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FB Preview -- Future is today -- or tomorrow -- for Hubs

September 02, 2009|By BOB PARASILITI/bobp@herald-mail.com

Dan Cunningham is what you could call anxiously patient.

It's not a normal description, and it's an emotion that could have his nervous system playing tug-of-war, but it is pretty much par for the course for the North Hagerstown football coach.

"This might be the year of us," Cunningham said. "But still, it could be next year."

That's because youth, like hope, springs eternal for the Hubs.

It is Year Two of North's Extreme Makeover, with the majority of the players are either sophomores or juniors. Only one to three seniors have been penciled into the starting lineup off the 45-player roster.

"This team is extremely young," said Cunningham. "It all depends on how experience all pays off. If we find it all and put it together, we could be good."

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North finished 3-7 last season as many young players were forced to cut their teeth while playing varsity. It didn't do much for the 2008 record, but it did fasttrack preparation for the next few seasons.

The Hubs will have four or five sophomores drawing playing time this season. They were all pressed into action when a rash of injuries erased North's experience base. Its only the beginning.

"Our whole offensive line is all sophomores and juniors," Cunningham said.

"Our backfield is all underclassmen. And our defense is young and experienced."

The Hubs' young nature adds the hint of unpredictability, yet there are some key components that could make North's season rather exciting.

It starts at quarterback where Steve Coccodrilli and Lynn Lowman are in a battle for the starting job. It has become a battle of brains versus brawn.

"There is no clear cut choice for quarterback," Cunningham said. "That's tough to say when you have a junior like Coccodrilli, who threw for 900 yards in six games last year. He is a leader and runs the offense so well. Lowman has worked hard all summer and has a big arm. It wouldn't be a stretch to see us use both of them."

The backfield has its own array of young runners, all bringing different talents to the table. It starts with tailback Anthony Winter, who was one of the inexperienced finds from last season.

"Winter is going to be all over the place for us -- in the backfield, in the slot and at quarterback," Cunningham said. "Teams were designing their defenses around him so we want to move him around. He's going to be tough to keep off the field, considering he was rated 15th at the state combine, runs a 4.48 40 and benches 305 pounds."

Joe Mattei, who plays basketball for North, returns to the Hubs as a receiver after taking a year off.

North's defense revolves around its nose guard and three linebackers, who are the foundation for the unit's power and quickness.

"Our nose guard and our (middle) linebacker ...," Cunningham said in wonderment. "Alex Wolters is a man at nose guard. He is in his third year and seasoned. He's a leader.

"Greg Pheabus is our Mike linebacker and he reads stuff so well. He knows how to adjust."

The linebacking corps will have A.J. Staley returning on the right side and Corey Carpenter on the left.

"Our defense will set the tone this year," Cunningham said. "We have a lot of inexperience on offense, but we have eight starters back defensively."

North returns to the MVAL Antietam this season after a stint in the Piedmont. The Hubs schedule is a hybrid of the two leagues, which will make things interesting.

"We have so many weapons, it will take time for everyone to learn their roles," Cunningham said. "This is the fastest team I have ever been around, but we are definitely a work in progress."

Click here for North Hagerstown football roster and schedule.

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