ALLENTOWN – During a 2020 season that was shortened by COVID-19, the Allentown High School football team was able to play eight games.
The highlights of the campaign included seeing Redbirds quarterback Dan Merkel break the Colonial Valley Conference passing record and finish his scholastic career with 6,011 passing yards.
Allentown coach Andrew Lachenmayer was happy his players had the chance to compete as many times as they could under the circumstances in 2020, but a 2-6 record was not something the coach or his players were proud about.
The 2020 season was the first time the Redbirds won fewer than four games since 2009.
With Merkel and other key players having graduated, Lachenmayer will watch a group of fresh faces lead Allentown on the gridiron as the Redbirds begin a rebuilding process.
“Coming off a 2-6 season, we are just looking to rebuild,” Lachenmayer said. “We are looking to get back to Allentown’s winning ways. We have a lot of work to do.”
Sophomore quarterback Luke Wiedau will take the reins of the offense as he steps in at quarterback.
Sophomore Dan Cruz will line up at running back. Cruz earned a starting role as a freshman and rushed for 370 yards, scoring five touchdowns.
Also returning is wide receiver C.J. Hackett, who accumulated 123 yards of total offense and scored one touchdown in two games in 2020 before he went down with an injury that ended his season.
Lachenmayer said the team is excited to have Hackett back on the field, where, in addition to wide receiver, he is also expected to make an impact in the return game on special teams.
On defense, Allentown will be led by A.J. Blitz and Carmen Capone.
Lachenmayer said the coaching staff is looking for more players to step up and make an impact.
“We are looking for guys to step up and make plays. We want to see guys who are excited to play football. We want guys who show up with a great attitude and give great effort.”
Allentown faced several strong opponents during its preseason scrimmages. The Redbirds competed in a quad-scrimmage with Hightstown, Manasquan and Monore Township on Aug 23 and then played Colts Neck on Aug. 26 in a tuneup before opening night.
Speaking after the Colts Neck scrimmage, Lachenmayer said there are a lot of things his players need to clean up as they head into the regular season. The most immediate improvement the coach wants to see from his squad is a more physical style of play.
He said he hopes playing a very good team like Colts Neck will show his players what they need to work on to get themselves to that level.
“We are going to use this (scrimmage) as learning material to get better,” Lachenmayer said.
Allentown will open the 2021 season at Barnegat on Sept. 2. The Redbirds will host Nottingham on Sept. 10 in their first home game in two years following the installation of a synthetic turf field at the high school stadium.