A talented senior class played a significant role in Roncalli bringing home a ninth state football championship last fall.

It was a junior, though, who led the Rebels in tackles.

At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Cade Morgan is an inside linebacker built more like a free safety. Last season he produced 147 tackles for Roncalli, which ran the table with a 15-0 record.

Defensively, the Rebels limited opponents to 14 points or less on nine occasions. They could again field one of the area’s stingier units as they move to up to 5A for postseason competition this fall.

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“My role is to be the leader of the defense and give our team the confidence to just go out and play,” said Morgan, who carries a 4.2 grade-point average and is interested in majoring in biomedical engineering in college.

“My strength as a linebacker is my speed. Most of the time I don’t try to take on a 260-pound player head-on. It’s definitely easier to use my feet to get around the football field.”

Morgan continues to recover from a stress fracture in his lower back due to the general wear and tear of years of playing football. No surgery was performed; rather, Morgan has simply rested his back by missing practices, and he should be cleared to play soon.

He’ll likely miss the opener against Southport on Aug. 18, though the hope is he’ll return to the field the following week when Roncalli hosts Franklin Central.

Morgan has been offered a scholarship to play football at Air Force, and he has also received interest from the University of Dayton. The Flyers participate in the NCAA’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision as a member of the Pioneer League, alongside the likes of Butler and Valparaiso.

Another season like last fall and chances are good Morgan will be presented more options regarding his football and academic futures.

No one knows this better than Roncalli coach Scott Marsh, who served as the Rebels’ defensive coordinator in 2016. In April, Marsh was hired to succeed Bruce Scifres, who retired from coaching following what was his 27th season.

“Cade just plays so fast. He’s a big ball of fast-twitch muscles, and on top of that he has a great sense of the game,” Marsh said. “We can drop him back in pass coverage if we need to.

“He makes you a much better defensive coach, that’s for sure.”

2017 schedule

Roncalli’s 2017 football schedule (all games start at 7 p.m.):

Date;Opponent

Aug. 18;Southport

Aug. 25;Franklin Central

Sept. 1;Chatard (at Brebeuf)

Sept. 8;Plainfield

Sept. 15;Scecina (at Arsenal Tech)

Sept. 22;Brebeuf Jesuit

Sept. 29;at Fishers

Oct. 6;at Decatur Central

Oct. 13;Guerin Catholic

Four downs with ... Patrick McManama

1. Traditional rivalries aside, who are you most looking forward to playing and why?

Probably the game at Chatard. It’s a conference game and there’s that Catholic rivalry. Those games are physical. Being a running back, you kind of have to prepare for it.

2. If football didn’t exist, how would you keep yourself busy in the fall?

I would just lift weights on my own. I wouldn’t play any other sport. I’m not a tennis player. Not a soccer or player or cross country runner. I’m 200 pounds, so cross country is probably the last one.

3. If you could trade bodies with one of your teammates, who would it be and why?

Cade Morgan, because he naturally looks the strongest on the team. On Mondays after a game, everybody is sore and he’s in the weight room squatting 300 pounds.

4. Name something fans will see from this team that they’re not expecting.

We graduated a lot of seniors, but what’s going to surprise people is how ready the new players on this team are to step up.

Scouting the Rebels

Roncalli Rebels

Coach: Scott Marsh (1st year)

Last year: 15-0, defeated NorthWood 34-22 in Class 4A state championship game

Projected starters: Conner Gore, senior QB; Patrick McManama, senior RB; Michael Dill, senior WR; Dominic Clouse, senior OL; Christian Walker, senior OL; Jacob Luedeman, senior WR; Jones Asher, senior LB; Cade Morgan, senior LB; Dylan Williams, senior DB; Sam Sedwick, senior DB; John Harris, junior DL; Tony Schott, senior DL; Conley Jones, senior DL; Luke Hanley, senior LB; Cameron Fath, senior DB

Others to watch: Sean Hornek, senior C; Nate O’Mara, senior T; Elijah Mahan, junior RB; Hayden Moran, senior FB; Murphy McManama, senior WR; Brandon Berger, junior S; Ethan Newett, senior DB; Pete Baker, senior CB; Jack Baker, senior LB; Jacob Denney, junior CB

Outlook: Last season’s defensive coordinator, Scott Marsh, takes over the program following nearly three decades of excellence from Bruce Scifres, the program’s career wins leader. The defending 4A state champs have a tough act to follow, and may have to initially do so with its defense seeing that last year’s leading tackler, Morgan, is back. Defensive lineman Asher is another to keep an eye on after he recorded five sacks as a junior. Luedeman was money during the Rebels’ memorable postseason run; expect Gore and McManama to also figure prominently on offense.

Marsh says: “We’re going to try to do the things Roncalli has done forever, which is to run the football and play good defense. Just have a physical mentality. We’re also going to try to get the ball in space, because we’ve got a lot of talented skill kids.”

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at mbeas@dailyjournal.net.