To put it simply, the Manchester Essex football team was hit hard by graduation.
Coming off of a tough 3-8 campaign last fall, the Hornets will be breaking in new faces all over the lineup — particularly at the skill positions on offense.
Mike Athanas’ squad came into training camp without its leading passer and rusher from last season (Cory Burnham) as well as its leading receiver (John Beardsley). Furthermore, the Hornets top three receivers from last season have graduated, as have three of their top four rushers.
The only starter in the Hornets’ backfield returning this fall is senior captain Chris Dumont, who is the teams’ top returning rusher and receiver. Dumont established himself as a reliable back in 2012 and will be called upon to carry again this time around. Junior Craig Carter takes over for Burnham at quarterback.
Other returning starters are senior captain Mike Davis at defensive end, his brother Will Davis at the other defensive end spot, Nate Riehl at fullback, Doug Rodier at linebacker and Liam Logue at tight end.
With the new MIAA playoff system in play, Manchester Essex — which resides in Division 5 North — will be playing several opponents in a higher division as they compete in the Cape Ann League Small. That difficult schedule is a double-edged sword for the Hornets, who have more points up for grabs than the average team, but also have to play much larger schools to earn those points.
The tough part for Manchester Essex this season will be getting into the playoffs, but if they get there all bets are off.