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Central League Preview and Team-by-Team Breakdowns

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Harriton

PETE BANNAN DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA … Harriton wide receiver Brian Stewart eyes a pass during August practice.

Lower Merion >> Although Harriton’s roster doesn’t feature a lot of strength in numbers (35 players came out for the first day of PIAA fall pre-season practice Aug. 13), the Rams do boast some powerful brotherly bonds.

Twin brothers Brian and Mike Stewart, two seniors who will be playing key roles for the Rams this fall, are the younger brothers of former Harriton quarterback Pat Stewart, who set a Central League single-season passing record by throwing for 2,754 yards four years ago.

Harriton senior middle linebacker Harry Thomas, who will be leading the Rams’ defense this fall, takes the reins of leadership from his older brother Jack, who was a standout senior defensive back for Harriton last year.

“I have coached four Stewart brothers at Harriton, including David in his senior year [2013],” said Ram head coach Justin Mellor. “Regardless of what sport, all the coaches at Harriton will tell you the same thing – that they love it when Stewarts are on their team. As a coach, you know they are going to be dependable, respectful, and hard-working. They are great teammates and sacrifice for the team.

“Harry is the third Thomas that I have coached at Harriton, including Will [Class of 2016]. The Thomas’ bring a toughness and football intelligence to our team. They have all played a lot of football and lead by example. A Thomas has been our team defensive MVP for the past three seasons [Jack in 2015, Harry in 2016, Jack and Harry in 2017].”

Mellor, who played on the same Upper Dublin High School baseball team as two of his older brothers, knows the value of this kind of “brother-hood.”

“Some days you feel like your brothers, especially the older ones, are a little tougher on you than they are on their other teammates, but you also know that when you need someone, they will be there for you,” said Mellor. “My brothers wound up being my best teammates – probably because if they didn’t, they would have to answer to the real head coach – my mom!”

Harriton’s strength this fall is on the defensive side of the ball, led by middle linebacker Harry Thomas (5-10, 175), a first team All-Central League LB last fall.

Thomas said, “Coming into this season, our team lost a lot of key players [to graduation], so I have to step up and help lead the team. We’re light on numbers this year, so it’s important for the veterans to show the younger players what we need to do.”

Another key linebacker will be junior strong side LB Max Copley (5-10, 170). Harriton junior Shane Sullivan (5-10, 185), who played linebacker last fall, is being moved to defensive end to help shore up that position.

In the secondary, junior Sam Segal (5-8, 162) will play safety. Mellor calls Segal, “probably the best athlete on our team.”

Due to a lack of overall size, the biggest challenge the Rams probably face this fall will be on the front lines. Harriton does have a couple of hard-working senior offensive linemen in Ryan Dieudonne (6-0, 230) and fourth-year starter Connor Block (5-9, 205).

Many of Harriton’s top defensive players could play a key role on offense as well. The top receiver will probably be versatile Brian Stewart (who doubles at cornerback), while Ram linebacker Max Copley will handle many of the Rams’ running chores.

Stewart reflected on the value of playing both ways: “Since I also play cornerback, as a wide receiver I know a lot about what the defensive back is looking for, what he’s reading.”

At quarterback, Harriton has several options. One of them is Mike Stewart (5-8, 165), who also plays lacrosse and basketball (point guard) for the Rams. Harry Thomas could play some QB, and junior Will Brannau (6-0, 190), a transfer from St. Joseph’s Prep, and younger brother of former Harriton football player Matt Brannau, could also play the signal-calling spot.

GOOD START

The Rams will start the season at home against Valley Forge Military Academy Friday, Aug. 24 at 5 p.m. Last fall, Harriton got off to a good start by defeating VFMA 35-7 in its season opener.

GOOD GENES

Not only are Mike and Brian Stewart the brothers of Central League record-setting QB Pat Stewart; but their grandfather, Charles Friel, was inducted into the Lower Merion Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

Brian Stewart – Harriton

OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH

Brian Stewart, 5-10, 160 pound senior wide receiver/cornerback >> A versatile two-way player, Stewart is a knowledgeable veteran who Mellor praised for his skill at running and reading routes.

Harry Thomas – Harriton

DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH

Senior middle linebacker Harry Thomas >> Thomas made 127 tackles last fall, received first team All-Central League honors at LB. Mellor said, “Harry has great natural instincts. He has a great ability to find the ball. When you turn on the tape, it’s amazing how many times Number 4 is in on the tackle.”

-By Bruce Adams, badams@21st-centurymedia.com

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