Cranston leads the way on and off the field

There will be more than a few new faces when Loyola's football team takes the field this fall. Gone are the starting quarterback (Leon Kinnard), running back (Terence Garvin) and four offensive linemen, but do not think the Dons' cupboard is barren.

Conor Bruns may be the big name behind center next season, but it's the center that will be counted on to make sure the new quarterback looks good.

Ben Cranston will be a three-year varsity starter for Loyola and head coach Brian Abbott.

The 6-foot-1, 270-pound Cranston began his varsity career at guard, but moved to center midway through his sophomore season and has been a staple for the Dons' past two Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) A Conference championships.

"He has great feet and good speed and he's smart -- he's a 3.9 [GPA] student and he just brings a lot to the table," Abbott said. "Fundamentally he's just incredibly sound."

Most seniors are looked upon to provide leadership, but Cranston, as the lone returning starter on the offensive line, is also being looked at to help bring along the next group of offensive linemen.

"His charge is to help get those guys strong and that those guys are accountable and in the weight room every day," Abbott said.

In addition to helping the linemen, Cranston will be looked at to provide a steady influence to Bruns -- the projected starting quarterback.

Bruns was thrust into the starter's role midway through this past season when Kinnard, a three-year starter, went down with a season-ending injury.

"If you want to have a good passing game the middle of your pocket has got to be solid," Abbott said. "We're going to be more drop back with Conor so that middle has got to be solid and it makes me feel good to have that battery together."

Last season, Cranston helped anchor an offensive line that paved the way for Terence Garvin to rush for 1,259 yards and a passing game to throw for more than 1,000.

Cranston's grades make him a good candidate for either Ivy or Patriot League football teams, according to Abbott.

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Mike Loveday covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com. Mike can be reached at Michael.Loveday@espn.com