Albert Gallatin built on experience on both sides of ball

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Despite back-to-back winless seasons, there is optimism surrounding the Albert Gallatin football team.

That's because the Colonials are stacked with returning starters on both sides of the ball.

“Last year, we had a fairly young team with only five seniors,” first-year coach Joe Embacher said. “This year, we hope to have close to 12 or 15 seniors. Most of those kids have already played, started last year. We're looking for this to be our breakout season, more or less. We're hoping to finally turn that corner and finally get a few games in the win column.”

The seniors have struggled through some tough times, winning once in the past three seasons. Instead of dwelling on the past, Embacher said his players have embraced the challenge of going out on a high note.

“This group of seniors all either started or played quite a bit as freshmen,” Embacher said. “They're kind of feeling that pressure going on their fourth year. They're excited that hopefully we're going to get a few wins this year.”

The highly experienced players include running backs Branden Dice and Collin Smith, quarterback Rich Ohler, lineman Branden Carey and fullback Chris Hlatky.

The Colonials will need firepower to compete in the Big 9, which includes powerhouse programs Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin. Albert Gallatin scored an average of six points last season.

The Colonials have not had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2008 or a 1,000-yard passer since 1995.

After giving up an average of 38 points last year, the defense will need quite a few more stops. Corners Dice and Smith, along with sophomore linebacker Matt Rush, should be able to provide that.

The Colonials have been hitting the weights hard. Embacher hardly can believe the changes.

“These kids are so much stronger than last year,” he said. “You really can't compare it.”

Embacher has coached high school and middle school football for the past 18 years. He was an assistant under former coach Jeff Rush last year. Embacher is doing his best to keep the transition smooth for everyone.

“We're not changing anything that we have been doing,” he said.

There is one change the Colonials hope to see this season, and that is an uptick in wins.

“It's been a long, slow building process,” he said. “Hopefully, this is the year something happens.”

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