(Statistical Information Courtesy of NWPASports.com archives)
MERCER MUSTANGS 2022 FOOTBALL SEASON PREVIEW
Head Coach: Jeff Lockard, 4th year (10-16)
Last Year: 3-6, qualified for District 10 Class 1A playoffs
The Mercer Mustangs will look to blend a group of veteran letterwinners and intriguing lineup newcomers in 2022 as they look to return to the District 10 Class 1A playoffs. Over 30 players have reported to preseason camp, giving Mercer its largest roster in several years.
"It's exciting to have 30-plus players," head coach Jeff Lockard said. "Camp is going well. The players are working real hard."
Graduation claimed Mercer's leading passer, top two rushers and top two pass-catchers from last season. However, four lettermen on the offensive line will help lead Mercer's Delaware Wing-T attack.
Senior guard Jake Burk and junior tackles Caden Guiler and Seth Sturgin return to the starting lineup. Senior Jesse Watkins, a returning starter on defense, will likely man one of the vacant spots after playing as a reserve on the offensive line last season. Freshmen C.J. Hartman and Derrick King are among the candidates to join that veteran group up front.
"There might be some growing pains, but they have been performing pretty well," Lockard said. "Overall, we like what we are doing and what we have."
Senior Trevon Miller and sophomore Tyeler Biedlack are battling for the tight end spot. At split end, versatile senior Troy Bachman will likely be the starter after catching three passes in 2021.
Mercer's offensive backfield features familiar names but in different positions. Senior Nathan Haines has moved from halfback to quarterback this year. His mobility will be an asset in the Wing-T offense.
"Nate is a good athlete. He's proven that the last couple of years as a runner," Lockard said. "He's really accepted the challenge of being the quarterback."
Juniors Carter Addison and Daemyin Mattocks have the inside track to start at the halfback spots. Both players played extensively on defense last year while seeing spot duty in the offensive backfield. Fellow junior Nic Michael will look to take over at fullback.
"We're going to have a young backfield, but we have guys who have played," Lockard said. "Mattocks, Michael and Addison are all only juniors. They've been under the lights on Friday night so it's not something that will be new to them."
While Mercer has personnel changes on offense, the Mustangs will have a significant schematic change on defense. Mercer has shifted to a 3-5 alignment to take advantage of a deep linebacking corps.
Burk has moved to inside linebacker and will join Addison and Michael. Haines and Palmer are penciled in as the starters at outside linebacker. Watkins is the lone returning starter up front. Guiler and Sturgin are among the frontrunners to join him in the three-man defensive line.
Mattocks will take over as the full-time starter at one cornerback spot, with freshmen Ben Godfrey and Alex Leftheris battling on the other side. Bachman returns at free safety after picking off a team-high three passes last year.
"Defensively, we have some holes to fill but we also have people that we think can do the job," Lockard said. "We're in pretty good shape at linebacker."
Bachman will handle the kicking and punting duties.
Mercer will compete in Region 1 this year, an eight-team league consisting of Class 1A teams. Fellow Mercer County schools Kennedy Catholic, Lakeview and Reynolds join Mercer, along with Crawford County foes Cambridge Springs, Cochranton, Maplewood and Saegertown.
"We have a good mix," Lockard said. "Our goal this year is to be more consistent and competitive. If we do that, I think that will give us more wins under our belt."