St. Mark’s is accustomed to being a perennial contender for an SPC playoff spot. Last year, the Lions earned just one victory and finished in last place in the big-school division of the newly realigned conference.
It’s up to this year’s squad to prove that 2016 was just an anomaly, and not a trend. And with 16 starters returning, there’s reason for optimism — and motivation — among players and coaches.
“They kind of hooked arms,” said St. Mark’s head coach Bart Epperson. “Since the end of last season, they’ve gotten in the weight room together and gotten bigger and stronger.”
Both Epperson and the Lions returnees were tired of being pushed around by larger opponents last season. So offseason participation has focused on strength, and the coach has been pleased with the participation level in summer workouts.
Epperson said the Lions should be more versatile on offense this season, while the defense will be simplified and more reliant on player instincts and reactions.
St. Mark’s should benefit from the return of receiver Seun Omonije, who has committed to Yale after being a top target last season. There’s some experience among the linemen with Zach Gilstrap, Myles Jones, and William Hall.
At quarterback, Will Forbes and Colin Neuhoff each saw action last season, and will compete for the starting job with Anthony Andrews.
“We’ve got a good amount of guys returning,” Epperson said. “We at least have some guys with some experience at the varsity level. We have a bright outlook.”