By Chris Harlan

New Castle's first season back in Class AAA didn't start quite as well as coach
Gary Schooley or his players would have liked. The Red Hurricanes opened by
losing five of its first six games, dropping the team deep in the Parkway
Conference standings.

But nearly everybody is back for a second shot at a conference title.

"We have a team that's a little bit hungry coming off the end of last year," Schooley
said. "We ended the season with four wins in a row last year, and the kids are
anxious to keep that going. I think they believe they have something to prove. They
want to make up for that slow start last year."

The team returns all but two starters on offense including its entire starting
backfield. Senior Allen Scott and juniors Zach Mariacher and Robert Calhoun
combined for 1,400 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns last season.

"There's no doubt that we're going to be a better football team," Schooley said.
"But sometimes, what a coach views as being better doesn't always translate into
wins and losses. I think we'll be much improved defensively and, as the season
went on last year, I though we ended up doing a pretty decent job offensively. Our
expectations are that we have the ability to be a pretty good offensive football

The young backfield trio struggled early in the season, but with Scott as the
fullback and Mariacher and Calhoun providing the speed, each found their spot in
the offense by midseason. Calhoun, who was hampered with an ankle injury and
missed the first five games of the season, is running strong this summer.

"One thing that was really overlooked - and I thought really helped our running
game jel last season - was that (Mariacher and Calhoun) really blocked for each
other," Schooley said. "In our offense, the backs have to block. If you don't block,
you're not running. Those guys aren't afraid to go in there and stick their nose into a

The backs will be running behind a line that returns four of five starters from last
season: Steve Poulton, Jason Runyon, John Johnson and Allen Billyk. Darrell
Horton, last season's starting split end, has moved to the Union school district and
most likely will be replaced by either Vivelo, senior Travis Morris or junior Leon

Senior Russ Relic will return as the quarterback in the team's wing-T offense, after
replacing Ryan Vivelo midway through last season. Schooley said having the
summer to prepare has made Relic a better quarterback.

"He's shown really good leadership abilities," Schooley said. "He runs the team
well and kind of understands and studies the game. We do a lot of checking and
changing plays at the line of scrimmage and he does a good job at that. He kind of
understands the nuances and the defenses and recognizes the fronts."

The defense is headed by Billyk at defensive end, and junior Noah Elliot and senior
Tom Sabol at the outside linebacker spots.

"The thing that's going to stand out about our defense is that we don't have a lot of
size but we're going to be extremely quick," Schooley said. "We should be able to
run to the ball well. But we are a little concerned about being a little bit
inexperienced. There are some guys that are going to have to play both ways that
we really wish didn't have to.

"Probably, like most high school teams, we've got a good group of frontline
players. We're just really looking for some depth. That's a major concern right

New Castle is expected to contend with Moon for the conference title

"We're predominantly a junior-laden team," Schooley said. "When you start out the
season with expectations, the enthusiasm and optimism runs high. I think the
coaches are even very anxious to get going.

"We had good winter workouts and a good summer and so far everything has
been going well. But it's not quite the same as when you're going against someone
else. We'll see how far we've progressed real quick when we play North Hills in
the opener."

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