The baseball program made a deep run to claim its second state championship, the boys soccer team advanced to the semifinals and the boys lacrosse squad reached the quarterfinals.
While it’s great for the school, it’s problematic for the football team, which was forced to run some of its spring practices without a few of its key players still competing in other sports.
“Spring this year was a really a unique situation for us,” football coach Matt Kemper said. “You have kids playing in their other sports and you want them to do well, which they all did. But you also want to get work for your No. 1s. That was tough for us because most of them were still involved in their other sports.
“The beauty of it, though, is that we got a lot of our young guys some time. It gave us a chance to look at them. It can be frustrating, but you try to be as productive as you can with it. I think, in the end, the kids were excited and there were a lot of positives that we can carry over into the summer and into the season.”
One notable absence was quarterback Stephen Skruck, who is also a member of the baseball team. He split time with Sam Yarborough last season and is expected to be the No. 1 starter at quarterback this fall. With Skruck out, Kemper had to run another player at the position.
“Taylor Wolf had a good spring at quarterback,” Kemper said. “He did a nice job and showed some leadership. We were excited to have him out there. I also wanted to see Braden Zarbnisky and Josh Lowe out there, but they both pitch for the baseball team, too.”
The Greyhounds have found some sustained success with Kemper at the helm. He’s led Pope to three straight state playoff berths, including last season’s 7-4 record and third-place finish in Region 7AAAAA.
One of the focuses of this year’s spring practice was to take care of areas that needed tweaking.
“Our biggest area to fill is on defense,” Kemper said. “We had guys on defense that had been two- to three-year starters for us, and we needed those guys to carry us last year.”
Pope graduated Alex Parker, Sean Hatcher, Brooks Climmons and Murphy Davis from the defensive side of the ball, but it does return Joey Tabachino at inside linebacker. Sean Hayden and Luis Vela should also see time in the linebacking corps, while Sam Akin and Jack Zegers returned to the team after a year off. Travis Parker and Harrison Holmes should also be in the mix.
“We’re looking to find kids that are physical and that try to fit the mold at certain positions,” Kemper said. “Leadership starts in the spring and emerges in the fall.”
Offensive line is still a strength for Pope, which returns three starters — Max Kemper, Joey Freeman and Ben Cottingham. Matthew Pittarelli and Quintin Bange had good spring practices as well.
“I’m proud of how these guys are developing,” Matt Kemper said. “We also have Mike Kemper returning at tight end. He’s started there for two years now. We might also use him on defense.”
Ronald Woods and Itabari Mason return at running back, where Taylor Waddilove and Davis Burson also saw time this spring.
Wide receivers Ben Doran and Mason Shiflett are also back, as are Logan Carr and Carson Day. Shiflett missed spring practice because of the baseball team’s postseason run, while Doran missed several days because of soccer.
Kemper added that Pope lost a lot in the secondary, so the Greyhounds will rely on returners Cole Childers, Logan Cooperman, Patrick Burke and Hayden Miller, while mixing in Jacob Culbertson and Blayne Burgett.
Six to seven players will be used along the defensive line, according to Kemper. Paul Dahlhauser, Desmon McDonald, Phillip Neal, and Matthew Jones should see plenty of time.
“We have some great kids at Pope that bust their tails every day,” Kemper said.