The Spartans have six returning starters from last year's team who averaged 21.7 points per game, but the team must find a replacement for standout tailback Michael Coleman, the Virginia AA champion in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes. Coleman was the Dulles District offensive player of the year after setting a school record with 1,522 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.
Junior speedster Thayer Nelson (5-6, 150) and senior Marshall Harrison (5-7, 155) are slated to split the tailback responsibilities this year.
"Michael Coleman left big shoes to fill, but we're going to try to do that by being more balanced," Coach Ken Belchik said. "We'd like to throw the ball a little more this year than we have in the past and not have such a one-sided attack."
That challenge will fall to senior quarterback Kyle Hopeck (6-0, 180), who completed 29 of 75 passes a year ago for 333 yards and one touchdown. Hopeck has the area's biggest target in senior tight end Alex Field (6-6, 258), an honorable mention All-Met. Other options will include senior wide receivers Justin Hall (6-3, 180) and Will Mines (6-3, 180).
Helping block the way for Hopeck and company will be three returners on the offensive line, including senior center Dillon McVicar (5-11, 210) and tackle Logan Marlar (6-2, 240).
Field, who has unofficially committed to the University of Virginia, had 11 sacks and was the Dulles District defensive player of the year. He and senior defensive tackle Robert Appel (6-2, 268) are the two returning starters to a front that helped limit opponents to just 12.2 points per game last year.
Behind them will be a host of experienced players, led by senior outside linebackers Andy Lawlor (6-0, 185) and Kellen Shain (6-0, 185). Junior inside linebacker Austin LaFollette (6-2, 210), who has moved from defensive end, and senior Mike Moss (6-3, 210) will also be counted on.
Senior Joe Costello (6-0, 165) has moved from cornerback to safety and is the only returning starter in the Spartans secondary.
"Our run defense is going to be pretty good," Belchik said. "It's our defensive backs that are the concern. We've got some young guys out there who are looking good, but until they get thrown into the fire you just can't be sure."
What Broad Run did a year ago was prove to itself -- and the rest of the district -- that its days as the conference pushover are in the past. The Spartans got a taste of winning, but if that taste is to linger, a new offensive standout must emerge.
"There's no question we still have a lot of work to do," Belchik said. "But we're getting there."
-- ANGELA WATTS