During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation for next fall.
This week’s team: Central Dauphin (Harrisburg, Pa.).
Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 15. The Rams celebrated their first state title last season with a team that featured several underclass standouts. Coach Glen McNamee's squad won its final 14 games after losing to rival Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg, Pa.). The team defeated defending state champ North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.) in the semifinals and then upended perennial contender North Penn (Lansdale, Pa.) in the championship. The Rams will likely enter the reason ranked No. 1 in the Keystone State, a spot that’s always going to translate to a high ranking in the FAB 50.
Team Strengths: The three most productive offensive players for the Rams will return for their senior seasons in the fall and that spells problems for upset-minded foes. Quarterback Brandon LaVia ran a balanced attack, throwing for 1,490 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushing for four scores. Running back/linebacker Zayd Issah was league MVP on offense, but he’s just as touted on the defensive side. He finished the year rushing for 1,345 yards and 21 touchdowns and catching 10 touchdown passes on offense and racking up 123 tackles and 14 sacks on defense. Junior running back/defensive back Drew Scales had nine touchdowns on offense and was also a dynamic kickoff returner.
Another Pennsylvania team to watch: North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.) had its unbeaten season and bid for a second straight PIAA AAAA state crown halted in the state semifinals by Central Dauphin, which won 23-20 on a last-second field goal. The Tigers, who finished No. 49 in the FAB 50, could be in the running for another state crown in the fall with the return of eight all-conference players, three of which earned all-state honors. ESPNHS Underclass All-American and two-way lineman Patrick Kugler, a Michigan commit, will anchor both lines. Quarterback Mack Leftwich will run the offense after accounting for 36 touchdowns as a junior.