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Hubs hope time is on their side

September 03, 2010|By TIM KOELBLE
  • A.J. Staley
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North Hagerstown head coach Dan Cunningham is taking the "what you see at the beginning of the season is what you may not see by the middle of the season" approach.

It's all because the Hubs have endurred a number of preseason setbacks.

An ACL injury to fullback A.J. Staley and a tonsillectomy to tailback Anthony Winter have tempered the early outlook for the Hubs, who open the season with tough opponents in Thomas Johnson and Frederick.

"Those losses can't get any bigger when you're preparing for the season," said Cunningham.

Staley, a second-team All-County back with 465 yards rushing and five touchdowns, has an uncertain status but won't be carrying the pigskin in the first week.

"If he has to have surgery then he's done for the year and that hurts tremendously," said Cunningham. "He is irreplaceable. He can handle anything you put on his shoulders."

Staley (6-foot-1, 194 pounds) would also have been one of North's five two-way starters, playing linebacker.

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Winter, a first-team All-County honoree who signed to play at NCAA FCS Bryant University, had surgery on Aug. 8 and is just now getting back into football condition after losing nearly 25 pounds from his 191-pound frame.

"Here's a kid that benches 340 pounds, runs a 4.4 and is another two-way starter at free safety," said Cunningham. "We just hope he'll be in shape by the opener."

Winter says he'll be ready to play, but estimates he might be only about 80 percent.

"It's been a long recovery period," said Winter. "I went two weeks without solid, healthy food, so it's hard to get the weight and energy back."

Winter, a Washington County track champion in the 100 meters, led area rushers last year with 1,226 yards and 12 touchdowns.

"We've got tough openers against 3A and 4A teams," said Winter. "T.J. is tough competition and Frederick is loaded on offense. Our seniors understand how important these games are for playoff points, and we want to make the playoffs."

There won't be many surprises in the North attack -- the Hubs will continue to run the football.

Quarterback Steve Coccodrilli (5-10, 172) returns for a third season. A year ago he threw for six touchdowns and eight interceptions, while completing 31 of 61 attempts.

"(Steve) knows our system and is a game manager," said Cunningham. "He can, and will, make college types of options at the line of scrimmage."

The understudy roster to Staley and Winter is plentiful.

Sophomore Kyle Hewlett (5-11, 175) is likely to step in for Staley. Senior Michael Franklin (5-10, 159), sophomore Trey Anderson (5-8, 164) and senior Rico Johnson (5-8, 168) are tailback options for the Hubs and also special teams performers.

Cunningham has made position changes on the offensive line.

Senior Zach Eppard (6-0, 221) has moved from center to guard in a switch with junior Dalton Shoemaker (5-11, 251) and senior Zach Schreiber (6-1, 210) has moved to tight end. The tackle spots will be manned by junior Dylan Dopson (6-5, 255) and junior Nathan Ward (6-4, 260).

"We've gone through a change in blocking schemes to fill our personnel needs so we can do more trap blocking," said Cunningham.

Defensively, Cunningham wants to shore up a unit that allowed 21 points a game, but they'll have to deal with the loss of three-year starting linebacker Greg Pheabus.

"We need to be more aggressive on defense," said Cunningham. "We don't have any returning starters at linebacker.

The Hubs will play a 4-2-5 system with a linebacker adding to a three-man front. Top candidates appear to be Eppard, Schreiber and junior Alex Courtney.

"We've got a grueling schedule," said Cunningham. "T.J. is bigger and faster than last year and Frederick is like home run central on offense."

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