Junior quarterback Anh LeDon Carey PHOTOS/THE TIMES LEADER
Sophomore running back David Gawlas.
Head coach Len Butczynski.
Senior guard and linebacker Mike Desciak.
Last year, Holy Redeemer suffered some heartbreaking losses, but the Royals were competitive in every game except a loss to powerful Lake-Lehman.
Even though Holy Redeemer lost eight starters on defense and seven players on offense, coach Len Butczynski is optimistic that his team has a chance to post a winning record this season.
“Obviously, we’re going to have to stay healthy,” said Butczynski, referring to the fact that there are only 31 players on the Redeemer roster. “We’re going to have to make sure our young kids step up on defense. How quickly those guys develop is important.”
The defense is in good hands. Former Wyoming Valley West coach Ed Michaels has joined the Redeemer staff as its defensive coordinator, and Butczynski regards that as a major asset.
“The addition to Michaels on our staff should make us real solid on defense. We expect it to improve with experience.”
It’s been three years since Michaels was forced out at Wyoming Valley West and was replaced by George Curry. After serving as an assistant at Wilkes for two years, he did not coach last season.
The fate of the Royals attack will pretty much rest on the shoulders of junior quarterback Anh Le, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior who is stepping into the starting role.
“He has a strong arm and is a great athlete,” said Butczynski. “He was banged up last year and would have gotten much more playing time if he was healthy. He’s been in the system for two years and understands it.”
Nick Villani, a 5-10, 180-pound senior, figures to be the lead running back.
“He’s a combination of downfield running and power,” Butczynski said. “He lacks experience because he missed most of last year due to a sprained ankle and a concussion. He’s fully recovered now.”
Sophomores David Gawlas and Mike Bish will be the other running backs.
“Gawlas has very good feet and very good speed,” said Butczynski. “He was the quarterback on the freshman team last season. He understands our (varsity) offense, because it’s virtually the same as the freshman team offense.”
Bish, who is 5-6 and 150 pounds, is one of the most hard-nosed players on the team, according to Butczynski. “He’s really tough for a small kid and is also very quick.”
Zach Radawich and Billy Martin will be the wide receivers. Both players are sure-handed and experienced.
The Royals’ true strength appears to be the offensive line that includes Chris Fragass, Keith Cusma and Mike Desciak.
“Fragass is a two-year starter,” Butczynski said. “He’s a good blocker and is a captain. He provides great leadership.
“Desciak is a three-year starter who played tight end the past two seasons, but is moving to the guard position,” said Butczynski. “He has good feet and pulling ability, and also has great leadership skills.”
Veteran linemen Adam Stefansky and Conor Doyle will be counted on heavily to lead an otherwise inexperienced defensive unit.
Stefansky, a 6-3, 250-pound senior, is an exceptionally strong tackle with good defensive reads. Doyle, a 6-0, 175-pound cornerback, is a three-year starter. He plays the pass and run well, and is a solid tackler.
The Royals have a chance to finish near the .500 mark if they stay healthy, but they don’t appear to have enough firepower to beat an upper-echelon team. However, they should be competitive against the rest of the teams.
“We lost 18 seniors, so we have to stay healthy,” said Butczynski. “If that happens, we can be in contention week in and week out.”