The 2012 squad is brimming with youth and inexperience — a perhaps precarious situation for a program coming off a string of impressive seasons.
The Golden Lions return only five starters from a stellar 2011 campaign that saw the team go 12-1 en route to claiming its second Region 5-AAA title in three seasons.
This year’s bunch, in a competitive new [6-AAA] region, will get tested early and often.
“I don’t know if I’d call this a rebuilding season, but we certainly lack varsity experience,” said St. Pius head coach Paul Standard. “I’m eager to see how our young men do as starters as opposed to being role players.”
The Golden Lions will look to the team’s strongest unit, the secondary, to help lead the way.
That group is anchored by Division I prospects, cornerback Nicholas Ruffin and strong safety Nicholas Glass. The juniors, both six footers, will again be called on to demonstrate their playmaking ability in St. Pius X’s preferred 4-3 — four down linemen, three linebackers — defensive sets.
The Golden Lions boast multiple potentially breakout talents on that side of the ball.
Standard called junior Daniel Crochet the key to the linebacking corps. The 6 foot 3, 220-pound Crochet certainly has the pedigree; older brother Joseph led the team in tackles last season before taking his talents to The Citadel.
Sophomore strongside linebacker Dalton Linebuke is among the younger players on the roster tapped by coaches to post a breakout season.
Elsewhere on defense, senior end Quincy Neiporte will anchor the D-line.
On offense, new quarterback Jack Spear, behind a senior-laden O-line, will serve as the catalyst for the Golden Lions’ ground-oriented wing-option scheme. The 6 foot 3 senior has big shoes to fill as he replaces Trey White, a three-year starter who led the team in rushing and passing last season before also departing for The Citadel.
“[Spear] is a big, tall kid and he throws the ball well,” Standard said. “Because of that we’re going to throw the ball a little bit more than we have in the past.”
Unlike last season, the Golden Lions could find themselves in a dogfight week in and week out.
“Our non-region schedule is as tough as we’ve had in a long time,” Standard said. “But, I think it’s important for our kids to play good [teams] to get ready for region play.”
They will next host North Oconee Friday night.