The Covid-19-impacted 2020 football season didn’t go the way the Lincoln Pius X Thunderbolts wanted with a 2-7 finish.
While a bunch of seniors have graduated from last year’s team, the cupboard isn’t bare for head coach Ryan Kearney in 2021. His team returns talented players. Those players didn’t get to show much in a live-scrimmage setting on Wednesday — it’s just the third day of practice, after all, so no real hitting — but one could still see who will be leaned on in the fall.
It’d be good to start with the senior at middle linebacker, Julian Castillo. The 5-foot-11, 210-pounder led Pius X in tackles as a junior with 77 stops. On Wednesday, he didn’t seem afraid of contact or hold back during form tackle drills. The Bolts will need to replace the next six leading tacklers from last season, but getting Castillo back is big.
Four big returning pieces will help lead the Pius X offensive and defensive lines in seniors Tyler Kerkman and Carter Blowers, as well as juniors Barrett Walker and Tyler Castle.
Kerkman, a 6-foot, 280-pounder, Blowers, a 5-11, 220-pounder, Walker, a 6-4, 275-pounder, and Castle, a 6-foot, 260-pounder, didn’t get to do much hitting on Wednesday, but it was obvious they’ll be the ones asked to help open holes in the run game and stuff them on defense. All four looked powerful at the point of attack in the light scrimmaging they did do. Blowers racked up 16 tackles last season.
While one of the favorites to win the starting quarterback job, junior Tyrus Petsche, wasn’t able to practice on Wednesday, there was an offensive player that was doing well — senior Joe Staab.
With Will Barrett, last season’s all-purpose yardage leader (777), gone, Staab may be the one to step into a bigger role than last season. The 6-1, 180-pound receiver/corner showed off solid hands while running routes and never let anyone run past him on defense. He was also quick to tell younger players where to line up, which made for faster drills and more reps.
According to maxpreps.com, Staab caught 10 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown as a junior while recording 21 tackles.
Two linebackers that impressed on Wednesday were seniors Joe Sutko and Marcus Dustin.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Sutko and the 5-11, 205-pound Dustin each showed an ability to run sideline to sideline, cover a lot of ground and break on intermediate routes, like slants and 5-yard outs. They both held their own sticking with their assignments on deeper routes, too.
Another player that will step into a larger role for his senior season is senior James Frank.
The 6-4, 215-pound tight end/defensive end only had seven tackles last season. That should change in 2021 considering how he was going about his drills on Wednesday.
Here’s a photo gallery of Pius X’s practice on Wednesday: