As he begins his third season directing the St. Viator football program, Brandon New could not be more pleased with the chemistry of his team.
"In my 16 years of coaching, this has been one of my most enjoyable group of kids to work with," said New, who led the Lions to a playoff berth in his first season. "They possess great leadership skills, they are men of character and they are pretty good athletes, too."
Two of those athletes are returning three-year starters Ben Dickey and Matt Darling, who will be on the receiving end of the Lions passing game.
They both finished with over 850 yards receiving last season with more than 55 catches and double-digit touchdowns.
Dickey has also been a two-year starter on defense playing cornerback.
Junior Joe McIntyre returns at running back after rushing for more than 800 yards with double-digit touchdowns.
Sophomore Darreonte Jackson, also a returning starter, is another player to watch.
"He is electrifying," New said. "He could be a high-level recruit by his junior year."
Brian Peters (safety) and Luke Fulton are three-way starters on defense where last season they combined for more than 140 tackles. Senior linebacker Ben Tietz returns to the defense after collecting more than 60 tackles in 2013.
Also back on defense are senior cornerback Mike Fitzpatrick and senior linebacker Oliver Perry.
Key newcomers include linebacker Colin Rustay (senior), wide receiver Sal Canela (senior), offensive lineman TJ Birmingham (senior), defensive lineman Collin Perry (senior), offensive lineman Jack Lopez (senior) and quarterback Tyler Johnston (senior).
"It's really talented and close-knit classes coming together," New added. "There is great leadership among both classes."
New knows his team must be ready to play every week.
"The East Suburban Catholic Conference is a top five conference in the state so every week is a challenge," he said. "We will be prepared to compete each and every week.
"If you are lucky enough to get out of this conference and make the playoffs, as a coach you feel that you are pretty well prepared for what lies ahead."