestly, I think we’ll have just as good an offensive line as last year. We expect to be the best because we train to be the best.”

Garnet Valley defensive lineman Cade Brennan.

PLAYER TO WATCH ON DEFENSE

Cade Brennan >> He emerged as one of the top defensive ends as a junior, registering six sacks en route to earning All-Delco honors. He made a verbal commitment to Bucknell.

“We’re all really excited about this team and we’ve had a lot of young guys stepping up,” Brennan said. “The thing about the last couple years and those teams, if you noticed, they just got better every week. We know that if we can build, step by step, and be better every week, we should be fine.”

By Matt Smith, mattsmith@21st-centurymedia.com, @DTMattSmith on Twitter

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