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Langley Remains Strong up Front

Saxons look to continue tradition of quality O-line play.

Langley offensive linemen participate in a blocking drill during practice.

Langley offensive linemen participate in a blocking drill during practice. Photo by Jon Roetman.

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Langley quarterbacks and receivers participate in a drill during practice.

The Langley football team enters the 2013 season with limited speed at the skill positions and not much in the way of depth.

So what’s new?

The Saxons’ key to offensive success this year will once again be the boys up front. Despite the loss of all-state right guard Jack Howerton, who now plays for Stetson University, Langley’s offensive line figures to once again be solid and provide the Saxons with a strong running game.

The group is led by senior center Alex Kolencik and senior Brooks Norris, who will move to the right guard position formerly held by Howerton. Senior tight end Philip Antypas also returns for the Saxons.

“We definitely have to grind it out,” Norris said of Langley’s offensive approach. “That’s why we’re working in the weight room every day. Coach Howerton’s working real well with us in the weight room. We’ve got to be kind of the leaders of the offense and clear holes for the running back.”

Head coach John Howerton, who enters his 12th season with Langley, said the Saxons have had 16 linemen go on to play at the Division I level during his tenure. Norris, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 300 pounds, could be next in line.

“He’s a big body, he’s experienced [and] he’s really put the time in,” Howerton said. “He’s a Division I recruit [and a] very strong student.”

While not as big, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Kolencik has started at center since his sophomore season.

“He’s a very tough kid—hard-nosed,” Howerton said. “He’s been a good player for the last two years.”

Norris and Kolencik will line up side-by-side this season. Close friends off the field, Kolencik said the two should have no problem with communication.

“The linemen are definitely fiercely proud, especially us seniors, knowing that we carry a lot of the offensive work,” Kolencik said. “Since we really don’t have the [team] speed, we pride ourselves on just being bigger and stronger than everybody else.”

While Langley lacks vertical burners, the Saxons still have athletes who can make plays. Senior quarterback Nick Casso returns for his third season (second full season) as the varsity starter.

“The game has slowed down,” Casso said. “I’m letting it come to me more.”

Howerton said Casso has the ability to be one of the top quarterbacks in 6A North. The coach is looking for Casso to pass for 1,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards this season.

“He’s got to get to where he was at the end of the season,” Howerton said, “(and) he needs to get there in a hurry.”

“The linemen are definitely fiercely proud, especially us seniors, knowing that we carry a lot of the offensive work. Since we really don’t have the [team] speed, we pride ourselves on just being bigger and stronger than everybody else.”

—Langley senior center Alex Kolencik

Langley operates primarily out of the shotgun in a one-back set. If Casso is effective running the ball, it should open things up for whoever lines up at running back. Junior Tyler West appears to be the early favorite to take over for standout running back Philip Mun, though senior Tim Sanson should see carries, as well. Howerton and several Saxons praised West’s ability.

“Tyler West has all the ability in the world to be as good as we’ve had,” Howerton said about the 5-foot-11, 200-pound back who runs the 40-yard dash between 4.5 and 4.6 seconds. “It’s up to him to put the time in and to get it done.”

Senior receiver Garrett Collier is the team’s most experienced pass-catching threat.

On defense, senior inside linebacker Kevin Fisher was Langley’s top tackler last season.

“[He’s a] strong little kid,” Howerton said about the 5-foot-9, 195-pound Fisher. “He’s not very big … but he can strike a blow. He’s really quick to the ball, very strong for his size and has a good nose for the ball.”

Howerton said the health of his key players is significant due to a lack of depth. With a small junior class in the program, sophomores might be asked to fill reserve roles.

With the VHSL’s six-class realignment taking effect this season, Langley moves up to 6A and is part of Conference 6, a mixture of teams from the former Liberty and National Districts. Other teams in Conference 6 are: Fairfax, Madison, McLean, South Lakes, Hayfield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown.

Langley will scrimmage at Woodgrove at 6 p.m. on Aug. 22 and at home against Gar-Field at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29 before opening its season at home against Yorktown at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 6.