ARMOLD: Dover football team eager to move on in 2016
- Dover was 3-0 in Division II in 2015 before suspensions derailed its season.
- Shad Murphy and Chase Heath are returning all-star linemen for 2016.
- The Eagles open the season on Sept. 2 with a game at Shippensburg.
When a season slips away from a football team, they can usually consult their library of film to analyze the problem.
However, for the Dover Eagles in 2015, it was less about what happened on the field and more about what transpired off it.
Thanks to a fresh approach, however, and the benefit of some competitive circumstances, the Eagles will get a chance put adversity behind them and take another run at the York-Adams League Division II title this season.
Before the school’s 2015 homecoming, the Eagles were on a three-game winning streak at 4-2 and were contenders for the York-Adams League Division II title with a 3-0 division record. Then trouble hit. A number of student-athletes were caught drinking underage at a party and ultimately found themselves suspended from the team.
The result was a severely shorthanded Eagles squad that lost its remaining three division games on the way to a 4-6 overall record and a fourth-place Division II finish at 3-3.
In an effort to put the incident and lost season behind them, the Eagles are using graduation as a reset button of sorts and relying on the establishment of new leadership. The 2016 group will be counted on to have learned the lessons of last season’s misfortune and create a more accountable environment.
“The difference between that team and (this team) is these guys, with their leadership, they keep everybody together and really they all like each other,” said head coach Wayne Snelbaker during Monday’s York-Adams League Media Day. “Last year was a very talented team, it’s just that they all weren’t close together. So the leadership part of this is we are going to rely on our kids to bring our younger kids along.”
Shad Murphy, a junior lineman, is one of the players who will be called upon to help create the fresh atmosphere and pass it along to the next group.
Murphy said a summer trip to Bloomsburg University’s team camp went a long way in starting the process.
“We took the whole team up there, and just being together up there for those few days helped everybody get together and we really bonded,” Murphy said.
While the hit from graduation was tough from a talent standpoint, the Eagles benefit from a Division II that lacks a clear-cut favorite heading into the 2016 season.
While Snelbaker recognizes the toll the calendar change took on his roster, he expressed optimism in the level of experience he had returning.
“We’re going to be successful one game at a time. We’ll evaluate that game and get better from that game. It’s going to depend on how fast we get our young kids coming along,” he said.
The biggest loss for Dover might be that of Durran Ledbetter, who shouldered the workload on offense from the running back position all season long.
“Offensively, I think we’ll be pretty good with throwing the ball, we’ll work on the running game a little bit," Snelbaker said. "Defensively, I think we’ll be able to defend (the pass) and we’ll have to work on (defending the) run. Both sides of the ball, up front, we’ll be young.”
Aiding the Eagles in the passing game is the return of all-star receiver Andrew Hoffman. Amari Peterson figures to give the receiving corps an added boost, while Dover returns the services of experienced running back Cole Jesmer.
All-star offensive tackle Murphy leads an offensive line that, while young, also features experienced returners Chase Heath and Andrew Shaffer.
Heath and Peterson were all-stars on the defensive side of the ball last season and lead a large contingent of players that will be leaned on to contribute both ways this fall.
The Eagles get their first taste of division play with a Week 4 visit from Gettysburg.
Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.