It was never in Marian's plans (in 2009) to be 3-7. After all, the school's gridders have a near opposite winning percentage (.690) in 33 years under veteran Coach Stan Dakosty.
So, when the bottom fell out last Fall after a 6-5 season the year prior, giving the Blue and Gold a sub-par two-year record of 9-12, everyone in Colt Country - the coaches, players and fans - felt the need to join forces to return Marian football to its glory years.
"We're really a work in progress," says Dakosty about the 2010 Colts. "Last year, in some games, we just weren't in the game. We were physically overmatched. Now, our kids have become stronger, they're a year older, and we're hoping to be better."
Through a period of transition, Dakosty utilized a lot of underclassmen, testing the waters with a medley of underclassmen in different positions. That resulted in 17 letterwinners who he is now strategically trying to fit into their right positions in what he calls a "cautiously optimistic" outlook.
"We're part young and part experienced," said Dakosty. "But, surely, we know we have got to be more physical and also play a defense that is more characteristic than a Marian one, which wasn't the case last year."
Dakosty and his staff have been stressing to their players the need to "play Marian defense, hard-nosed defense." Because, if the Colts are to be successful this time around, they'll have to do better than the 31.9 points and 358.1 yards per game they yielded last season.
Believing they can do that is the first step, and the guy atop the program does do that. "Our kids' work ethic is something else," he said. They're dedicated. Does dedication win games? We'll see. But, I really like their dedication to the game. I like the fact that they don't look to cut corners. And I like the fact that they work hard every day. This is a really good team to coach. I like being around them."
Offensively, the Colts appear to have the skilled people needed to move the pigskin, starting with junior Paul Martin, who rushed for 1,017 yards and 11 TDs last year. The tailback will be joined by sophomore QB Corey Quick, who was 22-59-298 in a limited role as a freshman.
"Paul (Martin) is one of the best backs around," Dakosty said. "He has become a real team leader. His attitude and love for the game is infectious and he's out there day in and day out working as hard as anyone." A "two-headed fullback" tandem of juniors Anthony Damiano and Jordan Weber are likely to throw the blocks to spring Martin.
In Quick, the Colts have only a second-year player, but a "leader," the coach noted. "He has established himself," Dakosty said of Quick. "But, you have to remember, he's only a sophomore. He's a drop-back type of classic QB with great arm strength." Backing him will be junior Matt Grega or sophomore Ryan Karnish.
When Quick goes to the air, he'll likely be looking for seniors J.T. Keer, a transfer from Lehighton, or Eric Baker, who Dakosty describes as a "big play threat." The coach said, "Believe it or not, even though we lost Joe (Kloap, last year's leading receiver), the strength of our team is the receiving corps. Senior Dominick Richards, a 6-6 tower who was injured for most of last year, will be the tight end. Dakosty said he appears "ready for a solid year."
Up front, the Colt line will be anchored by two heavyweight tackles, senior Brett Befano, 285, and junior Brendan McGowan, 267. They will be joined by junior center Anthony Pilla, 208, and two 230-pound guards, senior Kolton Heckman and junior Michael Skotek.
The Colts averaged just 223 yards and 19.9 points per game last time around and are hoping the experience underclassmen received last year will start to pay dividends. "If we can get some success early this year, and move the football, I think it's going to help us," Dakosty said. "We have a decent amount of kids who now know the intensity and speed of the game on the varsity level. Still, we're relatively young, but if we stay healthy, we have a shot."
Defensively, Skotek will be the noseguard, McGowan and Befano, the tackles, and senior Evan Bellizia and Richards and Pilla, the ends. The linebackers will be Weber and Damiano while the secondary will have seniors Keer, Petrovich and Baker, sophomore Dylan Quirk and juniors Cy Shickora and Ron Kosar sharing the chores. Others to see action there are sophomore Eric Swankoski, Mike Cataldo, Ryan Karnish and junior Brandon Oncay.
Martin will handle the kickoff and PAT chores while either Baker of Quirk will have the punting assignments.
"We know we're going to be challenged," Dakosty said. "With the schedule we have, playing in a very tough Anthracite League, we'll have to bring our A game each time we take the field. We have to be ready for the marathon, not the sprint."