Football

Carroll’s offensive line fends off Bishop Luers’ defense during Week 1 of the 2018 season. The Chargers will host the Knights during their home opener Aug. 24.

HUNTERTOWN — For the first time in a while, Carroll Head Football Coach Doug Dinan hopes he’s done naming a starting quarterback — at least for a few years. With the start of the 2019 fall season just 17 days away, it looks like the young will lead the old, and vice versa.

As Carroll graduate Gaven Vogt prepares to suit up for the Saint Francis Cougars, sophomore Jeffrey Becker is eager to take his place. Becker will play his first season of varsity football as quarterback this year, but he’s no stranger to the Carroll program. Charger fans will recognize his resemblance to his two older brothers — Justin and Jonathan Becker — both of whom played wide receiver through their final season in 2017.

Justin is Carroll’s record holder for most receiving yards in a season (1,181) and career (2,490), and also holds the school’s record for most pass receptions in a career (162). The shoes his younger brother will have to fill get even bigger considering his predecessor’s 23 passing touchdowns last year, which tied Northwestern QB and 2015 Carroll grad Aidan Smith’s record for most in a season.

Nevertheless, if Dinan’s enthusiasm is any indication, his quarterback is destined for good things this season and, hopefully, the next two years.

“Jeff is a good player, had a great freshman year, his talent level is very high — runs well, throws it well, has a great understanding of the offense, and he comes from a good, athletic family. That certainly doesn’t hurt,” Dinan said. “Our primary objective is to keep pressure off of him with other skilled guys so he doesn’t feel the need to win games — let people around him win games and let him distribute the ball to those that can do that.”

Becker will have a whole host of mentors around him this year. Offensively, the team will return at least six experienced starters.

Seniors Layton Mitchell and Tyler Morrison — who is returning from an injury — will fill crucial roles left open at receiver by Saint Francis recruit Nathan Harrah and Purdue walk-on Camdyn Childers. Boden Hite, a junior who also saw some minutes last season, is expected to contribute downfield as well, Dinan said. The team’s offensive line boasts experience as well, including three-year starting center Orion Chenery and offensive tackle Reeve Muncie, who played countless minutes for the Chargers his freshman year in 2017.

At running back, senior Evan Harris will look to carry on the success of 2019 graduate Rhett Saylor, who rushed for nearly 750 yards last season. Harris made Carroll’s last scoring play last season — an 80-yard touchdown run in the team’s 49-30 loss to Snider in the first round of the sectional tournament.

“Evan’s going to be that go-to guy on the run game,” Dinan said. “He’s a good downhill, in-between-the-tackles guy but has good speed on the perimeter too. Evan had a good junior year, and we’re expecting a good senior year out of him as well.”

Carroll’s defense boasts seven big returners, including linebacker Larry Sible, defensive tackle Ethan Klingler and a host of experienced secondaries in Ray Vollmer, Lincoln Lantz, Cade Dinan, Conner Mertz and Tucker Steely.

“With those guys returning, we feel confident with the personnel on that side of the ball,” Dinan said.

Lantz is especially confident in the team’s resume, and expects the Chargers’ second stringers to be ready to compete.

“We have a lot of experience, especially on the defensive side, coming back,” he said. “We have a bunch of players in our secondary and D line that can play all around. Some of our linebackers are new, but they’ve done really well. Injuries can happen, though, and until then we need second strings to be ready and get closer as a team. We can have a ton of talent, but if we’re not like a family, on the field late in the game with stressful moments in the fourth quarter, we’re not going to be able to perform our best.”

The Chargers will get some of the tougher games under their belts again early this season, with Bishop Luers in Week 1 and Snider in Week 2. Last season, Carroll fell to Luers by one point before beating Snider for the first time ever in a 38-14 blowout. The Chargers finished the 2018 season with a 3-7 record.

“Bishop Luers is Week 1, Snider is Week 2, and then you have North Side — a good team with returning players — Northrop, Bishop Dwenger, Homestead, Concordia and Wayne,” Dinan said. “There aren’t nights off, so if you want to win the conference you better be playing good football Week 1 and maintain that level of execution throughout the season. That’s the challenge with anything in life. You can do anything once, but the key to success is consistency of performance over and over, and that’s what we strive for.”

In order to achieve that success, Dinan will be looking to his senior leadership, capitalizing on the work the team put in throughout June and July to install schemes, understand the depth at each position and “get the culture in the right direction.”

“We have a very tight group,” he said. “I love our senior leadership and the character of the players that we have. Not only do they embrace hard work, but they embrace the relationship that they have with their teammates, and that’s most important. Those two cannot be mutually exclusive.”

The Chargers will face Luers at home Aug. 23 before hitting the road against Snider the following week.

“Every year, (Luers) is a good game, so it’s a good start,” Lantz said. “It will be hard for the younger guys with that being their first game, but that good experience at the beginning of the season will help us later.”

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