Saline Football Season Preview (with photos)

From the Players

Second year Varsity player, first-year starter Andrew Arbaugh on his experience as the #1 QB thus far: I think it’s been (going) well. Always learning. Really a process to get all the plays down and reads. I have confidence in all my guys, I know they have the same confidence level in me, just looking forward to getting out there the first game.

Arbaugh on Brendan Murphy (TE) and Brendan Munday (RB), two returning offensive starters: Those are my guys, always have been. We’ve played together forever now, I can always count on Murph, it’s great to have that big target you can rely on. Same with Munday, he’s fast strong and physical, everything you ask for in a running back.

Arbaugh on his focus in the offseason: Just working on getting bigger, size has always been a thing for me. On the football side, getting the timing down with the receivers, it’s new, we’re all working together to get that timing down.

Arbaugh on helping in his transition to starting his first year on Varsity: I worked with JDrew McGovern, I believe he’s playing at North Park in Chicago this year. I worked with him a lot in the offseason. He helped me with footwork and timing and a lot of stuff like that. He was a great help to me.


Senior ATH and Temple commit Myles Griffin on going into senior year with recruitment over: It makes it a lot easier not focusing on the teams trying to recruit me. Knowing I’m committed to a school, staying with that school, knowing I’m going there and not having to worry about other schools so it’s a lot easier.

Griffin on his offseason and goals for the season: Getting bigger stronger and faster, those are my three biggest things. Just making sure I’m a leader out there for my teammates. Helping my coaches out, I’m another coach out on the field. I’m a quarterback on defense. Last year its really just trying to get a state championship.

Griffin on playing multiple positions: It was like that last year, they got me to run plays (on offense) last year, so I would know them this year. I knew for a fact I would be on offense some this year because we have a lot of young guys, they’re making plays, but I can still step up and be a role model and make plays for us too.

Griffin on what he’s telling younger guys about Saline Football: Never quit. Because if coach Palka ever sees you quit or walk away he’ll get into you. Give it 100 percent. Being successful is doing your job, don’t try and do someone else’s job, make sure you know your job. It’s all about effort here.


Key Losses

Dmitri Douglas (LT)

 Cole Daniels (QB)

Emmett Turner (WR) Ethan Collick (LB)

CJ Gildersleeve (LB)

Key Returning Players

Brendan Murphy (TE)

Brendan Munday (RB)

MJ Griffin (S/CB)

Connor Terech (LB)

Brad Wisniewski (DE)

Alex Morrison (LB)

Last Season: 7-2 (5-0), SEC Red Champs, Lost in District Semi-Final vs. Canton

By: Seth Kinker,

Quick Notes: Joe Palka – Seventh season as head coach at Saline, returns just six starters. Last season, the Saline Hornets captured their fourth straight SEC Red title, making it their fourth unbeaten conference season in a row.

This year, the Hornets face a different challenge, only returning six starters from last year’s team.

“I think our thing this year is we just want to simplify,” said Palka, entering his 22nd year as a head coach in his career. “It’s going to be a young group. We’ll probably play more juniors than we’ve had in a long time, and we’ll even probably start a few sophomores. I think for us, it’s just a matter of going back to the fundamentals. Simplifying what we do on offense and defense and try to bring a lot of young players along. That has been the emphasis (this offseason).”

The Hornets lost every starting offensive lineman from last year as well as impact players like wide receiver Emmett Turner (Johns Hopkins, Football) and quarterback Cole Daniels (Kentucky, Baseball). Palka highlighted senior tight end Brendan Murphy (6’1, 230) and senior running back Brendan Munday,(5’9, 210) as two returning impact players for the offense.

In order to find where some of the newer players would fit, the Hornets, a two-platoon team, have simplified the offense and defense by letting players work on both sides to find where they fit and become playmakers.

A QB battle ended with one senior competing, who instead committed fully to playing baseball. Andrew Arbaugh now holds the reins heading into the season as the starting QB.

Defensively the Hornets lost leaders in Ethan Collick and CJ Gildersleeve, but the defense will be leaned on, returning four starters, as the offense looks to get settled in. Three seniors, Temple commit MJ Griffin (6’2, 200), linebacker Connor Terech (6’2, 210), and defensive end Brad Wisniewski (6’4, 220), and junior Alex Morrison, moving from safety down to linebacker, headline the defense.

While lacking some of the size from past defenses, Palka sees an opportunity for this year’s unit.

“I think it’s a fast defense,” said Palka. “Our front seven can run. When you look at that, four starters coming back defensively, it kind of has to lead the way for us until we can get a young offensive line and receiving corps with a new QB rolling. Once those guys get rolling I think we have a chance to be a good football team.”

With this turnover in this year’s team different than in years past, younger and new players will have an opportunity to make an impression.

Palka estimates that there could be as many as seven underclassmen on offense and six on defense. A team that has relied on senior leadership in the past, many juniors will get the chance to play more.

“It’ll definitely be a young team, but I really like the leadership these seniors have given us,” said Palka.  “We’ll play a lot of kids, a lot of seniors that have waited their turn, along with bringing some newer players along. We just want to become a real good football team by the end of the year, that’s the goal, we say that every year, but it really fits this year’s team to a T.”

A different challenge than in recent years, Palka relishes the opportunity.

“It is a different type of challenge. It refreshed our coaching staff,” said Palka. “I think we’ve got renewed enthusiasm, a lot of work ahead for us, and probably will be our biggest challenge. But as a competitor, that’s what you relish. We’re more recharged than ever with that challenge in front of us. It’s going be a measure of how good you as coaches and players are to see that improvement throughout the year and doing things through the course of the year where people aren’t expecting much out of you.”

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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