After just four seasons in the Central League, Garnet Valley quickly has established itself as the league's heavyweight. The Jaguars have captured three Central crowns and are coming off a 9-0 league season.
They enter this season as the favorite, as they return five starters on both offense and defense. Senior quarterback Ryan Corkery has recovered from knee surgery after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament, and meniscus in his left knee last November.
Last season, he threw for 1,407 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Jags (11-2 overall).
A dual-threat quarterback, Corkery said he has regained his agility in the pocket. He's not overly concerned about the chances of reinjuring the knee.
"You can't play with fear," Corkery said. "But it's always in the back of my head. I try not to think about it and just play my game."
Corkery will be aided by running back Jordyn Bennett, who rushed for 775 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. Together, they'll attempt to mask the absence of last season's leading rusher, Justin Pyle, who graduated.
"They understand the importance that 'We're part of the team; we're not the team.' And they'll do whatever is best for the team," Garnet Valley coach Mike Ricci said. "That's what we promote here. We promote selflessness."
The pursuit of a second consecutive title likely will be contested mostly by Ridley, Conestoga, and Strath Haven.
Senior Shane Dougherty returns to anchor Ridley's strong defense. The linebacker is quick on the outside and able to defend both the run and pass. Rich Coia is expected to start at running back as the Green Raiders (9-3, 7-2) look to replace Jalen Randolph, now at the University of Delaware.
Conestoga (7-3, 6-3) will be led by highly recruited wide receiver Andrew DeStefano and quarterback Joe Viviano, who has committed to Harvard. The duo hooked up for eight touchdowns last season, and DeStefano finished with a team-high 790 receiving yards.
Strath Haven (8-4, 6-3) will try to recover from the loss of Wellington Zaza, who transferred this summer to Garnet Valley. To replace the electric wideout, the Panthers will rely heavily on running back Tevon Howie. He rushed for 470 yards and six touchdowns last season. Kevin Mohollen returns at quarterback after throwing for six touchdowns last season.