MAYBE THE best way to repeat a championship season in high school football is simply to return a bunch of guys from last year's team.
Well, with the Haverford School returning 20 seniors from the squad that halved the Inter-Ac title with Malvern last season, you can color the Fords a favorite, right?
Not so fast.
Michael Murphy's squad got off to a slow start with a season-opening loss to West Catholic, 24-19, last week. But don't count out the Fords (0-1) just yet.
They started last season with three straight losses, and a senior-laden squad might be able to lean on that experience.
"I think so," said Murphy, entering his 10th season coaching the Fords. "But at the same time, we try to be really honest with them and say, 'Hey, this isn't last year's team.' "
Returning all-league players Brian Denoncour (offensive/defensive line), Phil Poquie (running back), L.J. Barlow (linebacker), Dox Aitken (wide receiver), Frank Cresta (linebacker) and Michael Gindhart (offensive/defensive line) will certainly help.
Malvern Prep and new head coach Aaron Brady will likely contend for another title with senior quarterback Alex Hornibrook (Pittsburgh) and senior two-way lineman Hayden Mahoney (Miami) leading the charge.
Episcopal Academy looks to retool after losing senior standout Evan Butts (Virginia) from a potent offense. However, senior quarterback Ryan Whayland returns after 2,091 passing yards and 17 TDs last season.
And look out for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and its talented QB-WR combo of Paul Dooley and Dylan Parsons, which tied city records last season for TD passes and receptions against Malvern with seven and four respectively.
Germantown Academy and Penn Charter both look to rebound after 2-3 and 1-4 seasons respectively.
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
John Minicozzi, Episcopal
Brian Denoncour, Haverford School
Jacob Rebisz, Malvern Prep
Mike McCarthy, Malvern Prep
Paul Dooley, Springside Chestnut Hill
Phil Poquie, Haverford
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
Rebisz, Malvern Prep
L.J. Barlow, Haverford School
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
Chauncey Simmons, Haverford School
Pat McInerney, Penn Charter
Dox Aitken, Haverford School
Dylan Parsons, Springside Chestnut Hill
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
Frank Cresta, Haverford School
Michael Gindhart, Haverford School
Pete Ciesielski, Malvern Prep
Trevor Morris, Malvern Prep
McInerney, Penn Charter
Dooley, Springside Chestnut Hill
Coach: Todd Fairlie, 4th year; Education: Marple Newtown, Widener. Career: 21-10.
Last year: 3-2 league, 8-3 overall
Great Eight: John Minicozzi, OL/DL, 5-10, 260; Ryan Whayland, QB, 6-2, 210; Jake Martilotti, LB/TE, 6-0, 210; Dee Barlee, RB, 5-9, 190; Christian Feliziani, WR/DB, 5-8, 170; Kahse Manderino, OL/DL, 6-5, 225; JohnAvon Freeman, LB/TE, 6-0, 200; C.J. McAnally, WR/DB, 6-0, 170.
Happy about: Experienced players coming back
Concerned about: Replacing offensive production from last season
Fairlie's comment: "We have some playmakers on the edge. I don't think we have anyone that demands the attention that \[Evan Butts\] did, but certainly guys you need to pay attention to."
Coach: Matthew Dence, 3rd year (also Valley Forge MA, 2011); Education: Judge, King's. Career: 9-10.
Last year: 2-3 league, 6-4 overall
Great Eight: Ryan Calhoun, RB/LB, 6-0, 205; Anthony Bozzelli, TE/DL, 6-2, 200; Andrew Simon, WR/DL, 6-2, 200; Kashta Davis, WR/DB, 5-10, 175; Brooks Cannell, WR/DB, 6-1, 190; Kyle McCloskey, QB/DB, 6-3, 185; Patrick McGettigan, OL/LB, 6-0, 210; Isaiah Jones, QB/DB, 6-2, 185.
Happy about: Athleticism and talent
Concerned about: Reliant on youth and offensive line development
Dence's comment: "We might have the most all-around talent in my 3 years ... we have some kids that fly around."
Coach: Michael Murphy, 10th year; Education: Quakertown, East Stroudsburg. Career: 47-49.
Last year: 4-1 league, 6-5 overall, co-league champion
Great Eight: Phil Poquie, RB/LB 5-10, 180; Derek Mountain LB, 6-6, 209; Chauncey Simmons T/G, 6-5, 308; L.J. Barlow, LB/G, 6-2, 203; Julian Jamgochian, LB/G, 5-11, 209; Dox Aitken, WR, 6-3, 183; Brian Denoncour, T/DT, 6-3, 257; Niles Easley, LB/FB, 6-1, 185.
Happy about: Senior leadership
Concerned about: Not relying on last season's success
Murphy's comment: "As a whole, I'm excited for a school of our size in the Inter-Ac, it's not often that you have 20 seniors on the football team."
Coach: Aaron Brady, 1st year; Education: South Western High (Hanover, Pa.), Rutgers. Career: 29-16 (four years at Gonzaga College High (Washington).
Last year: 4-1 league, 8-2 overall, co-league champion
Great Eight: Alex Hornibrook, QB, 6-4, 211; Hayden Mahoney, OL/DL, 6-5, 290; Dymond Wright, RB/CB, 5-8, 170; Trevor Morris, WR/OLB, 6-1,210, Jacob Rebisz, G/DT, 6-2, 265, James Keating, WR/S, 6-0, 180, Mike McCarthy, OL/DL, 6-1, 250; Peter Ciesielski, OL/DT, 6-3, 290.
Happy about: Senior leadership
Concerned about: Replacing ground attack by Troy Gallen (Delaware)
Brady's comment: "I think there is a great challenge for us to do well. We're going to have our hands full."
Coach: Tommy Coyle
Last year: 1-4 league, 4-6 overall
Great Eight: Patrick McInerney, OL/LB, 6-1, 230; Rob Keehfuss, WR/DB, 5-11, 185; Michael Hnatkowsky, QB, 6-0, 170; Patrick McCain, QB/WR/DB, 6-2, 165; Jelani Buie, OL/DL, 6-1, 205; Frank McGlinchey, HB/DL, 6-1, 185; William Costello, OL/DL, 5-10, 255; Denarii Beard, WR/DB, 6-1, 165.
Happy about: Well-conditioned and strong team
Concerned about: Offensive production after losing senior talent
Coyle's comment: "I think there is a great challenge for us to do well. We're going to have our hands full."
SPRINGSIDE CHESTNUT HILL
Coach: Rick Knox, 10th year (also Episcopal, 2001-04); Education: Chestnut Hill, Penn. Career: 64-35, 50-31 at CHA (eighth year in I-A).
Last year: 1-4 league, 5-5 overall
Great Eight: Paul Dooley, QB/DB, 6-0, 205; Dylan Parsons, WR/DB, 6-1, 175; Sameir Madden, WR/DB, 5-11, 175; Syair Madden, RB/LB, 5-9, 180; Josh Beckerman, OL/DL, 6-1, 180; Jordan Johnson, WR/DB, 5-7, 150; Darian Bryant, OL/DL, 6-6, 335; Robbie Phillips, OL/DL, 5-10, 185.
Happy about: Depth at skill positions
Concerned about: Stopping the run
Knox' comment: "We have the most returning starters that we've had in years, and we're looking to return to where we were in the mix for an Inter-Ac championship every year."