Cardinal Gibbons lost two key components to its high-powered offense from last season, but the Crusaders return two important seniors, wide receiver Earl Gill and running back David Smith, along with a more experienced defensive squad heading into the 2014 season.
“We’re off to a good start,” coach Steven Wright said. “We’ve got a nice quarterback competition going. We’ve got a good group of skills guys left from last year and about 11 defensive starters from last year back.”
Logan Washle and Wesley Wagner are battling to take over the starting quarterback role vacated by Shawn Stankavage, now at Vanderbilt. Stankavage completed 247 of 408 passes for 3,564 yards and 34 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 1,058 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“It’s rare that you have someone like Shawn Stankavage come through our program, but we’re going to put both of these guys in the position to succeed,” Wright said. “We’ve had a great summer. Both of these guys were on our JV team last year and have been with us since they were freshmen, so they know the program.”
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The Crusaders are will be without Dante DiMaggio, who accounted for 1,134 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns last season before leaving for North Carolina. But Gill, who also eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving and hauled in seven touchdowns, returns for his senior season.
Smith averaged 40.5 yards rushing per game and ran for seven touchdowns last season.
Gibbons finished 9-4 (5-2 Big Eight 3A) last season, eventually falling in the second round of the state playoffs. The Crusaders averaged 38.3 points per game and surrendered 28.4.
Wright looks forward to a more experienced defensive unit this year, which will include the return of middle linebacker Stephen Scott, who was injured last season.
“We were young last year and we got hit with a couple of injuries … We play in the deepest 3A conference in the state, against strong offenses,” Wright said. “We took some bumps last year, and we hope to realize some of the benefits of that this year.
“I think we’re in that group of teams that’s got a lot of potential to make a lot of noise in the postseason. I feel like we, for the first time, have got depth across the board. We’re quietly optimistic.”