Fenwick has had some quality teams miss the playoffs in recent years due to a lack of success in nonconference games. This year’s slate is typically stout — Anna, Belmont and Clinton-Massie were all playoff teams a year ago.
And the Falcons have moved up to Division III, Region 12 this season.
“I think doing well in the nonconference games is something the kids realize is critical,” Haverkamp said. “If we start 0-3, that’s going to be a really big hill to climb to get in the playoffs. If we get off to a good start and get some confidence and get some momentum, I think our ceiling is pretty high.”
Senior quarterback Sully Janeck (5-11, 175) and senior running back Caleb Davis (5-11, 185) lead the returnees on offense. Haverkamp wants to combine the spread with the option in what he called a “spread-to-run” approach.
“I would say if you look at colleges like Oklahoma and Ohio State, the way they have their tailback and that H-back player who can be a pass catcher or a lead blocker, that’s kind of what our base would look like,” Haverkamp said.
Janeck threw for 607 yards and four touchdowns in eight games last year, while Davis was the No. 2 runner with 625 yards and six TDs on 136 carries.
“Sully’s a very intelligent, very accurate quarterback,” Haverkamp said. “The passing-game side of things is very different this year, but I think he’s excited to throw the ball a little bit.”
Senior Jack Fessler (5-10, 180) is another strong running back who was sidelined the entire 2017 campaign with an injury.
“I think we’re going to have a really good 1-2 punch with Caleb and Jack in the run game,” Haverkamp said.
PREP FOOTBALL PRESEASON POLLS
Seniors R.J. Clesceri (5-10, 175) and Thomas Vogelsang (6-2, 180) are returning receivers, and junior Jordan Rucker (5-8, 170) also saw some action in that position last year.
Senior tackle Justin Duckwall (5-11, 205) and senior guard Sam Secrest (6-2, 235) are experienced offensive linemen, and senior Leo Bell (5-8, 230) has transitioned from fullback to guard. Senior tackle Craig Schuermann (6-2, 230) and senior center Josh Steinmetz (5-8, 250) are also expected to start up front.
“What’s nice is they’re all seniors. They’ve got good chemistry and communicate well together. I think it’ll be fun watching Leo pulling and lead-blocking on people,” Haverkamp said.
“We’re definitely still a run-first team, but we’re going to throw it when the defense stacks the box and dares us to throw. We’ve got weapons on the outside where I think we can take advantage of those moments.”
Defensively, the Falcons are staying in a 3-4 this season and return three starters in the secondary — junior Jake Berning (5-10, 175) and senior Gio DiGirolamo (5-9, 165) at cornerback, along with senior safety Henry Nenni (5-9, 175). Senior Nate Green (6-1, 175) has stepped into a starting safety role.
Senior Ben Gustely (6-1, 205) returns as an outside linebacker and is a strong pass rusher, while Davis looks to be the other OLB. Davis spent some time in the secondary in 2017, but was primarily an offensive player in 2017.
Junior John Stevenson (6-0, 205) will be an inside linebacker, with seniors Anthony Crisci (5-11, 190) and Joe Perrotti (6-0, 190) battling for the other inside spot.
Secrest was a linebacker last season, but is now playing on the D-line. Haverkamp said there’s competition for the nose-guard position, and juniors Eric Hendrix (6-6, 220) and Adam DeBiasi (6-1, 205) are in the mix at end.
Bell will likely play a role on defense, but Haverkamp isn’t quite sure where yet. He’s been playing inside linebacker and nose guard.
“The defensive identity isn’t going to change,” Haverkamp said. “I think we’re going to be able to get after the quarterback, but that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to be a team that blitzes like crazy all the time.”
The Falcons — who return their starting place-kicker (senior Matt Beckman) and punter (Clesceri) — will have two road scrimmages, facing the St. X “B” team Saturday at 10 a.m. and traveling to Franklin on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m.
Fenwick’s captains are Secrest, Bell, Davis and Janeck.
Coach: Dan Haverkamp, first season
OHSAA designation: Division III, Region 12
Playoff history: 15-14 in 16 appearances (1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1991, 2003, 2004, 2012, 2015)
2017 record: 6-4 overall, 5-2 in the Greater Catholic League Coed North Division (third)
Schedule: Aug. 24 — Anna, 7 p.m.; Aug. 31 — vs. Belmont at Welcome Stadium, 7 p.m.; Sept. 7 — Clinton-Massie, 7 p.m.; Sept. 14 — Badin, 7 p.m.; Sept. 21 — vs. Alter at Centerville, 7 p.m.; Sept. 28 — at McNicholas, 7 p.m.; Oct. 5 — Chaminade Julienne, 7 p.m.; Oct. 12 — Purcell Marian, 7 p.m.; Oct. 19 — at Roger Bacon, 7 p.m.; Oct. 26 — at Carroll, 7 p.m.