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COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF: South Western Mustangs football preview

Countdown to kickoff

This is the 20th installment of our daily preview capsules leading up to the start of the York-Adams League high school football season on Sept. 4. Today, we're spotlighting the South Western Mustangs.

Who: South Western Mustangs.

2014 record: 5-5 overall, 5-2 Division I.

Coach: Damian Poalucci, fourth season.

Key returners: Brock Geiman, senior, quarterback, punter; Noah Staub, senior, wide receiver; Drew Hartlaub, junior wide receiver/running back, defensive specialist; Robby Harbison, senior, fullback, linebacker; Corbin Myers, senior, tight end; Josh Zeroth, senior, offensive/defensive line; Skylar Bowman, senior, offensive/defensive line; Scotty Dickmyer, senior, offensive/defensive line; Bubba Carbaugh, junior, offensive/defensive line.

Notable losses: Matt Helwig, offensive line; Ryan Krebs, linebacker; Seth Janney, defensive end; Tyler Jachelski, linebacker; Hunter Palmer, defensive back.

2014 All-Stars: Geiman, quarterback, punter; Staub, wide receiver; Hartlaub, wide receiver/running back/defensive specialist; Helwig, offensive line; Krebs, linebacker; Janney, defensive end; Jachelski, linebacker; Palmer, defensive back.

2015 schedule: Sept. 4, at Gettysburg (7 p.m.); Sept. 11, vs. Cedar Cliff (7 p.m.); Sept. 18, vs. Carlisle (7 p.m.); Sept. 25, at New Oxford (7 p.m.); Oct. 2, Homecoming vs. Central York (7 p.m.); Oct. 9, at Red Lion (7 p.m.); Oct. 16, vs. Dallastown (7 p.m.); Oct. 23, at York High (7 p.m.); Oct. 30, vs. Northeastern (7:30 p.m.); Nov. 6, at Spring Grove (7 p.m.).

Outlook: The Mustangs really got things going to close the 2014 season, winning five of their final seven games after an 0-3 start. One of those last two losses was a 20-13 overtime contest with Central York, and the other a tough 28-27 battle with eventual division champion Dallastown.

Geiman hopes to carry that momentum into this season and lead a loaded Mustangs offense that returns a number of starters, especially up front. Geiman finished last year ranked fifth in the York-Adams League in passing, going 87-for-173 for 1,508 yards with 14 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

Staub figures to be Geiman's top target again this season. Last year saw Staub snag 28 passes for 433 yards.

Also aiding Geiman in running the Mustangs' spread wing-T offense are the top two rushers from a season ago in Harbison (626 yards) and Hartlaub (336 yards).

If South Western, who many consider the favorite, is to make a charge at the division title, it must first improve a defense that ranked 14th out of 23 teams a year ago in terms of average points per game allowed (24.6).

Most notable among the losses defensively is all-league defensive end Seth Janney — the junior transferred to Malvern Prep in the offseason.

The Mustangs also lose all-league linebackers Ryan Krebs and Tyler Jachelski.

Coach speak: "Having a target on your back, I like it because you have to live up to it," Poalucci said of being a favorite to win the division. "There are expectations out there that we should be good, and we're not going to back away from it."

— Reach Elijah Armold at earmold@yorkdispatch.com.