Preseason No. 8 - Providence

No. 8 Providence

Last season: 12-2 overall, 5-0 Catholic League Blue, lost in 6A state championship, ranked 6th in final 2009 poll

Season ahead: Providence expected to fare well in last season’s Class 6A playoffs -- which it did by reaching the state title game -- but the Celtics never dreamed of running the table in the Catholic League Blue.

“Last year was special,” Providence coach Mark Coglianese recently admitted.

A season later, the Celtics’ goals are the same. They would like to go undefeated and repeat as Catholic League champions, but they also realize the difficulty of that in such a deep league. Ultimately, the goal is still to succeed in the playoffs.

“We want to get enough wins to reach the playoffs, and then it’s a new season,” Coglianese said. “We’ve usually done well in the playoffs once we’ve gotten there. … Not finishing the last game last year was tough. Hopefully, our guys learn from that and maybe give it a little more effort and win the state championship this year.”

Providence does have the talent back to compete for the title. While the Celtics lost two of their most skilled players to graduation in Tim Hanrahan and Pete Houlihan, they return three starting offensive linemen (Frank Markasovic, Michael Kronberg, Dan Lembke), starting quarterback Joey Houlihan and their top receiver, Sean Carroll.

The question mark is who is going to replace Hanrahan at running back. Right now, Coglianese could see himself using a number of different backs.

“Usually we’re a one tailback team,” Coglianese said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have that guy to step in. Maybe that will help us. Maybe teams won’t know who’s going to get the ball every time.”

Defensively, Providence should have one of the best linebacker groups in the state. It returns starters Ray Ames, Zac Plantz and Dominic Olszta at that position. The Celtics also welcome back free safety Joey Quinlan and defensive end Mitch Godfrey.

Player to watch: Senior linebacker Ray Ames led the Celtics in tackles last season with more than 100. Ames isn’t the biggest linebacker, but he has great instincts and knows how to finish off a tackle. He should be among the Catholic League’s top defensive players this season.

Newcomer to watch: Senior running back Dan Potempa

Key game: Oct. 8 vs. St. Rita -- Providence’s schedule is among the state’s toughest again. The Celtics will face Joliet Catholic and Morgan Park in non-conference games. None of their Catholic League Blue games are easy, but St. Rita is the favorite to win the conference, so that should be a good one.

What they’re saying: “I think last year does help this season, especially confidence-wise,” Providence coach Mark Coglianese said. “I hope our guys understand that winning the Catholic League is a great thing. They know they can do it, and they know they’ve done it. It’s a matter of the new kids stepping in, and the kids returning stepping it up a bit.”