Fall high school football preview: Bishop McNamara looking to do it all again
Whatever Bishop McNamara does this season, it will be hard to top its 2015 campaign.
The Fightin' Irish ran roughshod over the competition last season, going 13-1 and winning their five playoff games by an average of 34 points per contest en route to the Class 3A state championship.
This season, Bishop McNamara will have four returning starters on offense and six on defense to try and match or exceed last season. Two All-Catholic League selections are among the returners: wide receiver Chris Bell, who set a school record last year with 15 touchdown receptions, and lineman Dylan Deatherage.
In an email interview with the Times, Head Coach Rich Zinanni said this year's offense should have plenty of weapons, while the defense should have experience and speed to rely on.
“I think we have a chance to be really good this year, but so does everyone we play,” he said.
A lot of offensive talent from 2015 returns this season for the Blue Devils, who went 3-6 last season.
Junior running back Chandler Gartner had 1,093 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns last season, while senior wide receiver Alex Panning had 796 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns, and senior wide receiver Toby Bottoms had 400 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
Bottoms also had 69 tackles. Panning had 65 -- including 11 for loss of yards -- and Gartner had 56 tackles with five for loss. Senior Christian Schabacker had 36 tackles, with three for loss.
Other top returners are junior tight end and linebacker Dillon Buege, with 121 all-purpose yards, and junior lineman Omar Rosales.
“We are expecting to not just compete this year but to finish games with W's,” Head Coach Apostolos Tsiamas told the Times. “Too many times last year, we were content competing in games and we came up just short in five of our six losses. We want to finish games this year with W's.”
Jason Bargy will get a lot of attention from opposing offensive lines this season. The sophomore defensive end is coming off a monster season in which he had 11½ sacks and 88 total tackles.
“Jason Bargy is a player that his teammates and coaches love to be around,” Head Coach Wayne Walker told the Times. “The kid works hard in the weight room, on the practice field and off the practice field.”
Also back on the defensive line this season are Alex Emery (13 tackles) and Seth Madison (14). Hunter Cousin returns to the defensive unit after 41 tackles.
On offense, Alex Emery is back after having 216 yards on 34 carries last season. Lamar Lillard (nine catches, 91 yards) and Dan Petkunas (one catch, 13 yards) also return for Momence, which went 5-5 last season.
“I am pleased with how our players have picked up on what we want to do this year on the offense and defensive side of the ball,” Walker said.
NOTE: Not all area coaches returned information before this story went to press.