TWO-A-DAYS: Conestoga seniors excited to get one more chance to make waves on the field

TREDYFFRIN >> Thirty seniors dot Conestoga’s football roster this fall, and many of them are part of a hard-hitting defense that is grateful to be getting one last shot at a high school gridiron career in 2020.

“We have experienced, smart seniors in the secondary, and very strong senior linebackers who are physical, downhill tacklers,” said Conestoga football head coach Matt Diamond.

Central League players all will have a plexiglass shield on their facemasks for the season as seen here Conestoga linebacker Pat Nichols. (PETE BANNAN – MNG)

“We’ve had a terrific turnout for the voluntary practices since July 1 – we’d get more than 50 kids week after week, all of them following the [COVID-19 safety] protocol. Our team is ready and so excited to have an opportunity to play this fall – even a small handful of games is better than nothing at all.”

As of Oct. 5, the Pioneers have a half-dozen games scheduled against Central League opponents, starting with a home contest against Ridley Oct. 23.

The leader of Conestoga’s defense is senior middle linebacker Pat Nichols, who led the Pioneers with 45 tackles last fall. A two-way threat, the 6-foot, 200-pound senior will line up at slot receiver on offense, and will handle the Pioneers’ punting chores. Nichols received second team All-Central League honors for his punting last fall.

“Pat won’t leave the field very often,” said Diamond, with a chuckle.

Joining Nichols on the linebacking corps are two returning starters, seniors Fred Mucklow and Michael Ippolitti. Other Pioneers who should see playing time at LB include junior Christian Lariviere, senior Nico Arbes, sophomore Jake Allred, senior Gavin Merschel and senior Tommy Ciccarone.

Conestoga football coack Matt Diamond speaks to a player Monday. (PETE BANNAN – MNG)

The Pioneers’ secondary includes a couple of returning starters, senior cornerback DJ Penske and senior free safety Michael Brosso. The latter received All-Central honorable mention last fall as a defensive back.

“Michael is one of our top tacklers, in my opinion,” said Diamond.

Other Pioneers slated to see playing time in the defensive backfield are seniors Max Austin, Travon Richardson, Joey Allen, Albert Marshall and James Baker, and sophomore Jon Quici.

Up front, the defensive ends will be sophomore Brody Eaton and senior John DeFruscio, junior Alex Harris is the nose tackle, and juniors Hayden Karbiner and Will Preston should see playing time.

Diamond said the Pioneers’ best strength on offense is its speed at the skill positions.

“Our wideouts have been running clean routes [in practice], and our two quarterbacks have been delivering the ball accurately to them,” noted Diamond.

The Pioneers’ top two pass-catchers are slot receiver Pat Nichols and junior wide receiver Peter Detwiler, who had a promising 2019 season.

“We’ll try to get the ball in [Detwiler’s] hands as often as we can,” said Diamond.

Conestoga assistant Sonny Dimartini does calisthenics along with the team. (PETE BANNAN – MNG)

Sophomore Brody Eaton and junior Ryan Mackey will share the bulk of the load at tight end. Other pass-catching candidates include senior wide receivers Travon Richardson, Albert Marshall, Addison Bass and Joey Allen, and junior slot receivers Christian Lariviere and Patrick Reilly.

The Pioneers have two candidates for the starting quarterback position – senior Michael Costigan and junior Calvin Shirley – and Diamond noted that both have been performing well in practices.

The running back chores will be spread among seniors James Condi and Nico Arbes, junior Chase Kelley and sophomore Jon Quici.

The Pioneers lost some offensive linemen to graduation last spring, but return several experienced blockers, led by senior guard Connor Whitlow, senior tackle Isaiah Willis, senior center Dillon McGroarty and junior guard Richard Diaz. Other offensive line candidates include juniors Owen Ridder and Hayden Karbiner and senior Ryan Georgescu.

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