Santa Bowl V Preview

12/3: Rhinos vs. Southern Maryland Gladiators

It’s finally here, folks! That’s right. After months of preparation, the Hanover Rhinos officially begin the 2017 campaign with their annual December charity game benefitting Toys for Tots.For the third straight year, the Rhinos will be battling a team named the Gladiators. The previous two Santa Bowls featured the Germantown Gladiators, but in Santa Bowl V, the opponent is the Southern Maryland Gladiators. Southern Maryland went 4-6 in its first AFA season in 2016, and has moved into the AFA Northern Conference as a member of the East Division. The teams will also play in the final week of the regular season in June.

WHEN & WHERE: Saturday at 1:00 PM, Manheim Adventure Park, 4565 Camp Woods Rd, Glenville, PA 17329.

WEATHER FORECAST: 44 degrees and partly cloudy. Precipitation: 0%. Humidity: 61%. Wind: 16 MPH.

RHINOS IN THE SANTA BOWL: Hanover is 1-2 in the Santa Bowl, and has been outscored 46-24 by the combination of the Virginia Chargers (2012) and the Germantown Gladiators (2014, 2015).

The Rhinos lost last year’s Santa Bowl to Germantown, 31-6. Jay Collins snagged a jump-ball for a 10-yard touchdown pass on a play-action rollout by quarterback Jordan Gardner in the third quarter for Hanover’s only score.

LAST MEETING: This is the first meeting between the Rhinos and Gladiators.

IN HONOR OF OUR FALLEN: Both teams have suffered tragedy in the months leading up to this game. Former Hanover players Shannon Martin and David Telp, Jr. passed away in late summer. The Rhinos will honor them by wearing special helmet stickers. Each helmet will have one circular sticker split into halves by a diagonal line, with Martin’s number 32 on one half, and Telp’s number 7 on the other half.

Southern Maryland also suffered a grave tragedy in the last few weeks when two-way lineman Everett “Chip” Corley was killed by a drunk driver. He was 28. The Gladiators have some plans to honor Corley, as well.

“We are going to retire his jersey #74 once his new one comes in,” assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Rusty Allison said. “Then, we will frame it and take it out to every coin toss, and have it on the sidelines.”

The Gladiators are also planning to wear helmet stickers this season.

GO FIGURE: The Rhinos have never recorded a single kicking point in Santa Bowl history.

RHINOS’ OUTLOOK: Hanover comes into the Santa Bowl with roughly 60 players under contract, which should make for some interesting position battles. The first live game against another opponent will help clarify some questions for head coach Noah Sneeringer. Sneeringer will be the 4th different Rhinos’ head coach in the 4 Santa Bowl games.

The two most interesting positions to watch are quarterback and linebacker. The tandem of Chase Scharf and Jake Orner look like a solid bet to improve on Hanover’s 16.5 team quarterback rating in 2016.

The Rhinos will have to replace the league’s leading tackler, Jeremy Renoll, who retired this offseason. Bermudian Springs graduate Phoenix Russell and ex-Germantown player Twon Lyles figure to head the group vying for that spot.

This will be the first chance for defensive coordinator Adam Bostian to showcase his Darkside defense.

The bottom line: the Rhinos are going to have a lot of fun playing for a good cause, while also taking a key step toward a bounce-back season in 2017.

SCOUTING THE GLADIATORS: SMG’s wins came against Mid-Atlantic (twice), Mountain Mayhem, and the Virginia Beach Rhinos, and they posted a 2-3 road record in 2016. Brian Green threw for 331 yards in the season-capping VA Beach game, and will start the Santa Bowl. Talented big-play receiver DeMarcus Sweat is no longer on the team, but Marchaz Coates leads a squadron of receivers looking to fill Sweat’s shoes.

Leading rusher Michael Clark is back, as is offensive playmaker Mike Reedy. Reedy played quarterback last year, and led an impressive comeback from 20 points down against the Hill City Stampede in week 9.

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