Powerhouse Friars reloaded and ready to pursue Inter-Ac three-peat
MALVERN >> The list is staggering.
The Malvern Prep football program graduated nine players from its unbeaten 2018 squad who are now poised to play at the NCAA Division I level. It includes quarterback Drew Gunther (Virginia Tech), lineman Jake Hornibrook (Stanford) and linebacker Keith Maguire (Clemson).
Don’t feel sorry for third year head coach Dave Gueriera, however. The Friars always seem to reload rather than rebuild, and that looks to be the case for 2019.
“As long as we have guys who are willing to work, it’s never a rebuild,” said Gueriera, who is 17-4 since coming over from West Chester East.
“We have high expectations for ourselves every year, and this year especially. This group has a real passion to be great. They want to learn and they have a very good work ethic.”
There will be more than a few new faces this fall for the two-time defending Inter-Ac League champions. But in many cases, quality backups will now get a chance to become stars themselves. Add in a few returning starters and transfers at key spots, and the Friars should be tough to beat once again.
“A lot of people will look at us and say that we’re not as good as last year,” said all-state cornerback Caimin Hayes. “But coming off an 11-0 season, you can’t be satisfied with getting a couple losses. We expect to have a great season this year too.”
All-League receiver Lonnie White is moving to his natural spot at quarterback to replace Gunther. The junior has good size and is a duel threat with a strong arm and elusive running skills.
“Lonnie is immensely talented, so we wanted to have him on the field and he was an absolute match-up nightmare last season for most defenses,” Gueriera pointed out.
“We will keep the integrity of the offense, but we’ve added some more QB run-reads for him. His arm strength is ridiculous so we can stretch the field but he also runs like a deer.”
Hayes and Exeter transfer Steven Rose will share duties at running back, and speedy receivers like transfer Isaac White, D’Angelo Stocker and Tyler Tinson are all poised to accept bigger roles this season.
“We have a lot of super-athletic guys on offense that have great speed,” White said.
“One of the best parts of coaching is watching young guys develop and being able to fill huge roles for the team,” Gueriera added. “We had a fantastic team and seniors last season, but we feel strongly about this group.”
Starting tackles Will Redden (6-6, 310) and Brendan Flynn (6-2, 255) are back to anchor the offensive line, which will also benefit from the addition of Garnet Valley transfer Coltin Deery (6-2, 260).
“They are hungry to get better and have developed very well,” Gueriera said of the offensive line. “We have to replace three starters, but they are all up to the challenge.”
The strength of the defense is in the secondary, where Hayes, Stocker and Cade Szostek return, with Rose filling out the starting lineup. Hayes grabbed an area-best seven interceptions last season, and Malvern nabbed 19 picks overall.
“I think our pass defense will be strong,” Gueriera said.
“We liked to joke that we had the best secondary in the state last season and we have the same aspirations this year,” added Hayes, who hails from Phoenixville.
The front seven was hit hard by graduation losses. Senior defensive lineman J.T. Roberts (6-0, 255) is the lone returning starter, but senior Jasir Cook and Deery are also in the mix. Linebackers Christian Bockrath and Jake Brownley will replace the dynamic duo of Maguire and Nick Gueriera (Delaware).
“We do have a target on our backs but we are ready for it,” Hayes said. “We had a lot of guys who were very talented and wanted to play last season, so it’s good to see those guys get their shot to play. We are going to prove to people that even though we lost some seniors we are still a talented team.”
Malvern Prep has yet to lose an Inter-Ac contest under Gueriera. The good news is that in year three, his schemes on both sides of the ball are well established.
“The transition season is always a tough year,” Gueriera said. “Now that we are into year three the players understand the culture and our expectations, and we all speak the same language. Everybody is comfortable with each other and there is total buy in.”
HAYES LOOKING TO BE A 2-WAY STAR >> A year ago, Hayes starred on defense while playing sparingly at just about every offensive skill position except quarterback. Now a senior, Hayes will get more playing time and will focus in on running back for the Friars.
“I’m really excited to share reps and really run the ball,” Hayes said. “I think people will be surprised with my ability to run.
“We had a lot of talent leave and we have a lot of unproven players. But we also have a lot of talent. Even though it might take some time to really get rolling, there is no reason why we can’t have just as good of an offense, maybe even better.”
MORE OPTIONS WITH NEW QB >> Coming off a season where the offense scored more than 36 points per game, many are assuming the Friars will take a step back while integrating a slew of new starters. But with the 6-foot-2, 190-pound White now running things, opposing defenses can underestimate Malvern at their own peril.
“We need to continue with the mentality that nobody is going to beat us,” said White, a Coatesville resident.
“Lonnie looks great, he can air it out when he needs to, but he also has the ability to take off and run if he sees that,” added Hayes. “With his ability to run and throw, it is really going to open up the offense.”
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OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
Lonnie White, Quarterback >> White will be making his debut as the quarterback starter, but the 6-foot-2 junior is expected to be one of the area’s top dual-threat signal callers this fall.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
Caimin Hayes, Defensive Back >> Nobody in the area had more than Hayes’ seven interceptions in 2018. He is expected to get more snaps on offense this season.
By Neil Geoghegan, email@example.com