ROSWELL – Coming off the best football season in the school’s history, the Blessed Trinity Titans face the challenge of having to replace a deep and talented senior class from last year’s squad that reached the second round of the state Class AAA playoffs.
BT went 9-3, tying St. Pius for first in Region 6-AAA and winning its state playoff opener decisively before a heartbreaking loss at Cartersville in the next round.
Titans’ coach Tim McFarlin, who guided Roswell to a share of a state title in 2006, recognizes the task he and his team face in a six-team region with five strong contenders for four playoff spots.
“I’m optimistic every year but we have to replace 17 starting positions,” McFarlin said. “We’ve got to play great football to have a shot at the playoffs.”
The Titans will have to replace standouts at quarterback, fullback, wide receiver and tight end on offense, as well as three of five starters in the line. The defense has some talent back at linebacker and in the secondary, but the entire line will be new this season.
Leading the way offensively is tailback Milton Shelton, who rushed for almost 900 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman. After being surrounded by seniors, Shelton now becomes the focus of the offense, with McFarlin looking to find some other weapons to take the pressure off the talented sophomore.
“We’re going to hand the ball to him 25 or 30 times a game,” McFarlin points out. “Milton has got to stay healthy.”
The Titans return two linemen – three-year starting center David Mitchler and tackle Austin Werkheiser. McFarlin says there are “six or seven players competing for the other three spots and I think we’ll be a little bigger and stronger in the offensive line than we were.”
The big offensive concern for McFarlin is replacing quarterback Spencer McManes, who will play football at the Naval Academy and provided the Titans with a dangerous running and passing threat.
Sophomore Conor Davis, described by McFarlin as having “a great arm.” is the likely starter, with senior Chris Keegan, who is more an option-style quarterback, one of the defensive starters at safety.
The Titans lost their entire group of skilled receivers, with senior Bobby McQuaid and junior Chris Siebert moving up into starting roles.
“I think they’ll be pretty good,” McFarlin says of his projected starters, with the tight end position being manned “by a committee” that includes linebacker Pat Jasinski, the team’s top returning defensive player.
The Titans were an outstanding offensive team last season, but as McFarlin points out, “a quarterback that started every game for three years is hard to replace.”
BT also has to replace some graduating talent on the defensive front, which McFarlin says “will be a challenge.”
As on the offensive line, the Titans have a number of players competing for starting spots, and McFarlin believes he has “a good pool of linemen” to choose from.
Blessed Trinity’s defensive front will play in front of a talented and experienced group of linebackers that include Jasinski, the team’s leading tackler last year as a sophomore, and Carter McManes, who was second in tackles. McManes will also back up Shelton at tailback, with Mitchler also seeing two-way duty at linebacker.
“Experience at linebacker will cover some areas of concern,” McFarlin says, but the Titans’ excellent group of linebackers will not have the luxury of playing behind the caliber of talent from last season.
Keegan and cornerback Kyle Evans head up the secondary, with Keegan, Mitchler and McManes all getting looks from small colleges and Ivy League programs.
McFarlin likes the depth he has on defense, but with so many new starters “chemistry will be a key factor.”
The Titans return kicker Marc Nolan, who will also take over the punting duties this season.
Blessed Trinity faces a testing non-region schedule, opening with Westminster and Lovett and facing 2012 first round playoff opponent White County in the fourth game.
McFarlin says he will use the first four games to evaluate those competing for playing time before the team opens its region schedule at home against playoff contender Woodward Academy.