Football Preview: Without playoff goal, Shoman, Lions aiming for improvement

MARPLE — Brett Shoman’s 2019 season basically ended before it began.

“I was one of the guys that was hurt,” he said.

Cardinal O’Hara’s revolving door at quarterback last fall was attributed to unfortunate injuries. Shoman, now a senior, may have eventually received starting reps behind center had he not suffered a broken fibula during a scrimmage against Chester last August.

As the Lions prepare for their truncated 2020 campaign, Shoman is healthy and happy to have the opportunity to be coach BJ Hogan’s top QB.

Cardinal O’Hara quarterback Brett Shoman takes part in practice Monday. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

“It has been challenging, but we have a great coaching staff and I’ve got great teammates around me,” he said. “That’s made it a little easier. We have great training here to help me get back.”

Shoman hasn’t played the position competitively since his days in CYO at St. Pius in Broomall, but Hogan believes he can be a capable dual threat.

“We know he had a history of playing quarterback,” Hogan said. “Since I got here, we’ve always looked for guys who can be that dual threat. We think Brett brings those qualities to the position.”

Senior linebacker Chris Sheffer is a two-year starter and one of the team’s best players. He excelled on a Lions team that struggled to a 2-8 record a year ago.

“We need better teamwork and we have to believe in each other. I think our new coaches will definitely help us with that,” Sheffer said. “We’ve got a lot of hard-working guys out here, nobody’s going to take a play off, and that’s what you need to be a good football team.”

Sheffer and Shoman set the type of example Hogan wants to see from all of his players.

“Chris and Brett are guys that any program would want,” he said. “They’re kids who do everything the right way.”

Hogan revamped his coaching staff by hiring six new assistants after last season. In addition to his role as head coach, Hogan is the team’s defensive coordinator. Eric Ruffenach, the former offensive coordinator at Upper Darby, will run the offense.

Cardinal O’Hara linebacker Chris Sheffer takes part in practice Monday. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

“It’s a whole new philosophy offensively with a bunch of different formations. I think we’re going to be heavy quarterback run on offense,” Hogan said. “It’s exciting for everyone, especially the kids. They are buying in and working hard. We brought the new staff in back in December, so even before the COVID shutdown, everyone had a little taste of it. I know the kids and the coaches are excited to be back on the field and working together.”

Last season the Lions started five freshmen on varsity. Defensive ends Edmund Wisseh and Josh McKnight were among that group. Hogan thinks both are immensely talented, but it’s a matter of them “figuring out just how good they can be,” he said.

“I like the camaraderie of our team,” Wisseh said. “Even playing last year, it didn’t matter what the score was. Nobody ever got down on themselves and we were always encouraging each other. Coming from eighth grade last year, I didn’t see a lot of that, but when I got here that was great to see, that everyone always supports one another and encourages each other on the field.”

The underclassmen will continue to play a big role on the Lions.

“He’s a perfect example,” Shoman said of Wisseh. “He got varsity experience as a freshman and you don’t have too many guys like that. And he learned a lot from year and he has the experience. He’s a lot more prepared than last year.”

The Lions will not play their season opener until Oct. 30, when they host Class 4A division rival Archbishop Ryan. The late start means the Lions will not be eligible to compete for a berth in the PIAA tournament.

“We were supposed to play Bonner the weekend of (Nov. 6-7), which gave us that second (PCL 4A) game, but now that weekend is the first round of states,” Hogan said. “So, we were trying as a league to shift everything and it just didn’t work out for the 3A and 4A (classifications). So, I decided I’m going to schedule four or five games that I know I have guaranteed games with and not worry about the state playoffs. That’s for this year only. It’s kind of like what the Central League is doing. And whoever wins the Bonner-Ryan game (Friday night) is the state representative for 4A.”

During practice this week, the Lions were auditioning for several key positions on offense and defense.

“We’re going to be hungry and eager to play against Ryan,” Sheffer said. “We have a lot of talented players on both sides of the ball. We have speed, guys who can run and catch the ball.”

Hogan is giving many of his skill players the chance to earn playing time at running back and wide receiver. He said the offense, while run-oriented, will rely on short passing plays. The offensive line will be led by returning starter and senior center Dan Organ.

“We’re still a really young team of mostly sophomores and juniors,” Hogan said. “Obviously last year was not acceptable. I’m looking forward to getting these kids moving in the right direction, and sending these seniors off with four or five games so they can get some stuff on film and go out winning some games. It’s a unique year playing only a handful of games and also trying to get these juniors and sophomores more experience so that the program is running where we need it to be in the next three, four years. So we’re going to go out and try to win every game this year and get better every day.”

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