Leyden won't have many seniors on the field in what coach Tom Cerasani called his youngest team.
But the Eagles have senior experience in two crucial spots. Nelson Lugo is a third-year starter at middle linebacker and Joey DiFronzo, who started a game at quarterback as a sophomore, threw for 886 yards with 8 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year.
"Lugo is a leader and great player and that definitely helps," Cerasani said of the all-area returnee from a defense that allowed an area-low 236 yards a game. "DiFronzo looked good this summer and he's come a long way.
"He's matured and his confidence level is a lot higher than last year. His arm strength and footwork are better and he's the leader of the offense."
Cerasani hopes Leyden doesn't have to rely as heavily on DiFronzo and a senior crew of receivers which includes Mike Ruolo, who missed last year (broken collarbone).
Leyden rushed for only 575 yards last season after four straight years of 1,000-yard seasons by all-area standouts Angel Maldonado and Josh Serrano. This year Mickey Gulo, and Lugo in some spots, run behind a line where returning starter and left tackle Jesse Lopez is the only senior but right guard Eric Herrera started last year and tight end Javier Rhoades played on the defensive line.
"As they gell together I think they'll be a really solid group," Cerasani said. "We have to get the running game. Everything is predicated off that."
Rhoades and junior Jorge Loredo, who played on offense last year, anchor the defense up front. Cerasani said junior linebacker Uriel Munoz is a hitter and athletic corners in sophomore Keenan Davis and junior Mike Smith should make the Eagles stingy again.
"The line is tremendous and they'll be tough to block and the linebackers are very good," Cerasani said. "We're probably better defensively and more athletic."
The return of senior kicker-punter Krystian Chudoba could be a difference after the Eagles just missed the 5-4 record they needed to be playoff eligible last year.
"It will really depend on how the offensive line comes together," Cerasani said. "If they become a cohesive unit and believe in the scheme we could be pretty good."
Eagles at a glance
Coach: Tom Cerasani (25-32, seventh year)
Last year: 4-5, 3-3 (T3rd WSC Gold)
Pos. Name Ht./Wt. Yr.
QB Joe DiFronzo 6-2/180 Sr.
TB Mickey Gulo 5-8/180 Jr.
LT Jesse Lopez 6-1/252 Sr.
LG David Flores 6-0/225 Jr.
C John Dyer 5-10/195 Jr.
RG Eric Herrera 6-0/251 Jr.
RT Billy Krailis 6-3/260 Jr.
TE Javier Rhoades 6-3/240 Jr.
WR Mike Roulo 6-0/180 Sr.
WR Dan Schoedel 6-2/160 Sr.
WR Mike Lurigio 6-2/170 Sr.
Pos. Name Ht./Wt. Yr.
DE Joe Mejia 5-10/197 Sr.
DT Javier Rhoades 6-3/240 Jr.
NT Jorge Loredo 6-1/243 Jr.
DE Emilio Cedillo 5-10/200 Jr.
OLB Adam Morrison 6-0/205 Jr.
MLB Nelson Lugo 5-10/185 Sr.
OLB Uriel Munoz 5-10/190 Jr.
CB Keenan Davis 5-9/160 So.
CB Mike Smith 5-11/165 Jr.
FS Andrew Garcia 5-10/160 Jr.
SS Frank Habura 5-8/166 Sr.