[tps_title]Conestoga Pioneers [/tps_title]
Conestoga looking to its line to pave the way
Tredyffrin >> Returning four starters on the offensive line this fall, Conestoga will be looking to control the football with a run-based offense in 2019.
The veteran quartet up front includes senior tackles Mitchell Benjamin (6-2, 265) and Casey Campbell (6-0, 230), senior guard Andrew Guillocheau (6-1, 225) and senior center Matt Hamilton (5-11, 195). The lead blocker of this group is Benjamin, who also doubles as a defensive tackle for the Pioneers.
“He [Benjamin] is getting looks from a lot of colleges,” said Conestoga football head coach Matt Diamond. “He’s got size and quickness, and was really dedicated to getting stronger over the offseason. He’s added 30 pounds of muscle since last fall. He’s a workhorse, a really tough kid.”
The Pioneers’ offensive attack is led by senior running back Liam Kirk (6-0, 200), a dual-sport athlete who also plays lacrosse for Conestoga.
“Liam is an absolutely hard-nosed kid, the way he runs with the ball and catches the ball,” said Diamond. “He’s very versatile – we also use him at wide receiver, as a kick returner and as a defensive back, at either cornerback or safety.”
Kirk said, “We had a lot of juniors playing last year, and now they’re leading the team into what I think can be a really good year. In past years, we had a lot of turnovers, a lot of three-and-outs, but I think if we can really move the ball this year we can win some games, maybe even make a run in the [PIAA] playoffs.”
Other Pioneer running backs include senior Chris Radina (6-1, 215) and junior James Condi (5-8, 165). Conestoga’s top receivers should be senior Brady Carpenter (6-1, 160), senior Mike Prestipino (5-9, 170), junior Trevor Richardson (5-9, 165) and junior Pat Nichols (6-0, 200).
The quarterback position has two leading candidates in pre-season, senior Chris McGovern (6-3, 205), and junior Mike Costigan (6-1, 185).
“Both of them are heady kids, and both have strong in [pre-season] camp,” said Diamond.
Overall, Diamond likes the speed and depth of his offensive squad.
“We have good team speed, and a lot of dual sport guys,” said Diamond. “And we have so many guys whose hands we want to get the ball into – we have lots of depth in the skill positions.”
Defensively, the Pioneers are led up front by senior defensive end Scott Smith (6-1, 210), a second team All-Central League defensive lineman who made 13 tackles for losses last fall. Smith is one of the Pioneers’ dual-sport stars, who committed to Johns Hopkins for lacrosse.
“Scott’s motor never stops – he’s all over the field,” said Conestoga head coach Matt Diamond. “He’s got good size and quickness.”
Smith has been a starter at defensive end since midway through his sophomore year, when he was moved from his spot at outside linebacker.
“I love playing defensive end – just go get the quarterback or the running back, get the ball – I have a lot of fun doing it,” said Smith. “The key for us this season just comes down to execution; the coaches have put a lot of time in, and we have a good offense and a good [front] line. We just have to do our jobs and the rest will take care of itself.”
The Pioneers’ defensive tackles should be Benjamin and senior Nymir Robinson (6-0, 225).
Conestoga has a solid linebacking crew in seniors Riley DeShetler (6-3, 200) and Chris Radina (6-1, 215) and junior Pat Nichols (6-0, 200).
“Riley, a third-year starter, is one of our generals on the field – he’s very heady,” said Diamond. “Chris is big and strong, and Pat has worked his tail off in the off-season.”
In the secondary, Conestoga features senior Kelley Nowlan (6-1, 170) and juniors Trevor Richardson (5-9, 165) and DJ Penske (5-8, 150) at cornerback, juniors Michael Brosso (5-9, 160) and Michael Ippoliti (6-0, 160) at safety and Liam Kirk splitting time between cornerback and safety.
The Pioneers will open their season Aug. 23 at Owen J. Roberts.
Offensive player to watch
Liam Kirk, running back/wide receiver >> “Liam is an absolutely hard-nosed kid, the way he runs with the ball and catches the ball,” said Conestoga head coach Matt Diamond. “He’s very versatile – we also use him at wide receiver, as a kick returner and as a defensive back, at either cornerback or safety.”
Defensive player to watch
Scott Smith, defensive end >> “His motor never stops – he’s all over the field,” said Conestoga head coach Matt Diamond. “He’s got good size and quickness.” Smith was a second team All-Central defensive lineman last fall, making 13 tackles for losses. He also plays tight end for the Pioneers.
By Bruce Adams; email@example.com