Dun­dalk foot­ball in tran­si­tion year

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By BILL GATES bgates@ches­pub.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @DEa­gle_s­ports

The Dun­dalk High foot­ball team doesn’t seem like its re­build­ing this sea­son; it feels more like the Owls are pass­ing into a new era.

Gone are record-set­ting quar­ter­back Dar­rius Sam­ple and head coach Sean San­dora, who helped lead Dun­dalk to a 20-5 record the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons and the school’s first ap­pear­ance in a state cham­pi­onship game.

Sam­ple is now suit­ing up for the Clar­ion Uni­ver­sity Golden Ea­gles, while San­dora re­signed last spring to be­come the head coach at Arch­bishop Cur­ley.

The new head coach is Matthew Banta, pre­vi­ously an as­sis­tant coach for the Owls. The new quar­ter­back? Well, that’s yet to be de­ter­mined.

“We have two highly ca­pa­ble sopho­mores com­pet­ing for the job: Keyon Gar­rus and Tre­shawn Ray,” Banta said. “Sam­ple is ob­vi­ously a tough guy to re­place.”

Sam­ple, a dual-threat quar­ter­back rush­ing and throw­ing, ac­count­ing for a large per­cent­age of Dun­dalk’s of­fen­sive yardage and touch­downs the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons. Who­ever be­comes the Owls’ starter will not be ex­pected to as­sume such a bur­den.

“Of­fen­sively we will have a new look,” Banta said. “My of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, Jor­dan Emge, has done a good job putting to­gether a sys­tem that takes ad­van­tage of our size up front and our ath­letes on the perime­ter.”

The Owls scrim­maged Loy­ola Blake­field on Satur­day, an MIAA A Con­fer­ence school.

Run­ning back Isa­iah An­tol broke a long touch­down run dur­ing the por­tion of the scrim­mage when each team ran 10 plays.

Loy­ola “won” the part of the scrim­mage played un­der game con­di­tions, 10-7. An­dre Lee caught a touch­down pass from Gar­rus.

“As a whole, I thought the scrim­mage went well,” Banta said. “There were mi­nor ad­just- ments that need to be cor­rected, such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­di­tion­ing level, but that will be re­solved this week.

“It was great to com­pete against an A-level pri­vate school. The kids took up the chal­lenge and we got bet­ter.”

It also gave the Owls a taste of what awaits them in their sea­son opener next week at Calvert Hall, another MIAA A Con­fer­ence school.

“There’s no way to sugar-coat it; Calvert Hall will be big and phys­i­cal up front as well as ath­letic,” Banta said. “Again, our kids are ex­cited for the chal­lenge and op­por­tu­nity. There has been a big buzz around our weight room and prac­tice field; just men­tion­ing [Calvert Hall] gets the kids fired up.”

Loy­ola mainly pounded the ball in­side against Dun­dalk. The Owl de­fense made a good stand, hold­ing the Dons score­less on five plays from the Dun­dalk seven-yard line.

(Loy­ola was er­ro­neously awarded a fifth down when the of­fi­cials lost count of the num­ber of downs fol­low­ing a penalty. Hey, it was a scrim­mage.)

Last sea­son, Dun­dalk’s de­fense posted six shutouts.

“Match­ing six shutouts will be no easy task,” Banta said. “How­ever, I am ex­cited about this group we have this year. Th­ese guys have been in my sys­tem go­ing on three years now.

Los­ing Chrys Lane was tough, but I have a cou­ple of ea­ger guys that have put in the work and are ready for their chance.”

Lane, a stand­out line­backer who played in the Big 33 Game against Penn­syl­va­nia, now plays for Shep­herd Uni­ver­sity.

In ad­di­tion to An­tol, key re­turn­ing starters for the Owls are se­nior safeties Alex hafner and An­to­nio Sel­lars, se­nior tackle War­ren Cor­nish and line­backer Josh But­ler.

Among the new starters who are ex­pected to step up and have an im­pact are tackle Alphonso Cor­nish, slot re­ceiver Chris­ton Fitzger­ald and wide re­ceiver Wil­lie Fedd Jr.

The Owls host Franklin on Oct. 28. The In­di­ans, Class 3A state fi­nal­ists last year, handed Dun­dalk three of its five losses the pre­vi­ous two years (two in the reg­u­lar sea­son, one in the play­offs).

Other key games are at Parkville on Oct. 7 (Dun­dalk won 17-12 last sea­son), at Perry Hall on Oct. 13 (Owls won 28-21 last sea­son) and against Mil­ford Mill on Oct. 27 (Millers beat Dun­dalk 27-22 last year).

Banta, a Columbia na­tive, was an all-con­fer­ence line­backer for Sal­is­bury Uni­ver­sity and was the team cap­tain. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, he was a grad­u­ate as­sis­tant for Sal­is­bury and helped coach the de­fen­sive backs.

San­dora, who also played for Sal­is­bury, con­tacted Banta in 2015 about an open­ing for a teach­ing/coach­ing po­si­tion at Dun­dalk. Banta has been with the Owls for the 12-2 state fi­nals run and last year’s 8-3 sea­son.

“Sean was like an older brother to me,” Banta said. “He taught me a lot about run­ning a pro­gram and I am grate­ful for the time spent with him.” The new era ap­pears off to a good start. “The tran­si­tion has been very smooth, Banta said. “When I took the job back in April, my staff and I hit the ground run­ning. We worked ex­tremely hard in the off­sea­son and dur­ing the 7-on-7’s, so there was re­ally no time for the kids to look back.”

Dun­dalk’s Alex Hafner and Mar­quis Stafford bring down a Loy­ola Blake­field ball­car­rier.

Isa­iah An­tol broke a long touch­down run against Loy­ola Blake­field dur­ing Satur­day’s scrim­mage.

PHO­TOS BY BILL GATES

An­dre Lee catches a touch­down pass dur­ing Dun­dalk’s scrim­mage against Loy­ola Blake­field on Satur­day.

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