Football Preview: Shanahan looks for playoff return

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Veteran-laden team looks to build on strong 2013

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times

bishop_shanahanDOWNINGTOWN — After years of dormancy, Bishop Shanahan’s football program was rescued from suspended animation and brought back to life a few years ago. Now, the program not only has come to life, it is well on its way to establishing itself as one of the school’s top athletic programs.

Last year, Shanahan posted a .500 season and competed in the District 1 Class AAA playoffs for the first time since 2010. With a large number of returning players, the Eagles are looking to reach a higher plateau this season.

The Eagles kick off their 2014 season Saturday.

“We hope to springboard off of last season,” said Bishop Shanahan coach Paul Meyers. “Making the playoffs gave us a lot confidence. If we stay healthy, we look to be right back in the playoffs again.

“We’ll need some of our younger guys to step up and give us some depth. We will run the spread offense again. Our quarterback (Danny Murphy) gives us the ability to be able to run and throw.”

Murphy, now a senior, had a breakout season last year. He rushed for close to 900 yards and scored 10 touchdowns on the ground. He also threw seven touchdown passes and passed for over 700 yards while completing slightly less than 50 per cent of his attempts.

“Dan Murphy is very athletic,” said Meyers. “He was First Team All Ches-Mont in 2013. He gives us the ability to run and throw.”

Other key members of the Eagles’ attack are running backs Nick Pasvanis and Jerry Riccardo, receivers Jeff Zebrowski and Mike Sprague and versatile Cody Smith, who had over 400 yards rushing and more than 300 yards receiving

“Nick Pasvanis has good speed and the ability to break it,” said Meyers. “Cody Smith has committed to play at Princeton University. He’s big and strong and has great hands. Mike Sprague is another good receiver. He also has good speed and good hands and will cause match-up problems.”

Shanahan, which plays a 3-4 defense, has three of the better lineman in the area with Doug Costin, Greg Rankin and Matt Evans. They are experienced, big and play on both sides of the ball.

Evans plays offensive guard and defensive tackle. Rankin plays offensive guard and nose guard and Costin plays tackle either way. The Eagles’ top linebackers and defensive backs are also veterans who are two-way players — Smith and Pasvanis as linebackers and Sprague and Zebrowski in the secondary.

“Mike Sprague is a good athlete,” said Meyers. “He has good speed and gives us the ability to play man-to-man. Jeff Zebrowski, who is a three-year starter, is a very good man-to-man player. He has a nose for the ball.”

The Eagles also have a strong kicking game. Last year, Jake Geiger had the most points in a season for a kicker in Shanahan history. The team’s punter is Jerry Riccardo, who was First Team All Ches-Mont in 2013.

In assessing his team’s season outlook, Meyers said, “We must stay healthy and we need our young guys to step up to give us depth. If that happens, we could be a playoff team. The National Division is strong division from top to bottom. You won’t get a week off. Any team has the ability to beat you.”

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