Seven returning starters have allowed Coach Tom Buzzo, who admits to being conservative by nature, to be a little more aggressive in installing plays this preseason.
"With as many kids as we have coming back, our timeline is surely much different, much more aggressive, than in previous years," Buzzo said. "To be honest, I'd be more comfortable using a slower timeline, but these kids have been in the program and have an idea of everything we're trying to do."
Two top performers -- senior quarterback Nick Monaco (6-1, 185) and senior tailback Justin Carrington (6-1, 200) -- are back to lead the way. Monaco passed for 912 yards and 10 touchdowns and added 286 yards rushing. And despite splitting time with All-Met A.J. Brown, Carrington totaled 1,131 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, averaging an astounding 9.5 yards per carry.
"Whoever is in the game is going to carry the football for us," Buzzo said. "It's not just going to be Justin. We have to come up with a good complement for him, and I don't think that will be a problem. There are three or four other guys right now who I also have great confidence in."
Seniors Mo Bright (5-10, 180) and Steven Lewis (5-11, 190) and junior twins Aaron (5-11, 250) and Adrian Hull (5-7, 165) are in the backfield mix.
Perhaps even more important to the success of this offense is the return of four of five starters on what is a massive offensive line: seniors Erik Lindamood (6-3, 250) and David Moran (5-10, 250) and juniors Alex Stadler (6-4, 300) and Bobby Thompson (6-0, 262).
The Eagles show just as much experience on their defensive unit, which a year ago recorded five shutouts and yielded an average of only 6.1 points per game.
The Hull twins -- defensive end Aaron and cornerback Adrian -- are among seven returning starters. Lewis, an honorable mention All-Met defensive back, and junior linebacker Bryan Roof (5-11, 235), who came on strong at season's end and was instrumental to Liberty's playoff success, are also back.
Lewis led the Eagles secondary with nine interceptions, which he returned for 124 yards. Adrian Hull picked off four passes.
Liberty has the talent to repeat its undefeated run through the Northwestern District again this year. Twelve Eagles were named first-team all-district last season; seven of them are back.
"Our biggest strength is definitely our experience," Buzzo said. "We have kids who know how to win, and who worked very hard in the off-season to put themselves in position to be successful."
-- ANGELA WATTS