Three straight years, the Danville football team has qualified for the district playoffs.
If they’re to make it a fourth, it’ll be with a new quarterback spreading the ball amongst a familiar cast of characters.
Junior Weston Baylor takes over at the quarterback position after serving as two-year understudy to three-year starter Andrew Andreychik. Fourth-year head coach Jim Keiser said Baylor is progressing well.
“He’s done an outstanding job,” Keiser said. “He’s started to grasp things. We’re working on timing in the passing game right now.”
Baylor will not lack for game-tested weapons. In the backfield, juniors Sam Dressler and Isaiah Croll will look to build on their sophomore seasons. Dressler, the fullback, rushed for 1,131 yards and 10 touchdowns while Croll, the halfback, ran for 481 yards and six scores. Senior Cale Rice will line up at wingback. Depth in the backfield will be provided by juniors Isaac Troutman, Charles Rivera and Caleb Jones as well as sophomore Tom Brouse.
Experience can be found on the perimeter also with junior wide receiver Zack Kozick. The 6’0” target was second on the team in 2011 with 22 receptions. Jones and senior Matt McConnell may also see time.
At tight end, senior Bret Berg will aim to build on a 146-yard, two-touchdown performance in last year’s district quarterfinal at Towanda. Berg will be backed up by sophomore Gabe Shope.
Senior co-captain Mason Fausnaught will anchor the offensive line from his left tackle position. Left guard is a competition between sophomore Gunnar Feldmann and junior Ian Ficca. Junior Matt Shipe will start at center and has earned praise from Keiser for his preseason work. Junior Chris Humbert returns at right guard and senior Blake Remensnyder will man the right tackle spot. Junior Marcus Wilt and sophomore Jacob Sheridan will also compete for playing time.
Many of the names operating on the offensive line are the same names working on the defensive line in Danville’s 3-5 look. Ficca and Sheridan are penciled in as the starting defensive tackles. They’ll be bracketing Wilt, who will work as the nose tackle. Fausnaught, Remensnyder and Shipe will rotate in as well.
Keiser said he feels set at middle linebacker, where junior Eric Haney, a first-team all-conference pick last season, returns. Brouse will be another starting inside linebacker with Croll and Troutman both having the potential to play inside or outside. The fifth linebacker spot will be handled by a combination of Feldman, Shope and junior Caleb Klein.
In the secondary, Rice and Kozick will be the starting cornerbacks. Berg is a returning starter at the safety position. McConnell, sophomore Evan Tanner and freshman Matthew Schiffino will provide cornerback depth and Rivera will be the second string safety.
Sophomore Shayne Riley will handle the kicking duties. Riley and Berg are battling to see who will become the punter. Berg will continue as the team’s primary punt returner. Rice is back as kick returner and will be joined back deep by Jones.
Berg and Rice are part of a senior group that has taken its cue largely from the 2010 squad which went 12-1 and advanced to the district championship game.
“The 2010 team had a big influence on them and the senior group last year,” Keiser said. “They want to make their own mark.”
Keiser said one way for this group of seniors to make that mark would be to continue that run of postseason appearances.
“They know that the goal is to always make the district playoffs,” Keiser said. “They know the fact this would be the first time Danville has been to district playoffs four straight years. They don’t want to break that chain.”
If Danville is able to once again qualify for the postseason, then Keiser believes it’s an opportunity for the program to take another step forward.
“For us to get in there and to make some noise in the district playoffs, that would be a great stepping stone for this team,” Keiser said.
Danville’s 2012 regular season journey begins at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 31 at home versus Milton.