Senior staff writer
Many Southside football teams are questioning their prospects of good seasons as the 2016 campaign kicks off Friday night.
The Year of the Quarterback is gone with the graduation of record-setting quarterbacks, including Marion County Player of the Year Luke Johnston of Southport, Robbie Strader of Roncalli and Jake Reid of Lutheran.
Prolific passer Chase Andries returns for his senior year at quarterback for Indiana Crossroads Conference co-champion Beech Grove. Andries, faced with a corps of new receivers last year, threw for 2,781 yards and 23 touchdowns. Seth Gallman threw for 1,273 yards for Greenwood.
Running backs may garner the spotlight this season.
Titus McCoy returns to Center Grove, where the wing-T backfield adds newcomer Russ Yeast of Fremont, Ohio, who has attracted Southeastern Conference and Big 10 offers. Andrew Mappes (5.4 yards per carry, 5.3 yards per catch, eight touchdowns) has good speed in Southport’s backfield, and Lutheran junior Alec Jones seeks his third straight season over the 1,000-yard plateau.
Several teams have outstanding defensive linemen and linebackers, so defense may outshine offense in some games.
Roncalli had not been in a conference until this season. The Rebels, Bishop Chatard, Brebeuf Jesuit and Guerin Catholic are now members of the Circle City Conference. Heritage Christian joins for the 2017-18 campaign.
“The players are excited because they get to compete for a conference championship and all-conference honors for the first time at Roncalli,” coach Bruce Scifres said. “This gives all Roncalli teams the opportunity to win conference championships too.”
Scifres said Roncalli, as an independent team, has had difficulties scheduling teams – particularly in the area – because of conference affiliations. He pointed out that most conference teams play six or seven league games, leaving only two open dates to play nonleague opponents.
The Rebels’ first league game is a home date against rival Chatard Sept. 2.
Reigning 6A state champion Center Grove is the target for everyone this season, while most teams on the Southside, particularly Perry Meridian and Manual, expect improvement over 2015.
The season opens at 7 p.m. Friday with rivalry night with Lutheran at Beech Grove, Perry Meridian at Greenwood and Roncalli at Southport.
The team-by-team outlook
Hornets have the tools for big expectations
Defending champions Center Grove remains title favorite
New atmosphere for an improved Franklin Central squad
Time is now for Greenwood to aim higher
Defending sectional champs Lutheran has more experience
Numbers and excitement for Manual keep moving up
Perry Meridian looks ahead to bright future
Rebels turn to ground game
New Coach and QB for Southport