COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF: A preview look at the Northeastern Bobcats
- Northeastern is coming off an 8-3 season in 2016 that saw it finish tied for second in Division I and lose in the opening round of districts.
- Taemar Willis will be a key part in the Bobcats' success, with the senior playing in all three areas of the game.
- Northeastern begins its league slate with Central York, Red Lion and Dallastown between Weeks 4-6.
This is the 22nd installment of our daily preview capsules leading up to the start of the York-Adams League high school football season.
►Team: Northeastern Bobcats.
►Coach: Jon Scepanski, fifth season.
►2016 record: 8-3 overall, 5-2 Division I.
►Key losses (Division I All-Stars in bold): Shamari Young, senior, defensive end; Mason Kling, senior, linebacker; Anu Johnson, senior, running back; Chris Whack, senior, running back/linebacker; Michael Cooper, senior, return specialist; Coby Motley, senior, linebacker; Shannon Valenti, senior, quarterback; John Wadkins, senior, offensive/defensive lineman.
►Key returners (Division I All-Stars in bold): Fred Mulbah, senior, wide receiver/defensive back; Taemar Willis, senior, return specialist; Elijah Alexander, senior, offensive/defensive lineman; Wyatt Hughes, senior, running back/linebacker;
►2017 schedule (Division I games in bold): Sept. 1 at Daniel Boone (7 p.m.); Sept. 8 vs. York Suburban (7 p.m.); Sept. 15 vs. Solanco (7 p.m.); Sept. 22 at Central York (7 p.m.); Sept. 29 vs. Red Lion (7 p.m.); Oct. 6 at Dallastown (7 p.m.); Oct. 13 vs. York (7 p.m.); Oct. 20 at Spring Grove (7 p.m.); Oct. 27 at South Western (7 p.m.); Nov. 3 vs. New Oxford (7 p.m.).
►Outlook: The Bobcats entered with division-winning expectations in 2016, but they didn't quite fulfill them. Northeastern finished tied for second in Division I last year and then lost in the opening round of the District 3 5-A playoffs on a last-minute touchdown and two-point conversion to lose by a single point.
A lot is gone from last season's squad, so a step back seems in order. Still, there are a few notable returners, including do-it-all senior Taemar Willis. He'll factor into every facet of the game for the Bobcats as a running back, a defensive back and a returner. There might not be another player in Division I tasked with having to do more than Willis.
Northeastern is also looking to replace two-year starting quarterback Shannon Valenti with sophomore Zech Sanderson. Scepanski already said he doesn't want to have to rely on Sanderson to win games, so any success this year will hinge on Sanderson's supporting cast giving him plenty of help.
With consecutive games to begin division play against Central York, Red Lion and Dallastown — arguably the three best teams in the division — that stretch will tell us all we need to know about what type of division and playoff chances the Bobcats will have in 2017.
►Quotable: "We were in a lot of close games last year, especially late in the season ... so for the guys coming back, that gives them a feel of, when it's a tight game, what needs to be done for us to come out on top." — Scepanski
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com