Sports Columnist
John Knebels

When it comes to previewing an upcoming season, conjecture overtakes precision.

Although last year’s win-loss records and statistics of returning players are often viewed as a barometer of what to expect in the near future, coaches and players still choose to employ the much-used term “anything can happen” when asked to publicly make predictions.

But off the record? That’s an entirely different story.

In Philadelphia Catholic League football, the two teams that coaches rave about most are La Salle and West Catholic, and for good reason. Both of those teams captured spanision titles last year, and most of the players responsible for their success remain on the roster.

For AAAA champion La Salle, quarterback Drew Loughery completed a collective 33 of 53 passes for 492 yards and seven touchdowns in playoff victories over St. Joseph’s Prep and Father Judge, while top receiver Sam Feleccia caught nine passes for 182 yards and two scores. Running back Jamal Abdur-Rahman caught four passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns against the Prep. Kicker Mike Bennett nailed a combined three field goals, one from 37 yards.

What is significant, however, is that all of those players are back once again for coach Drew Gordon. Combine that with the 11 other returning starters, and it’s easy to see why, for the first time in recent memory, juggernaut St. Joseph’s Prep is considered an underdog against an Explorers’ team that defeated the Hawks during the regular season last year and severed their staggering 55-game Catholic League regular season win streak.

Meanwhile, against post-season foes Kennedy-Kenrick and Archbishop Carroll, the AA champion and state runner-up Burrs of West Catholic coasted to respective lopsided triumphs of 63-21 and 56-7. Unfortunately for the rest of the AA spanision, 12 of those players return from a squad that advanced all the way to the state final.

“We’re always setting high standards, so although it’s nice to hear that other teams respect how you play, it still comes down to setting your goals and trying to reach them,” said 11-year West Catholic coach Brian Fluck, whose program has captured three consecutive Catholic League titles while losing only one league game during that span. “I think we would be disheartened if we didn’t realize, or at least get very close, to reaching all of our goals.”

Although hit hard by graduation, Archbishop Wood appears to be the team to beat in the AAA spanision. The Vikings finished 12-3 last year and, like West Catholic, came one win shy of a state crown. Although Wood is favored to repeat, the AAA spanision is very balanced and seems to be the only one up for grabs.

Here are some players to watch throughout the league.

AAAA spanision

Archbishop Ryan: Pat Kwiatkowski (WR/DB), Mark Golic (RB/DB)

Cardinal O’Hara: Corey Brown (RB/DB), Matt Williams (OL/DE), Mike Huf (LB), Dan O’Hara (FR/LB), Adam Dempsey (RB/DB), Ryan Laughlin (QB/DB), Brendan O’Callaghan (DE), Drew Formica (WR/DB)

Father Judge: Curtis Wortham (RB), Tony Smith (QB), Connor Thompson (DB), Greg Kovacs (DE), Kevin Toner (DB), Kevin Leneghan (LB)

La Salle: Drew Loughery (QB), Sam Feleccia (WR/LB), Steve Szostak (OL/DL), Jamal Abdur-Rahman (RB/DB), Steve Sinnott (TE/DE), Kevin Forster (WR/DB), Mike Bennett (K), Steve Jones (TE), Connor Hoffman (WR)

Monsignor Bonner: Marcus Collins (FB/LB), James Colivas (OL), Anthony Jackson (RB/DB), Eric Petransky (RB), John Wichmann (WR/DB), Jamie Justie (WR/DB)

Roman Catholic: Matt Schickling (OL/DL), Anthony Johnson, Kevin Regan (QB/DB), Dennis Regan (RB/DB), Kevin Kelly (OL/DL), Christian Seagrave (FB/LB), Kyle Haber (P/K)

St. Joseph’s Prep: Seth Betancourt (OL), Mike Labor (FB/LB), Garrett Compton (RB/LB), Sean McGinn (LO/DE), Ryan Donovan (OL), Skyler Mornhinweg (QB/DB), Bill Mancini (DE), Eric Neefe (RB/LB), Steve O’Hara (FB/LB), Paul McGann (QB/DB)

AAA spanision

Archbishop Wood: Scott Adkins (RB/DB), Jerry Rahill (QB/LB), Dan Grimes (OL/DL)

Conwell-Egan: Ryan Bond (WR/DB), Anthony Singlar (QB/DB), Bill Castor (P/K)

Lansdale Catholic: Kevin McGinn (WR/DB), Tom Gaus (TE/LB), Matt Pinzka (WR/DB), Ryan Tiedeman (RB/DB), Dan Plummer (QB), Matt McGouldrick (RB/DL)

Neumann-Goretti: Will Huff (P), Stan Visack (LB), Jesse Kinsey (LB), Anthony Mastrando (QB), Shane Thomas (RB)

North Catholic: Eugene Byrd (RB), Dave Williams (LB), Julian Huggins (WR/DB), Ray Reusher (OL), Dan Clark (LB), Steve Singleton (DB)

AA spanision

Archbishop Carroll: Chris King (OL/DL), Bryant Moritz (RB/LB), Ryan Shea (RB/DB), Chris Shuster (QB, DB), Zach Parke (RB/DB)

Bishop McDevitt: Drew Siegfried (QB/DB), Matt Conroy (RB/DB), Gary Postell (RB/DB/WR), Martin Henry (DB). Sean Maguire (OL/DL), Kevin Gallagher (K), Wallace Weaver (DE/LB)

Cardinal Dougherty: Tarik Morris (DB), Steve Logan (DL), Jolan Hardy (OL/LB), Marcus Allen (WR/CB)

Kennedy-Kenrick: Cullen Rota (WR/DB), Tim Young (TE/LB), Aaron Regan (RB/DB)

West Catholic: Jake Zuzek (OL/DL), Tim Carroll (K), Brandon Hollomon (RB/DB), Kris Padgett (DE), Jim Lynch (TE/DE), Dante Dickens (LB), John Ruppert (DL), Anthony McDonnaugh (FB/LB), Ray Manuel (DB), Quran Kent (WR), Bill Tobin (LB)

John Knebels can be reached at