The good news for the Philipsburg-Osceola football team is that it is returning a large number of starters from last year’s team.
The bad news is that team went 0-10.
So maybe you call the returnees survivors of a season that got off to a poor start and went quickly downhill from there thanks to injuries, illness and attrition.
One thing is certain, Coach Jeff Vroman has done away with the rearview mirror.
“We haven’t discussed it (last season). It’s a whole new beginning,” he said. “We don’t have to remind them about last season. They know what it was like.
“People don’t understand what the kids went through last season. There was a lot of adversity there. These seniors are hungry. They’ve had enough of that. We’ve got to get that winning back. We don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for us. We don’t expect anyone to understand where we were because I don’t think anyone could.
“To go through a season like we did, you couldn’t imagine the twists and the turns, the injuries that just kept mounting. Nothing ever surprised you once you hit about Week 3 or 4.”
And while it won’t come as a surprise to any of the opponents, there are no secrets once the first preseason scrimmage is held, the Mounties are going to be a team in a hurry this fall.
“We’re not getting away from the things we do,” Vroman said. “This was something we were going to do last year. But once you start Day 2 with this injury or that injury, pretty soon you’ve just got to can everything.
“What we want to do is keep other teams wondering what we’re doing. We might not be huddling but there’s less getting in and out of the huddle. We want to be running a play every 16 or18 seconds. We can slow it down. We’ll go at our pace. But it’s another way of us trying to get an advantage just like anyone else. The kids have taken to it and that helps teaching it.”
The Mounties rushed for a total of 1,596 yards last fall and return their top two runners in Gray (604 yards) and Dustin Shuey. Matsko completed 28 of 76 passes for 229 yards and Pepperday hit on 12 of 50 throws for 133 yards. Matsko threw for the team’s only passing TD while Gray scored three TDs rushing to lead the team in that category. P-O only scored 11 touchdowns last fall.
“Matsko, Pepperday, Mason Pryde, Tanner Lamb and Travis Arnold are all skill-position players who missed parts of last season,” Vroman said.
Whoever lines up in the skill positions will have the benefit of an experienced offensive line operating in front of them including Gray, who has moved back up front after serving as an emergency running back last year. The other veteran linemen include Dallas Thompson, Dan Fowler, Logan Day and Ben Johnson.
“I look at the offensive line and if they keep coming along they can be one of the better ones I’ve ever had,” Vroman said.
The Mounties had 38 players turn out for heat acclimation and Vroman is hoping the injury bug will not return this fall since depth can be an issue.
“This is something that’s not new for us,” he said. “We’ve had some ups and downs (P-O was 9-3 in 2011). We can never string three solid classes together at Philipsburg-Osceola. We haven’t in my 12 years. That’s something that’s challenging.”
Lamb returns as the leading tackler with 27, 20 of them solo. Shuey had 17 solo stops and four assists.
P-O also returns a potent weapon in Boumheri, who averaged 40 yards per punt, and is a capable placekicker.
Vroman is counting on a senior class that includes Matsko, Gray, Boumerhi, Fowler, Pepperday, Pryde, Thompson and Shuey to lead a resurgence.
“We’re ready to go,” he said. “This senior group, if they can take this leadership role and continue to run with it, I see us growing by leaps and bounds daily.”
“After last year, it’s going to be a big thing for us to make sure we’re motivated,” Matsko said. “We have to keep that in mind and basically turn over a new leaf. We’re very determined to make improvement and make it better than last year.”