Front, from left, Riley Bamper and Joe Green; back, from left, Cian Donovan and Danny Holtz.
ALTON – It’s neither reloading, nor retooling for the Marquette Catholic High Explorers. Yet it’s still something of a transition season for them.
They’ve lost several players via graduation and others who have transferred. Thus, second-year head coach Matt Bucher is rearranging the parts, though he likes the pieces of the puzzle he’s constructing.
“It’s a little rebuilding, but I really wouldn’t call it that,” Bucher said. “We have good quality kids and senior leaders on our team.”
Marquette debuts Friday at Civic Memorial in a renewal of an old River Bend rivalry.
“I love the fact that we are playing a local school. It’s great for the area,” Bucher said.
The Explorers will play their nine regular-season games, including the seven Prairie State ones, with a revised cast of characters. They graduated a good group of linemen, including Nick Hoefert, David Drysdale, Shanahan Snider and Andrew Knowles, among others.
In addition, six players have transferred to other schools. Quarterback Brandon Kizer headed to Calhoun and running back Kareem Hamilton went to Alton. Jackson Morrissey (Edwardsville), Alex Cowins (St. Louis Trinity), Taz Walls (Hazelwood East) and Alfred Soboyeyo (Nevada) also are gone.
Bucher and his coaching staff are making do with 25 varsity players, plus 20 freshmen. Of those varsity players, 11 are sophomores.
Marquette went 7-3 last season and won seven in succession after losing its first two games. The Explorers won the Prairie State Conference and are considered the team to beat in the eight-team league this season.
“We have a tight-knit group and we are working together,” Bucher said. “Whatever we lost in talent, we have gained in team trust. That’s important because we have to come together to succeed.”
Trey Aguirre, a 5-10, 160-pound junior, will take over for Kizer at quarterback.
“What I like best about Trey is that he plays with confidence and is an intelligent decision-maker,” Bucher said.
Liam Maher, a 5-7, 150-pound sophomore, will team with 5-8, 200-pound junior Brock Terry and Aguirre in the backfield. Soph Jeremy Strebel also will get some playing time. Sophomore Brad McAfee is the backup QB.
Talented Danny Holtz, a 6-1, 155-pound senior and Jesse Simmons, a 5-7, 135-pound junior; should be Aguirre’s favorite targets. Holtz, also a defensive back, should be one of the team’s leaders.
“In my opinion, Danny is the best player in the conference. He will be our Deion Lavender,” Bucher quipped, referring to the former Marquette basketball standout.
Harvey Howell, a 6-0, 150-pound junior; also will serve as a receiver. The 5-11, 155-pound McAfee can work in at tight end.
It’s 6-0, 180-pound senior Riley Bamper anchoring the offensive line, as well as the defensive one. Chris Angleton, a 6-1, 185-pound senior; also has plenty of experience.
Sophomore Sam Stemm, sophomore Marshall Youngblood and junior Sam Dooling also can be two-way linemen. Cian Donovan, Brandon Rainey and sophomores James King and Jacob Figueroa add depth on both sides of the ball.
It’s Holtz steering the secondary, with Simmons, Howell and sophomore Brian Nagy assisting him. Maher likely will do the kicking.
“Our expectations haven’t changed,” Bucher said. “We expect to compete every game, win the conference, make the playoffs and win in the playoffs.”
MARQUETTE EXPLORERS FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Aug. 29 – at CM, 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 – Quincy Notre Dame, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 – at Kincaid*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 – Nokomis*, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 – at EA-WR*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 – Pawnee*, 7:30
Oct. 10 – Bunker Hill*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 – at Metro East Lutheran*, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 – Mount Olive*, 7 p.m.
*Denotes conference games
MARQUETTE EXPLORERS VARSITY ROSTER
Danny Holtz 6-1 155 WR-DHB
Riley Bamper 6-0 180 OL-LB
Chris Angleton 6-1 175 OL-LB
Cian Donovan 6-2 225 OL-DL
Brandon Rainey 5-8 265 OL-DL
John Hughes 6-2 175 TE-LB
Joe Green 5-11 200 OL-DL
Josh Quinn 6-1 145 WR-DHB
Name HT WT POS
Trey Aguirre 5-8 145 QB-DHB
Jesse Simmons 5-7 135 WR-DHB
Sam Dooling 5-8 160 OL-LB
Harvey Howell 6-0 150 WR-DHB
Brock Terry 5-8 200 RB-LB
Kevin Lloyd 5-6 170 RB-LB
Liam Maher 5-7 150 QB-DHB-K
Brady McAfee 5-11 155 QB-LB
Brian Nagy 5-10, 135 WR-DHB
Jeremy Strebel 5-7, 120 RB-DHB
Sam Stemm 5-8 205 OL-LB
Xavior Jones 5-7 145 OL-LB
Alex Tesson 5-11 280 OL-DL
Jacob Figueroa 5-8 220 OL-DL
James King 6-2 230 OL-DL
Konnor Morrissey 5-9, 160 OL-DL
Tyler Menke 5-8 150 OL-LB
Marshall Youngblood 6-2 210 OL-DL