[tps_title] North Penn Knights [/tps_title]
Knights counting on versatility to maintain lofty expectations
TOWAMENCIN >> Dick Beck know the benefits of versatility on the football field.
“It helps when we can mix and match and not pigeonhole a kid into one position or the other,” the North Penn coach said. “We can kind of flip-flop guys around. And number one you get more guys more knowledge of what offense or defense is doing so that helps us as a team be smarter.”
And while this year’s Knights feature a roster with the ability to be flexible — especially on offense — what is not be adjustable is the team’s high expectations. Coming off a 13-1 finish in 2018 that featured a third District 1 final appearance in the past four seasons, the Knights are set on staying among the top programs in Class 6A.
“With high school you’re always losing a ton of guys, and especially at North Penn we lost a ton of seniors last year but we always have guys that are ready to step up that have been working all offseason to get ready,” Knights senior Nate Brown said. “Thirteen wins last year was good but we’re always looking to improve. I mean, it’s really basically like state championship or bust here almost.”
North Penn graduated its top two rushers (Shamar Edwards and Julian White), its leading receiver (Jon Haynes) and its quarterback (Solomon Robinson) but the Knights have a group ready to step up for an offense that last season posted 28.6 points per game — NP’s first time averaging under 30 per game since 2014.
“We should be able to run the ball and be able to throw the ball and good balance type of situation,” Beck said. “We have good depth at quarterback. And I think we have four or five receivers that can catch the ball well and are going to run good patterns. So I’m hoping that our versatility will be more of our strength than one thing or another.”
Senior Delaware commit RJ Macnamara was the Knights’ third-leading rusher last year, the All-SOL Continental honorable mention at tight end going for 451 yards and seven touchdowns on 62 carries. Brown, Evan Spann — a Fordham commit — and Kenneth Grandy should all be factors in the ground game as well.
Spann, an all-conference honorable mention at receiver, was second on the team in 2018 in receptions (13) and receiving yards (291). Senior Kolby Barrow is set to take over the quarterback while Beck has also like what he’s seen from freshman Ryan Zeltt at the position during camp.
“I feel we got a good vibe, because we can pass the ball, we can run the ball,” Spann said. “We’ve got a new quarterback and he’s willing to take chances deep or run the ball himself. So I’m just excited with the whole aspect of the offense.”
Senior Nolan Verespy, junior John Derkits and sophomore Darren Miller will part of an offensive line that was still getting figured out in the preseason.
“Feel like we’re coming along up front,” Beck said. “Maybe a little athletic than we’ve been in the last couple of years. Hopefully, that’ll pan out for us.”
The defense returns two All-SOL Continental first team selections in Macnamara (defensive end) and Brown (linebacker) to a unit that allowed 18.6 points per game in 2018.
“We know we had a good season and made it pretty far but it’s just that we know we need to take that next step,” Brown said. “So it’s just putting in extra work in the weight room, extra work out speed camp and then now the start of camp as well. it’s just try to learn everything new and be tough.”
Spann is moving into a hybrid safety/linebacker role. The Knights are also looking to senior lineman Cory Keim and linebackers senior Justin DiPietro and junior DJ Fisher to strengthen the D.
“We’re all pretty fast and we can just float to the ball,” Spann said. “Soon as we see it we just hit the hole and just make the tackles.”
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
RJ Macnamara, DB/FB >> The 6-foot 3, 225-pound senior Delaware commit was a consistent playmaker in earning all-conference first team honors at defensive end last season and should frustrate opposing offenses even more in 2019.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
Evan Spann, WR/LB >> The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Fordham commit should play a variety of roles in the offense. The senior was an All-SOL Continental honorable mention pick at receiver and will also get a chance to contribute in the running game.
By Mike Cabrey; firstname.lastname@example.org