Football Preview | Northern hopes to get healthy after early injuries

Aug. 31—ACCIDENT — The 2022 season for Northern was defined by resiliency.

The Huskies finished 5-6 overall and 1-3 in the WestMAC despite several injuries to key players, both before and during the season.

Entering the season opener at Fort Hill, Northern's top three centers were all injured. Two other players were already out for the year. By the end of the season, seven players had season-ending injuries.

"It's tough to find the depth," Northern head coach Phil Carr said. "We don't have that. "We're easily dipping into the JV when we lose a starter. It is what it is, you worry about who you have, not who you don't. That's been the philosophy."

After dropping the season opener to Fort Hill 36-7, Northern shut out Albert Gallatin 25-0 and beat Mount Union 50-21.

"I don't think there's too many schools in the state our size that play a tougher schedule than we do," Carr said. "Not always by design, but by design of who will play us. We take who we can get and we play who we can. I think we've done pretty well against some of the big teams the past five or six years."

After back-to-back losses to Frankfort (35-25) and Keyser (28-10), Northern defeated Petersburg 49-20. After falling 56-13 to Mountain Ridge and 28-13 to Allegany, the Huskies ended the regular season with a 50-0 shutout win over rival Southern in Oakland.

"We won the games that we should have," Carr said. "In the Frankfort game, we led most of the game but we couldn't stop the big plays on the kick return. Against Keyser, we were right in that game and I think we just ran out of gas against a bigger and stronger team."

Northern shut out Smithsburg 36-0 in the playoff opener. Their season came to an end in the 1A West Region Co-Final in a 42-6 loss to Mountain Ridge.

The Huskies graduated eight seniors. Arguably the biggest loss is Ethan Sebold. He was a first team All-Area linebacker and punter and second team running back. Sebold led Northern with 83 tackles including four for loss with one interception and a pass breakup.

On offense, Sebold also led the team in rushing with 936 yards on 160 carries and 11 touchdowns. He was the only Husky with over 100 carries. Sebold punted 30 times, averaging 43.1 yards per boot with a long of 67 yards. Eight punts landed inside the 20.

Another notable loss is Kellen Hinebaugh, a second team All-Area defensive lineman last year. He finished with 64 tackles with a team-high 9.5 for loss. He also led Northern with four sacks and tied for the team high with four pass breakups.

On offense, he had 88 rushes for 516 yards and nine scores. He also caught 15 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown.

After an injury filled preseason last year, it's been more of the same this season. Three running backs are dealing with injuries.

"The injuries are hurting us a little bit," Carr said. "We started the season with five running backs, we've lost three. We've moved a receiver in to take one of their spots. We're trying to catch up here."

Two quarterbacks are competing for the starting job, Landon Yoder (5-foot-11, 140 pounds, So.) and Liam Stewart (5-10, 150, Jr.). Stewart missed last season due to injury.

"He was hurt last year, but he was here every day and paying attention," Carr said of Stewart. "He's leading us pretty well, we didn't have a lot of formation mistakes in the scrimmage."

Carr hasn't named a starter, but expects both to play this season.

Last year's starting quarterback Luke Ross (5-9, 145, Jr.) has switched to running back. He finished fourth on the team in rushing last season, running 70 times for 266 yards with four touchdowns. Ross was 38 for 60 passing for 454 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Another key returner is Kyle Broadwater (5-8, 155, Sr.) who was second last season in rushing with 656 yards on 83 attempts and six touchdowns. He also caught 15 passes for 204 yards and three scores.

"Kyle had a heck of a year last year, but he had two partners in crime in Sebold and Hinebaugh. Kyle and Luke are our two fastest guys, so we hope to get them in space."

Brady Dixon (5-11, 160, Sr.), was a split end last year, but switched to running back to provide depth with the current injuries.

Joining them in the backfield are Jared Graham (5-8, 175, Sr.), Robert Deatelhauser (6-0, 165, Jr.), Caleb Hinebaugh (6-0, 160, So.), Hunter Livengood (5-10, 180, So.) and Evan Graham (5-7, 170, So.).

Cole Folk (5-8, 140, Jr.), Adam Durr (5-8, 160, Sr.) and Austin Ross (5-7, 155, Jr.) are the top split ends for the Huskies.

The other options include Jake Wampler (5-9, 130, So.) and Wally Brands (6-3, 175, Jr.).

After featuring nine upperclassmen last year, this year's offensive line includes seven.

"The one stability has been our offensive line," Carr said. "They've done a little better than I thought at this point. They played a little better in the scrimmage than I thought they'd play."

Alex Knauff (6-2, 180, So.) is the projected left tackle.

Ryan Bolyard (6-3, 190, Sr.) will start at left guard. He was an honorable mention All-Area pick last year.

"He's our leader on the offensive line," Carr said.

Brycen Hook (5-7, 260, Jr.) will play center. He was the fourth string center entering last season but ended as the starter due to injuries.

Joe Burris (6-1,195, Sr.) is at right guard and Cole O'Neal (6-4, 255, Sr.) lines up at right tackle.

"We like to trap, so we like guards that can get out and move," Carr said. "We kind of anchor the end of the line of scrimmage with the bigger tackles. We like the speed, our offense is about quickness, not power."

The rest of the unit includes Abe Schilpp (5-11, 140, So.) Nick Riley (6-0, 180, Sr.), Tim Brands (5-10, 170, So.), Cam Fender (6-0, 230, So.), Ansen Miller (6-0, 235, So.) and Nathan Wakefield (5-9, 150, So.).

On last year's defense, the seniors produced the majority of the numbers. Four of the top five tacklers have graduated. Seven of the top 10 were all seniors. The top returning tackler is Bolyard with 68 including 3.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Fender is expected to play defensive tackle. Hook, O'Neal, Brands and Schilpp could see time at defensive end. The other defensive linemen include Hinebaugh, Miller, Knauff and Wakefield.

Bolyard will play middle linebacker. Dealtelhauser will play outside linebacker with Riley and Ross competing for playing time. Jared Graham started last season but is currently injured.

"Our linebacker play, I would think, will be the best," Carr said of the defensive strengths.

The other linebackers are Evan Graham, Austin Ross, Livengood, Brands, Bolyard and Burris.

Broadwater, Dixon, Wampler, Luke Ross, Stewart, Durr, Yoder and Folk make up the secondary.

On special teams, Brands returns as the kicker. He went 26 for 34 on extra points and made both field goal attempts last season. He also kicked off 49 times, averaging 44.3 yards per kick recording 10 touchbacks.

Carr said Brands is most consistent inside of 42 yards, but can hit from 45. He will also punt, taking over for Sebold.

"We've been blessed a lot of years with a great punter," Carr said. "I can't remember the last time we didn't have one of the top punters in the area. Wally's gonna be the guy. it's kinda strange that as good of a leg as he has, he can't punt as well as he can kick."

Broadwater led Northern with 17 kickoff returns for 477 yards, averaging 28.1 yards per return. He returned two for touchdowns, including a 95-yarder to open the second half of the playoff game against Smithsburg.

Carr hasn't decided on the punt returner but mentioned Ross and Yoder as options.

Six of Northern's nine games will be at home. The Huskies will host Petersburg, Frankfort, Hampshire, Hancock, Allegany and Southern. Northern will travel to play Fort Hill, Albert Gallatin and Mountain Ridge.

"I tell our kids all the time, there's no 1A school in Maryland that's got a tougher road than we do. I've been saying that the last couple years since we've started playing Fort Hill. It's a dag on tough opener."

For the second year in a row, the Huskies open the season with the Sentinels on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Carr enters his 27th season as head football coach and 35th overall at Northern. He said his passion for sports and growing up in a sports-filled family has fueled his desire to continue coaching.

"When I grew up, I loved sports," he said. "I was always on a ball field. My parents took me to a lot of things. I was always around the field. When I came to school here, sports was everything. I didn't have intentions of going on to college, sports is what got me to do that and thank goodness for that."

Jordan Kendall is a Sports Writer for the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @JKendallCTN.