Rams hoping offensive versatility can keep them competitive
Lower Merion >> Harriton football head coach Justin Mellor, whose squad posted a 1-10 record last fall, was encouraged by the player turnout during heat acclimation week.
“We had more than 50 players come out – the biggest turnout in my six years as head coach here,” said Mellor. “And 16 of them are freshmen.”
Mellor is aware of the challenge Harriton faces every year in the Central League, facing teams with bigger players – and more of them.
“Because every team we face is bigger and has more players than we do, we need to focus more on technique and stamina,” said Mellor. “Our kids work so hard, and give great effort – our philosophy is to do your best during the game, and then look at the scoreboard at the end of the game.”
Mellor sees the Rams’ biggest strength as its offensive versatility.
“We have 4-5 running backs that we see as receivers, too – sometimes we’ll put them in the backfield, sometimes in the slot,” said Mellor.
The leading running back candidate is senior Max Copley (5-10, 170), a tough, versatile performer who can play a variety of skill positions.
Copley, who plays lacrosse for Harriton in the spring, said, “I think our offense is looking better than last year – we have a lot more passing plays, and our line is looking good [in preseason]. We’ll have a good mix of passing and running plays. It will be up to us seniors to lead the team this year.”
Other backfield candidates include senior running back/wide receiver Daral Cresswell (5-10, 170), who Mellor calls “our most dynamic guy”; and junior running back/wide receiver Teddy Molineaux (5-8, 160), who Mellor said “can do it all.”
At quarterback, the leading candidate in pre-season was senior Will Brannau (6-1, 170). Other possibilities at the signal-calling spot are sophomore Ben Fisher (5-6, 160) and freshmen Logan Rothberg (5-8, 150) and Matt Krebbs (5-9, 155).
“Ben is a slippery back, has a lot of good moves,” said Mellor. “Logan throws well, and Matt has a good understanding of our offense.”
Up front, the Rams will be led by senior defensive end Shane Sullivan (5-11, 180), a strong team leader who doubles as an offensive linemen.
Sullivan, a three-sport athlete for the Rams (football, wrestling, lacrosse), said, “There’s a lot of roles to play at defensive end, there’s a lot of stunts; I can go inside or outside, or wait for the quarterback – I love being an edge rusher.”
“Shane has outstanding leadership skills – he’s there for the younger kids,” said Mellor. “He’s very unselfish, team-oriented – last year, he was a running back and linebacker, but moved to the defensive and offensive lines this year because we needed him there.”
Other two-way linemen for the Rams are seniors Nate Greenhalgh (6-3, 240), Michael Swartz (5-9, 180), Michaelangelo Berardi (5-9, 180) and Matthew DiCicco (6-0, 200) as well as junior Zach Rubin (6-1, 250).
Defensively, the Rams lost a key performer in linebacker Harry Thomas to graduation last spring. Thomas was a two-time first team All-Central League linebacker as well as a first team All-Main Line selection last fall, and was the Rams’ defensive MVP each of the last three years, making 113 tackles last fall, 55 of them solo.
This year, the Harriton linebacker crew will include Copley and Fisher, and the Rams’ defensive secondary will be led by a couple of seniors, cornerback Bobby Lesser (6-0, 160) and safety Sam Segal (6-1, 160).
Last year, the Rams got off to a good start, opening their 2018 season with a 24-0 win against Valley Forge Military Academy. This fall, Harriton will kick off its football campaign with a home game Aug. 23 against a Methacton squad that was 1-9 last year.
Mellor said, “We try to have a family atmosphere on our team, and try to make it a great football experience for the players, both on and off the field. We actually lose very few guys during the season, and when I get emails from the players that say, ‘Coach, can I talk to you?’ it makes it all worthwhile.”
Harriton 2019 Schedule
Offensive Player to Watch
Max Copley, running back >> The 5-10, 170-pound senior looks to be a versatile performer for the Rams this fall. Mellor said, “Max can do a lot of different things – he’s tough, runs hard, and he wants to return punts and kicks for us too.” Copley does double duty, also serving as an outside linebacker for Harriton.