PHILIPSBURG — The bar has been set pretty high for this years Philipsburg-Osceola football team.
The returnees from last years team that went 9-3 and reached the District 6 Class AA semifinals know what it takes to get there. The question is can they do it without the 3,669 yards of offense that Michael John, Cody Lee, Aaron McKnight, Mike Marcinko and Parker Watson took with them when they graduated.
Weve had success here, said Jeff Vroman, who is in his 11th year at the wheel. But its tough to try to sustain it. Thats what is hard about high school football, trying to sustain it. What were doing here is building a program, building a tradition.
And this year the guys with the hammers and saws wont have a ton of experience when they open the season Aug. 31 against Line Mountain, a Class A school out of District 4. But what they do have is the knowledge of what it takes to do what their predecessors did. The kids coming back know how to win, Vroman said. And the younger kids know how to win. They understand that you have to work hard to get what you earn. And what we try to do is work harder than everyone. If they do that, good things will happen.
Newcomer Caleb Pepperday will be the triggerman. He saw some playing time a year ago behind Marcinko so he wont be wide-eyed when he sees a different colored jersey across from him. Hes backed up by Tanner Lamb.
Were happy with Caleb and I saw some good things from Tanner in the first scrimmage, Vroman added. He grew as a quarterback. And we have kids who can catch the ball. We have some depth at wide receiver. Right now were deeper at receiver than weve been at any time since Ive been here. They all have certain things they do well.
Included in the receiver corps are Joe Whitehead, Mason Pryde and Ben Johnson at tight end and Skyler Shuey, Aaron Mason and Travis Arnold as split ends.
The running backs who will replace Lee and John will come from a group that includes Nick Gray, Curtis Matsko and R.J. Kephart at fullback and Dustin Shuey, Matsko, Todd Watson, Erik Smnith, Kyle Hawkins and Ben Webster.
I like the mix we have in the backfield, Vroman noted. Well be bigger in the backfield. We have some guys who can run with authority. In our first scrimmage we had a guy go 60 yards on a run over center. Thats what we want to see happen. We want to be able to get those five-plus yards plays. Well be a running back by committee. We will be capable of consistency, ball control. But we will want to keep the defense off balance.
Last year our problem was that we had so many big plays the defense was right back on the field. If were able to play ball control it will put us in a position to help the defense." And if those ball-control drives stall out short of the goal line, P-Os got the answer in kicker Nick Boumerhi, who backed up his brother a year ago in that capacity. He made some kicks in pressure situations last year, Vroman pointed out. He is capable of putting the ball in the end zone (on kickoffs). Thats a weapon in itself. If you can make the other team start on its own 20 and make an 80-yard drive, thats is tough to do in high school. And Nick is also a great punter. He can place it where we want it. He takes pride in that. Its nice to know you have a capable kicker. P-Os offensive line will be made up of Chris Godissart at center, some combination of Dan Fowler, Brian Mathews and Shayne Straw at the guards and Logan Day, Dallas Thompson and Dominick Harris at the tackles. Fowler, Godissart and Mathews are returning lettermen. On defense look for Matsko and Thompson to start at the ends with Fowler, Joe Whitehead and Johnson backing them up while inside Mathews, Godissart, Day, Harris and Bub Lumadue will see most of the playing time. Matsko and Godissart are returning letterman. We have a lot of versatility and depth there, Vroman said. We have a lot of guys we can work in and out. Gray, Pryde, Kephart and Matt Hummel make up the linebacker corps. Gray was a starter a year ago. In the secondary Skyler Shuey, Mason, Jarret Frank and Mike Watson are battling for the cornerback jobs while the safeties will come from among Smith, Dustin Shuey, Pepperday and Watson are the leading contenders with Travis Arnold, Ryan Hallman, Kyle Hawkins pushing for time. Im pleased with the depth we have there, said Vroman. Were trying to build depth overall. Thats huge for a AA school. We have to continue to improve, get better every day. But it will all come down to execution. And you always need luck. You cant plan for that but you have to have it to be successful."