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Saints ready to stop traffic

September 02, 1998|By DAN SPEARS

ST. JAMES - Upon inspection of the the St. James School campus, you'll find there's only one stop sign.

Unfortunately for head coach Chick Meehan, he couldn't move it to the football field during the Saints' 0-9 campaign in 1997.

"We didn't have a whole lot of defense last season," Meehan said. "We'd stick with teams for awhile because we could put some points on the board, but we just couldn't stop anyone."

In his 25th season, he expects things to change. The Saints return virtually everyone - with another year of height, weight and experience on their side.

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"We've got kids that have played now," Meehan said. "There's just so much more experience than last year."

The offense should have the green light. All-Small School receiver Larry Scott returns, and senior running backs Brandon Boger and Max Carr and senior receiver Chris Acker can continue grooming sophomore quarterback Billy Keyes.

"If he (Keyes) is as twice as good as last year, he'll be a pretty good quarterback," Meehan said. "He struggled last year because it was the first time he was ever not really successful and he had to deal with it.

"This year won't be as tough."

But the defense - again - will have to stop runaway opponents without a crossing guard. Yes, the secondary is strong (Boger was All-Small School at defensive back), but junior Mike Eshelman, counted on as the team's middle linebacker, is already out for the season with back problems.

"We're very weak at linebacker, and then we lose him," Meehan said. "We've struggled, and then to lose a nice player like him ... it hurts."

The Saints will have at least 21 players, a marked improvement over last year, when injuries sliced the roster to 12 at one point and forced the team to forfeit a game.

"We've got a couple of new kids that will be big," Meehan said. "And maybe then we'll have some more beef up front to move people."

And they just might put a stop to all the losing going on around St. James.

"When you go 0-9 and get kicked around, it's demoralizing," Meehan said. "Losing games like 60-0 (62-0 to Blue Ridge) just wrecked our whole season.

"We might surprise some people, we might not. But they're going to have to play every down to get by us."

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