(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives)
GROVE CITY EAGLES 2020 FOOTBALL SEASON PREVIEW
Head Coach: Sam Mowrey, 7th year (44-24)
Last Year: 9-3 overall, advanced to District 10 title game
The Grove City Eagles have played in four consecutive District 10 championship games while also compiling a 41-7 overall record during that four-year span. As the 2020 season approaches, it appears that the Eagles are well-stocked for another lengthy postseason run.
Grove City returns seven offensive starters, six defensive starters, numerous other contributors and one of the area's top place-kickers as the Eagles look to build upon last year's 9-3 campaign.
Senior quarterback Logan Breese returns after throwing for 2,244 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019, his first year as the starter. Breese completed a county-best 63.9 percent (140 of 219) of his passes while engineering Grove City's no-huddle spread attack.
"Logan came so far last year, in his leadership, in his decision-making, and as an example to his teammates," Grove City head coach Sam Mowrey said. "He does a great job. One of his best attributes is how he handles his teammates. He's not above anything and he's anxious to help any way that he can. He's earned the respect of his teammates, not just for what he does on the field, but for the way he leads."
Breese and Grove City's backs and receivers will benefit from a veteran offensive line that returns four starters and two other regulars who played extensively in 2019. Senior center Matt Howard returns to anchor the line after earning First All-Region recognition last season.
Three juniors join Howard as returning starter: left tackle Nate Wadsworth, right guard Dillon Winger and right tackle Gage Dlugonski, a Second Team All-Region pick. Juniors Jacob Blair and Cole Hammerman played on the offensive line last season as sophomores and are two of the leading contenders to replace graduated All-Region honoree Lance Craig at left guard. Mowrey also cited seniors Corey Medve and Max Myford as offensive line candidates.
At running back, junior Curtis Hovis ran for 406 yards and five touchdowns while playing as the backup to 1,500-yard rusher Colby Nelson. Sophomore Anthony Nemec will fill Hovis's role from last year as the complementary back.
Versatile junior Zach Rodgers could also see time in the backfield. He is also Grove City's lone returning starter at wide receiver. Rodgers, who is Breese's backup at quarterback, caught six passes last season as the Eagles' primary slot receiver.
"(Rodgers) has really taken the time to learn every position on the field and can play every position," Mowrey said.
Junior Anthony Pereira has the inside track to start at the split end, or "X," position. Senior Jamie Amodei, sophomores Jacob Arnold, Hayden McCreadie and Trey Reznor, and freshman Gavin Lutz are all battling for the starting "Z," or flanker, spot.
Senior Zack Martin returns as tight end after hauling in 14 passes in 2019. He will again be a key factor in Grove City's offense as both a blocker and receiver.
Grove City's 4-4 defense will feature Wadsworth and Blair as returning starters at defensive end. Howard returns at tackle. Hammerman and Dlugonski are also back in the defensive line rotation. Medve, Myford, sophomore Dylan Ahern and sophomore Jason Highland are also expected to compete for time up front.
"Last year, we had young sophomores that were earning their stripes in the trenches," Mowrey said. "Now, we reap the benefit of that and those players are only juniors this year. They have that year of experience and they know what it takes."
Martin returns at outside linebacker and Hovis will again start at inside linebacker. Pereira is penciled in to start opposite Martin. Nemec and Winger will compete for the other inside linebacker spot.
Rodgers will quarterback the secondary from the free safety position. Grove City must replace both of its starting cornerbacks, however. Breese has played corner during his career and has the inside track for one of the spots. Amodei, Lutz, McCreadie and Reznor are also competing for a starting assignment.
Second Team All-Region honoree John Hake returns to handle kicking duties. He booted four field goals and 42 extra points last season and has accumulated 103 total kick points during his first two seasons. Hake will also punt this season.
Grove City will play Hickory, Sharon and Slippery Rock in region play. Last season, Grove City faced both Hickory and Sharon in the District 10 playoffs. In 2018, the Eagles played Slippery Rock and Sharon in the postseason, so playing an opponent multiple times will not be new for Grove City.
"Obviously, it is a very unique situation this year," Mowrey said. "Again, some silver lining is that all of those matchups, whether it's Grove City-Sharon, Sharon-Slippery Rock, it's doesn't matter who it is. Those are all going to be nice local rivalry games. It's really a unique and intense schedule. Every week, you're going to be playing a close rival and that amps it up a little bit."