Prep football preseason countdown: #7 BISHOP LUERS KNIGHTS
Consistency is what Bishop Luers coach Kyle Lindsay is looking for most from his team this season. With the exception of a 15-14 loss to Bishop Dwenger and a 20-14 sectional title win over Concordia Lutheran, the Knights were either dominant or dominated in 2017.
Their average margin of victory in eight wins was 19.4 points, while their average losing margin in five losses was 26 points.
“Hopefully we learned from the ups, from the downs. We had some big wins, started the year hot with a win on the road at Carroll. When we were down, with the exception of the Dwenger game, teams handed it to us,” Lindsay said. “We are going to have to mature, handle adversity much better than we did last year. Ultimately, that is on the senior class and what type of leadership they bring.”
The Knights will bring back as many as 15 starters, so Lindsay looks for the experiences of a year ago to be valuable.
The run game was huge for the Knights a year ago with a pair of 1,000-plus yard backs in returning Jordan Presley and the graduated Tyreeon Hambright. With the loss of Hambright’s 1,030 yards and 13 touchdowns, more weight will fall on Presley, who ran the ball 136 times for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Presley also caught 16 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns.
Some of the pressure to make plays offensively will be relieved by Justin Gaston, who posted 10 total touchdowns either on the ground or in the air last season. The two are arguably the best athletes on the field for Luers, but will be part of a unique balancing act as they are a key part of the defensive unit, as well as premier kick returners.
“For them, it’s going to be a commitment in making sure they are in the best shape possible,” Lindsay said. “The big challenge to have them to really succeed on both sides of the ball is going to be on our coaching staff and how we are going to make sure they are fresh at the most necessary times of the game.”
Senior quarterback Norman Knapke returns after throwing for 1,462 yards last season. Knapke went up and down as the team did, finding a near equal amount of success (14 touchdowns) as failure (13 interceptions), but will be a key to pacing the Knights each week. Lindsay is looking for a lot of balance between the run game and passing game in order for Bishop Luers to break into the upper echelon of the Summit Athletic Conference.
“It’s very rare at Bishop Luers that we can overpower teams week in and week out, so we have to have balance. I think it is a team that is going to be able to play with a lot of pace when needed or when we want to,” Lindsay said.
Protecting those position players will be a fairly large offensive line headed by tackle Jack Sweeney, guard Jake Morua and Gabe Hendicks, who will likely start at center after starting the last couple of 2018 games at guard.
“There are a plethora of kids who are competing for jobs. Up front, the key is to be healthy. Seems like we are going to have some kids who will be good on both sides of the ball, but we aren’t deep in numbers across the board so we have to be healthy,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay sees a lot of positive coming from the defensive side of the ball, where the team returns key players Hendricks, Sweeney, Allen Jackson and Camari Harris as part of a front line. But with so many players putting in work on both sides of the ball, the defense’s success could rely a lot on the offense.
“As much as anything, just looking for a team that is going to be efficient with the ball, keep our defense off the field and keep those kids rested because we think on the defensive side of the ball, we should be pretty sound,” Lindsay said.
Harris boasts the best numbers of returners. The linebacker had 141 tackles (20.5 for loss) and four sacks a year ago. Jackson, also a linebacker, recorded 124 tackles in 2017. A lot of what happens before them though is crucial, Lindsay said, and a load of stopping opposing running attacks falls on the experience of Hendricks.
“You’ve got to be able to stop the run game and we feel like we’ve got one of the better run stuffers in the area coming back in Gabe Hendricks,” Lindsay said.
Hendricks recorded 34 tackles a year ago, 9.5 for a loss.
The secondary returns a huge core with Gaston and Presley being joined by fellow senior returner Josh Dippold and junior Nick Birkmeier. Gaston was the key in last year’s rotation with 98 tackles and four interceptions, Dippold had 46 tackles and Birkmeier had 37. Presley, who had 41 tackles with two sacks and two interceptions is likely to see more breaks on the defensive end now that he is exclusively the premier running back.
While also an offensive weapon, Gaston will be more leaned upon on defense and likely will draw the toughest assignment every Friday night.
“He’s a cornerback prospect at the collegiate level, shows a lot of athleticism and ability,” Lindsay said.
ABOUT THE KNIGHTS
2017 record: 8-5
2017 storyline: First sectional title since 2014. Lost by just one at rival Dwenger in Week 7. Lost to Mishawaka Marian 30-7 in semistate.
Coach: Kyle Lindsay (35-29 in sixth season at school)
Mitch Gigli, OL (All-SAC First Team)
Sam Verslype, OL/DL
Contrez Jordan, DB (52 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 INTs)
Peyton Howe, P/K (39 of 46 PAT, 2-5 FG, 33.8 punt average)
Tyreeon Hambright, RB (154 carries, 1,030 yards, 12 TDs)
Dominic Easley, LB (131 tackles, 12 TFL, 2 INTs)