Shanahan looks to rebound from first losing season since 2012
DOWNINGTOWN >> Coming off its first losing football season since 2012, Bishop Shanahan faces many of the same question marks heading into the 2019 campaign as it did a year ago.
“We are going to be a little young again this season, and we are unsettled at quarterback,” said head coach Paul Meyers. “Those are the exact same issues we had a year ago.”
But Meyers believes that the Eagles can improve on last year’s 4-7 mark for several reasons. First off, Shanahan is more experienced, and deeper, along the offensive and defensive interior lines. And there are plenty of promising athletes to fill in the skilled positions.
“I think we have a great group of linemen, and a lot of skilled guys. But we have some question marks at quarterback,” Meyers said. “There are three guys vying and hopefully one will take that spot over.”
The trio is part of a heralded group of sophomores who went undefeated as freshmen. Simmi Whitehead played some varsity a year ago, but is the smallest of the group. Andrew Gonzales has the strongest arm and Cooper Jordan is the tallest but also the leanest.
“I think Simmi will figure it out,” said two-way senior lineman Lenny Kresefski.
“Our backfield on both offense and defense is pretty skilled. I think our sophomores are going to make an impact. They have the attitude that they want to continue the winning culture.”
All three are very athletic, and Meyers predicted that the two who don’t earn the starting QB job will still get on the field as slot receivers and in the secondary.
“They are so athletic that we have to get them on the field,” Meyers said.
Kresefski (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) headlines a senior-laden offensive line that returns four starters, including guards Jack Lyons (6-0, 215) and Tony Cipriano (6-0, 200), and tight end Brian Leak.
“We are gritty up front,” said Kresekski, who is being recruited by FCS colleges like Penn, Princeton and Bucknell.
The top returning two-way backfield weapon is senior Garrett Glendenning, an all-area cornerback and slot receiver.
“We are going to lean on Garrett heavily,” Meyers acknowledged.
Glendenning will anchor the defensive backfield, and senior John Loftus is back as a starter at inside linebacker.
“This defense has a lot of energy and we are never going to give up,” Glendenning said.
“We had some games where we were up at halftime and kind of fell apart. We had so many chances to win games, but I think we will learn from those mistakes.”
The heart of the defensive line is Kresefski, Lyons and Cipriano. A bunch of untested but promising underclassmen will also rotate in.
“Where we get our edge is that a lot of the offensive linemen we see are just big, fat kids who run out of steam,” Kresefski said. “We have a bunch of in-shape guys.”
Shanahan also has a few more sophomores who will be mainstays but Meyers is reluctant to name. Two are sons of successful football coaches.
“You will notice them as the season goes on,” he predicted.
Offensively, the Eagles will do what they’ve done for years: try to spread out defenses and make them cover the width and depth of the field. But the defense is once again the strength of the squad.
“Being in the Ches-Mont, our opponents are a lot bigger than we are up front,” Meyers explained. “So if they put everybody in the (defensive) box, we are going to have to throw the ball.
“We are going to have to stop teams because of our youth, especially at quarterback. If we struggle there, our defense is going to have to be the backbone.”
BALL SECURITY IS A PRIORITY
The Eagles dropped a slew of close games last season, including a pair of 14-13 heartbreakers to Downingtown West and Pottsgrove in the District 1 4A playoffs.
“If we can hang on to the football, we are going to win a lot of the games we lost last season,” Glendenning said.
“What happened last season was tough, but that builds character,” Kresefski added. “Against Avon Grove we had three fumbles in the red-zone.”
Against Pottsgrove, Shanahan lost the turnover battle 6-to-2 in a game played in a driving rainstorm.
“The kids that are back know they should have won more games last season, and the kids coming up are good,” Meyers said. “If it’s a good match, it’s going to be fun.”
BAILEY HEADLINES KICKING GAME
Meyers is confident that Shanahan is in good shape on special teams. And senior kicker Connor Bailey is one of the main reasons. An all-league pick, Bailey is a soccer player turned kicker with a strong leg.
“He can get to the goal line on the kickoff and is nearly automatic from about 35-yards on in for field goals,” Meyers said of the three-year starter.
Bishop Shanahan 2019 Schedule
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Gerrett Glendenning >> Receiver
Senior Garrett Glendenning is a three-year starter who blossomed a year ago and is expected to be the Eagles’ prime big-play threat once again.
Lenny Kresefski >> Defensive End
Big and strong enough to play tackle on offense, Lenny Kresefski is also fast enough to be one of the most feared defensive ends in the Ches-Mont.
By Neil Geoghegan; email@example.com