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Dan Gallagher steps up for Kellenberg

Kellenberg players jog to condition themselves during varsity

Kellenberg players jog to condition themselves during varsity football practice. (Aug. 22, 2012) (Credit: James Escher)

It was only the second day of football tryouts at Kellenberg on Tuesday, but coach Kevin Hanifan had already defined the key to his team’s success — and it’s a line that you’ve heard before.

Football, as they say, is a game won in the trenches, and the Firebirds have a whole new brigade of soldiers fighting for them on the frontline this season.

Kellenberg graduated all five of its starting offensive linemen and enters the 2013 season with a group of juniors and seniors fighting for those spots. One of those players is senior Dan Gallagher — a returning starter at defensive end who was told at the conclusion of last season he might have to play on both sides of the ball this year.

“The coaches talked to me last year and said I would have to step up if they need me to go both ways, which I know I will be able to,” Gallagher said. “Coach [Hanifan] has told me that I’m a big part of this team, and I’m taking that pretty seriously and pushing everyone around me.”

“He’s definitely one of our tougher player who can play both ways, even though we try not to do that too often in our league,” Hanifan said. “Dan came into camp knowing he had his job at defensive end and did a great offseason training, but he got to camp and we said ‘oh by the way, go work with the offensive linemen.’… But he’s a guy who can handle it. ’”

Gallagher said he played offensive line on the freshman team and on the junior varsity squad as a sophomore, but last season he exclusively played and started at defensive end in his first year on varsity. Right now, he’s a second-string offensive lineman but is on the rise.

“I’ve been a little rusty in the beginning, but I’m getting better,” he said. “It’s a little more tiring but that’s why we do conditioning and that’s why we’re in camp.”

He also thinks the competition on the offensive line will benefit the unit once the season begins.

“We have no returning offensive linemen but that doesn’t mean we have no good offensive linemen,” Gallagher said. “It’s competing for a battle and especially on the O-line there are no free spots. I think that’ll make us better even than last year with everyone battling at the same time and fighting for a position.”

Kellenberg returns starting quarterback Kyle Driscoll along with two of his top targets in John Antetomaso and Connor Goss. Hanifan, who called Driscoll “a stud,” said that while the offensive line needs work, the way the offense operates with quick passes and spread formations will help counter the inexperience up front. The experience and chemistry between Driscoll and his receiving corps will also play an important role.

“The offensive line is where our work needs to be done, but with the way we throw the ball, we can balance that,” Hanifan said. “We’re not lining up and running downhill and pushing people off the ball. We’re going to zone block, do some misdirection and throw the ball. The offense has a lot of options to it.”

Hanifan also expects players to elevate their game once the season kicks off, which for Kellenberg is 18 days away on Sept. 7 against rival Chaminade.

“[Gallagher] is a big strong kid and we have a couple other kids in there on the O-line who are doing well, too,” Hanifan said. “But really, it all shapes out when you lineup against a kid with a different colored helmet on.”