Mercyhurst Prep (0-0) at St. Joseph’s (0-0)
Time: 2 p.m. Saturday
Coaches: SJ — Dave Carson, first season; MP — Matt Morgan
Key players: SJ — NuNu Buey, RB; MP — Nick Evanhoff, QB
The skinny: St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy will open its inaugural football season when it hosts Mercyhurst Prep at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Few have any idea what to expect from the Wolves, but with just 18 players on the roster, plenty of playing time is a guarantee.
When first-year head coach Dave Carson took the job after serving as ninth-grade coach at Bellefonte, a few promising players followed.
NuNu Buey, who led the Red Raiders with 585 rushing yards and five touchdowns, will likely start in the Wolves’ backfield after transferring from Bellefonte’s 2-8 team last season.
Quarterback Phil Fenstermacker also left the Raiders’ program and is battling for time under center with Jack Driscoll, who attended State College last year.
Wide receiver Mike Jabco also came over from Bellefonte.
With so few on the roster, staying healthy and making progress could be as important as netting points on the scoreboard. And facing a team such as the Lakers, who were 8-3 last season, could be a tough opener, even if Mercyhurst lost most of its offense from last season.
However, Mercyhurst lost most of its offense from 2012. Then-senior Cornelius Barclay rushed for 1,783 yards on 151 carries and scored 26 of the team’s 39 touchdowns on the ground.
Thomas Higgins, also a senior last year, added 696 yards and six touchdowns. And the Lakers also lost senior Ryan Connor, who finished third in rushing with 522 yards and four scores.
In fact, the highest returning rusher for Mercyhurst is starting quarterback Nick Evanhoff, who had 59 yards.
Evanhoff, now a junior, completed just 35 of 67 passes with seven touchdowns and six interceptions in the Lakers’ rush-heavy attack last season.
Barclay and Higgins were also the team’s top tacklers with 74 and 61, respectively.
Senior Brandon Peebles (61) and Joseph Swanson (44) return with the most tackles.
A stretch of four consecutive seasons with at least eight wins suggests the Lakers are accustomed to replenishing talent, but with just four seniors on the roster they could face some growing pains, which could help the Wolves compete for victory.
- Aaron Carter