Coach: Chuck Tinninis (147-132-3) // Mid Penn Colonial // District 3 // Class AAA
Lizi Arbogast / GameTimePA.com
A refreshing air of confidence surrounds Greencastle-Antrim’s football team.
With an offensive crew that Blue Devil coach Chuck Tinninis calls “the best set of skill kids we’ve had since the 11-1 team,” plus a much-improved, healthier defense, G-A is looking to go far this year.
“We feel good; we feel confident,” lineman Jeremy Anderson said. “We believe this year will be a lot better than last year, so it’s really something to look forward to.”
At quarterback, Spencer Meyers is back for his second full year under center, and he’s got a strong slew of weapons around him.
In 2014, Meyers threw for 812 yards in nine games. He was 65-for-133 for a 48.9 completion percentage, with 11 passing touchdowns to go along with six rushing scores.
“I’m trying to improve this year with my mobile ability,” Meyers said. “Last year, I was more of a pocket passer, so I’ve been trying to work on my speed here and there. I’m still going to do the things that I did well last year. I have a strong arm, and I’m going to try to use to my ability.”
Some of his top receivers will be Derek Measell (136 yards, 6 catches) and Kyron Zimmerman, along with Brae Peck (106 yards, 10 catches) at tight end. The Blue Devils may also see the return of Sam Sprague, who was injured during basketball season but may be ready as early as Week 1.
“With the rehab I went through, I’m hoping I can come back strong, maybe even stronger than last year,” Sprague said. “I want to hit the ground running.”
Last year, Sprague was an anchor on both sides of the ball. He rushed for 442 yards and caught 14 passes for another 181 yards. He also had an interception and eight touchdowns.
“We just have to see how he comes along,” Tinninis said. “He’s been doing some drill work, but he’s not up to full speed yet. Right now, I’m approaching it like we don’t have him, but then when he does come back, he’ll be icing on the cake.”
Some of the top backs will be Demetrius Burton (259 yards, 34 carries), Bailey Parker, James Hines (447 yards, 113 carries) and Andrew Votral (212 yards, 54 carries). Parker returns to the team as a senior after not playing in 2014.
“(Hines) started the year as our second-team fullback, and he became our starting running back,” Tinninis said. “He’s a hard runner, but not a breakaway threat. I think Burton and Parker can fill that.”
A few Blue Devil linemen may be forced to play both ways, as starting guard Andrew Sheller was injured during the offseason and won’t play this fall. Sean Walck and Seth Martin should both see time at guard, while Randy Harne will play center. Anderson, Casey Bard and Lee Plasterer are vying for the top tackle positions.
“We’re not as big as last year, but we’re mentally tough,” Anderson said. “We’re smart and most of us are quick off the ball.”
Meyers said, “Our line is pretty good. We have some experienced linemen that weren’t necessarily our top linemen last year, but they were there on varsity. They know what’s going on, and I think if they just keep pushing forward and being aggressive on the line, we should be successful.”
Defensively, the Blue Devils will be changing things up. They’re going to a 3-4 defense and eliminating an end.
“Seven teams we face are probably going to run the spread or some form of the spread,” Tinninis said. “We went to a 3-4 because I believe the adjustments are easier. We’re asking an outside linebacker to become a defensive end on some adjustments, which I think is easier to ask a kid than to ask him to go from an end to a linebacker.”
One area where Tinninis seems especially confident is in his linebackers. Parker, Votral and Luke Robertson will all see time at outside linebacker, while Tyler Jefferys will move inside.
“Our linebacking crew is really solid,” Tinninis said. “I think Jeffreys is going to make some tackles from the inside spot. He reads really well, and he’s fast.”
In addition to Parker, the Blue Devils also picked up a nice defensive threat in Liam Okal, who also did not play his junior year. Okal recently finished fifth in the District 3 Championships in the 200 dash. Burton and Measell will both play in the secondary at corner and safety, respectively.
“The secondary was a struggle last year because of injuries,” Tinninis said. “Right now, we’re a lot faster. You’ve got Burton in one corner and Liam Okal on the other, which allows us to move Measell inside. Overall, you need athletes to cover the pass, and we have more of those guys this year.”
One position that doesn’t get much recognition is the kicker, but Greencastle graduated a top one in Kurt Hansen. But the Blue Devils aren’t worried, as Austyn Smith is ready to take over. He has been the JV kicker for the past two years.
“It’s his turn to take over,” Tinninis said. “We’ve had good reliable kickers here for years now, and Smith hopefully can continue that tradition. We’re confident in him.”
In fact, there doesn’t seem to be an area where the Blue Devils aren’t confident.
Date/Result // Opponent // Time/Score
W // @ Chambersburg // 32-29
51 // Littlestown // 51-14
9/18 // West Perry // 7 p.m.
9/25 // @ Big Spring // 7 p.m.
10/2 // East Pennsboro // 7 p.m.
10/10 // @ Hershey // 7 p.m.
10/16 // @ James Buchanan // 7 p.m.
10/23 // Northern // 7 p.m.
10/30 // @ Waynesboro // 7 p.m.
11/6 // Shippensburg // 7 p.m.
Result // Opponent // Score
W // Chambersburg // 34-10
W // Littlestown // 49-14
W // West Perry // 53-13
W // Big Spring // 29-7
L // East Pennsboro // 20-27
L // Hershey // 18-40
W // James Buchanan // 31-28
W // Northern York // 27-9
L // Waynesboro // 14-28
L // Shippensburg // 28-42