Hanover Rhinos 2018 Season Preview

Revenge Tour ’18 Gets Real

raydel

Photo Credit- Chris Bunty.

Revenge is a dish best served on the field.

Well, it’s almost time for the Hanover Rhinos to take the field for the first gig of Revenge Tour ’18.

The Rhinos have 53 players in the band as they head into the first game this Saturday. Twenty-two of them return after playing for the Rhinos last season.

Gone is the “Darkside Defense”, the swagger-filled Rhinos’ defense that named itself in training camp before last season, and gone is its leader, Brandon Nicastro, who was dubbed ‘Vader’.

In an effort to replace Nicastro’s team-leading 7 sacks from 2017, the Rhinos have signed the Sack Master, Bryan Hammond, from the Maryland Cannons.

A handful of Hammond’s teammates from the now-defunct Cannons also followed him to the Rhinos for the 2018 season.

Safety/corner hybrid T.J. McCauley, a 10-year veteran from the Cannons will form the brain of the defense along with David Harden, who is transitioning from outside linebacker to safety.

Harden, the Rhinos’ 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, is the team’s best perimeter tackler and rarely finds himself in the wrong spot defensively.

Linebackers Kenrith Vieux, Marcus Sparger, and Jeremy “Bear” Bernardi are among the former Cannons who have carved out significant roles with the defense. Bernardi has stood out in particular, and not just because of his team-high 12 tackles in the Rhinos’ only preseason game this year.

“(Bernardi is) a fierce linebacker that fits our defense like a glove,” Rhinos head coach Noah Sneeringer said.

Leading the charge in the linebacking corps for a third straight year is super-quick former McDaniel ‘backer Richard Settle.

Also returning on defense are cornerback Charles Smith and Linebacker Dorell Blue, who have a decade of experience with the team between them.

Complete with a robust beard that strikes fear into the heart of opponents, defensive end Matt Reid is back with the Rhinos after a cup of coffee with the team in the winter of 2014. He figures to be a reliable source of pass rush pressure and run-stopping grit all year long.

Former Cannon Andrew Geddie provides excellent depth in the secondary, and can be the backup quarterback if needed.

Speaking of the offense, Corbin Bailey will be the starting quarterback after winning the preseason battle with the now departed Takeem Carter and Jake Orner.

Bailey, who joined the Cannons in 2016 by way of the Arbutus Big Red, is a multi-dimensional threat who has great foot-speed. His teammates on the Cannons called him ‘Geno’ because his playstyle resembles that of NFL quarterback Geno Smith.

2017 AFA All-Star Brian Eckard will reprise his familiar role of snapping the ball to Bailey, but Silas Hall and Bryant Warren are also in the mix to snap if Eckard has to be moved to tackle.

Returning to tackle this year is the indomitable Dustyn Lauver. He is quiet by nature, but is easily the most influential voice on the team. Lauver won the Rhinos’ 2017 team MVP award after moving from tackle to center for the second half of last season. The Rhinos hope his return to center will give the line more teeth with its best player returning to his best position.

Melvin Velines is the Rhinos’ speed-burning receiver on offense, but Raydel Ragland, a diminutive slotback, has the most moves, and keeps track of ‘how many ankles he collects’ by juking defenders at practice.

KEY DATES
3/24/18 vs. York Silver Bullets
The home opener comes in week two this season and it’s a real dandy, as the York County Blood Feud reignites for the first of two meetings. The Rhinos have lost four straight in the series, so they will be hungrier than usual to stop the bleeding in this early season measuring stick game. If you can get a ticket to this one, do it, and check a box on your sports bucket list.

4/28/18 @ Maryland Phantoms
The heavily-loaded back-stretch of the season gets started with this week 7 trip to Baltimore city. It’s a night game vs. the defending Northern Conference Champions, what more could you want?

5/12/18 vs. Franklin County Tigers
With the folding of the Maryland Cannons, the Rhinos are left with a spot to fill in the secondary rivalry column. The Tigers were never really viewed as a rival by the Rhinos until Franklin County earned their first ever win in the series last year. Now, the Rhinos feel as intensely about this game as the Tigers do.

5/19/18 @ York Silver Bullets
THE BIG ONE sees its first night contest since 2013, a 16-13 home win by the York Silver Bullets. The lights are sure to bring out an extra-special element in the York County Blood Feud, and with this game occurring in the second-to-last week of the season, it could mean everything to one or both of the teams.

RECORD WATCH

Games Coached (16, Jimmy Moffitt)- Everyone wants to move on and forget the Jimmy Moffitt era completely. The first step to that will be erasing his team coaching records. Noah Sneeringer is 5 games away from breaking the record for games at the helm. He’s on pace to surpass Moffitt’s milestone on 4/21/18 at home vs. the Central Maryland Bills.

Coaching Wins (10, Jimmy Moffitt)- Moffitt complied this mark while guiding the Rhinos to the only two winning seasons in team history (’13-’14). This will have to be the third one as Sneeringer sits 7 wins shy of breaking this mark.

Career Receptions (27, Allen Neiderer)- This one ends up on the record watch list every year and no one has broken it yet. This year, however, the chaser is the closest to Neiderer’s record as ever. DeAnte Weldon has 19 career catches coming into 2018. With the all-purpose playmaker shifting almost primarily to his self-proclaimed natural position, wide receiver, it seems likely this record will fall.

Career All-Purpose Yards (992, Jay Collins)- Weldon is chasing this record as well. He currently sits third in team history with 864 all-purpose yards, which means he needs 129 yards to pass Collins’ mark. Weldon often returns kicks and punts as well, so if he plays all 10 games, this record will be a piece of cake.

Career Deflections (13, Lakeith Parker)- Parker, who also holds the single-season deflection record with all 13 of them occurring in 2015, is still active and moving back to the defensive side of the ball after two years on offense. However, He’s got Smith, the Rhinos’ ultimate shutdown corner, lurking with 11 career deflections. Welford comes into the season with 9 career deflections.

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