QB Will Levis (All-State), WR/FS Kyle MacGillis (All-State), LB Ryan Cartelli (All-State), C Griffin Saks
The Ferrari-like feel to Xavier’s prolific offenses this decade will have more of a Ford F-150 identity this fall.
The Falcons have won four state championships since 2010 with FBS college-caliber players (Pat D’Amato, Tim Boyle and Will Levis) behind center.
This season, they will roll out a run-oriented attack, a strong front seven on the line and a first-year quarterback in Matt Ryan. The junior replaces Levis, now at Penn State after an All-State career with the Falcons.
“The thing we’re all focused on this year is getting back to our roots,” said Andy Guyon, who begins his second year as Xavier’s head coach after a long run as defensive coordinator. “Our personnel last year dictated what we did with our quarterback and receivers.”
As such, Guyon sees an opportunity for this set of Falcons to establish its own identity following a 4-6 season, Xavier’s first losing record this decade. Should the Falcons successfully earn a playoff spot, they’ll be competing in Class L this season.
“I want to see them try and play to their very best, every day,” the coach said. “I want to see them work as hard as they can and be the best team they can be, without comparing themselves (to past teams), to carve their own identity into our history and make it a positive one.”
Ryan, a 6-foot-1 junior, won over the staff with his poise and decision making, “and the kids respect him,” Guyon said. “He’s won the team and the kids have taken to him and trust him, that he has the ability to put the ball in the right spot.”
Marcelius Ruiz, a 6-1, 210-pound junior, will be the primary threat out of the backfield. The Falcons also will have 6-foot, 210-pound senior Nick Hasselman, 180-pound junior Bryce Sweetapple, who is nursing a hamstring injury, and Eric Folta, another junior, to run the ball.
There are five tight ends/receivers who will be at Ryan’s disposal – senior Quinn Zdrojeski and juniors Andrew Brown, KJ Chrisham, Logan Saks and Michael Astorino. Kicker Sam Norris also will be an open on situational downs.
“We like our personnel up front and in our backfield,” Guyon said. “(Offensive coordinator) Greg Jaskot is doing a phenomenal job with them and they’ll come along. Our formula is ‘run the ball and play defense’ and I think we’ll be able to do that.”
On the defensive side of the ball, while the secondary is young and needs to show progress, Guyon is high on his edge players (Zdrojeski; Brown; 220-pound junior Davon Colon; and 6-2, 230-pound senior Zach Bates), linebackers (Hasselman and Ruiz among them) and line, which includes two-way senior Ryan Terlecky.
“We have depth up front that we haven’t had in the recent past,” Guyon said. “We can rotate a lot of kids through. We’re young in the secondary, but we’re talented and athletic nonetheless. We’re just trying to figure out where the puzzle pieces go.”
Guyon has enjoyed the process and loves the team’s attitude and work ethic. As the Falcons turn the page toward full preparation for next Friday’s opener at Norwich Free Academy, he says it’s important that this particular team takes a from-square-one approach.
“Every year is a new year. We’ve focused a lot in the offseason on ‘Let’s control what we can control and not worry about what other people think, and not worry about 2010, ‘11, ’12 or ‘13,’ “ he said. “Let’s be the best version of ourselves every day. We’ve really focused on that, doing all the little things well, so those things will add up to big things.”
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