Line paving the­way for Phan­toms in ’17

The Phoenix - - SPORTS - By Sam Ste­wart sstew­art@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Sa­muel_Ste­wart7 on Twit­ter

Phoenixville’s Matt Gar­cia departed the pur­ple and chrome as the all-time sin­gle sea­son rush­ing yards leader in Phan­tom his­tory. He fin­ished with 1,820 yards and 17 touch­downs and many, many high fives with his big guys up front.

He’s gone, but four out of the five line­men re­main, and they’re ready to carry the team on their backs.

Jon Miller (Mer­cury-All-Area First­Team se­lec­tion) and Sean Sabo re­turn to a vet­eran of­fen­sive line that is look­ing to lead the charge for Phoenixville, as the Phan­toms look to bounce back from a dis­ap­point­ing 3-7 sea­son in 2016.

“We’re build­ing around our line. There’s no doubt about it,” Phoenixville head coach Evan Breis­blatt said. “They did a fan­tas­tic job last sea­son and with four out of the five starters back, we feel pretty con­fi­dent that we should be able to con­trol the game up front.”

With Gar­cia’s suc­cess in the back­field, it was no shock that Phoenixville fin­ished third in the Pi­o­neer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence in rush­ing (171.6 yards per game). It was a to­ken of merit for Miller, Sabo and the oth­ers, who aimed at hav­ing a 1,000 rusher in their back­field at the start of last sea­son. And now, with the departures of Gar­cia, quar­ter­back Troy Ross­man, tight end Dur­ron John­son and wide re­ceiver Nasir Green, the line will be looked upon to come through when needed the­most, es­pe­cially in clos­ing out tight con­tests.

“We were in two games that were de­cided by eight points or less and in nearly ev­ery game we were win­ning,” Breis­blatt said. “I think with the ex­pe­ri­ence of the of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive line, we should be able to learn how to close things out or win some close games.”

De­fen­sively, Breis­blatt and the coach­ing staff are look­ing to shore up their weak­ness — cut backs and poor tack­ling.

“We’ve changed our phi­los­o­phy on de­fense to fo­cus on tack­ling an­dour lever­age,” Breis­blatt said. “We feel like we got cut back on toomany times last sea­son so we’re go­ing to be an in­side lever­age team this year. I think that’s go­ing to help us. We’ll have a set of new lineback­ers and with Do­rian (County) and Bobby (Strunk) back there in the sec­ondary, we’re hop­ing they can so­lid­ify the de­fen­sive back­field.

“We’re al­ways go­ing to come af­ter peo­ple and switch things up, we do a nice job schem­ing but tack­ling is a big thing that we need to get bet­ter at.”

Camp Odds and Ends

Alex Wash­ing­ton and Travis Panella will likely split car­ries in try­ing to re­place Gar­cia, who is at­tend­ing the Uni­ver­sity of Mount Union. Con­nor Pata­nia will be the team’s start­ing quar­ter back while Jor­dan Ford, Strunk and County have im­presse dont he de­fen­sive side of the ball in the early prac­tices.

Look­ing on Up

Phoenixville faces an up­hill climb in the PAC Fron­tier Divi­sion as Potts­grove and Up­per Perkiomen en­ter 2017 with a slew of their starters re­turn­ing from last sea­son. “We­know what Potts­grove is go­ing to do, we know what Up­per Perkiomen is go­ing to do and they know what we’re go­ing to do,” Breis­blatt said. “We need to be bat­tle-tested up front. We know they’re fully loaded again. We know we have a lot of work ahead of us.” We’ve worked to get our­selves to get to this point where we think we can con­tend.”

BARRY TAGLIEBER — DFM

Phoenixville’s Matt Gar­cia breaks up the mid­dle as line­man Jon Miller (79) and Sean Sabo (57) trail be­hind. The Phan­toms’ of­fen­sive line wanted to pro­duce a 1,000yard rusher last sea­son and did just so. Now, with a bevy of skill po­si­tion play­ers grad­u­ated, head coach Evan Breis­blatt is build­ing his of­fense around the vet­eran group.

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