Levi Hughes and his teammates are trying to leave Philipsburg-Osceola’s losing streak in the past.
Hughes said they can’t change it now.
But after 27 straight losses, including two winless seasons, they haven’t been able to completely ignore it.
“It’s the motivator,” Hughes said.
Never miss a local story.
The Mounties are looking to snap the losing streak this season.
First-year coach Mike Mann will try to start to turn around the program, but he’ll face the some of the same challenges that have contributed to all the losing. With a roster of about 30 players, Philipsburg-Osceola lacks depth going into the season.
Mann and his coaching staff have also tried to leave the losing streak in the past. After discussing it one time at practice, they agreed to never bring it up again.
They’re focused on the 2016 season, and the first-year coach would be happy with a few wins.
Under Mann, the Mounties will run a Power-slot I offense, using a basic playbook from Mann’s playing days.
“We’re going back to a little bit of old-school football, just basic fundamental football,” said Mann, who played at P-O from 1984-86. “Blocking, tackling, running.”
Mann has six offensive linemen who could see time. Bradley Dunkel and Sam Lansberry will play tackle or guard, while Skylar Rebo and Luke Swartwood are working at guard positions. Tanner Arnold will play center, and Jordan Smith rounds out the group.
Four of the linemen weigh more than 200 pounds. Swartwood and Arnold are the smallest of the group as both weigh 180.
“Other than that, when you drop from that, then you’re hurting,” Mann said.
In the backfield, Brandon Anderson will start at fullback. He enjoys the position, saying he simply tries to hit someone every play.
“Looking to take someone out and clear holes,” Anderson said.
He’ll pave the way for Hughes and Matt Johnson, who will split time at running back. Mann said Hughes will also see time at slotback with Landon McDonald.
Sophomore Daniel Slogosky will be the starting quarterback.
Hughes is a fan of the new offense and its focus on running the ball.
“It’s a lot more simple for us to understand,” Hughes said.
Mann said he will likely rely on the same group of players to start defensively.
The offensive linemen are also set to play on the defensive line, while Hughes is a linebacker, McDonald plays cornerback and Slogosky is a safety.
“We’re still working on that, but it’s going to be mainly the same guys that are playing both ways,” Mann said.
Mann said it will be a balance to find breaks for the two-way starters during games.
“It’s trying to find somebody suitable enough to put in for ’em where you’re not losing that ability at that position and then running the kid down for four quarters and wearing down at the end,” Mann said.
Mann and the Mounties are now focused on their season opener.
They’ve talked about ending the streak during the offseason. They’ve thought about what one win could do for the program.
They’ll get their first shot to put the streak behind them this season on Friday night against West Branch.
“We just want to come out this year the first game and beat West Branch,” cornerback Josh Bryan said. “Really that’s all we want to do.”
Despite all the losing, Hughes is looking forward to his final football season.
It’s a thrill to play in front of the crowd with his friends on Friday nights. He’d like to be part of the group that helped restore pride in the program.
That’s what Mann hopes to achieve over time.
“We’re not just trying to come in here one year and see what happens,” Mann said. “We’re in here for the long haul, we want to build a program, win some games, keep winning, get more kids out. (We’re trying to bring the program) back to when P-O football had won a lot year after year.”
Head coach: Mike Mann (first season)
Assistant coaches: Jeff Johnson, Scott Davis, Mike Saggese, Aaron Mason
Last season: 0-10
Key losses: Jake Anderson, Caleb Belinda, Nick Bouhmeri
Returning letterwinners: Noah Jeffries, Bradley Dunkel, Levi Hughes, Samuel Lansberry, Skylar Rebo, Jordan Smith, Kyle Taylor, Brandon Anderson, Matt Johnson, Daniel Slogosky, T.J. Thompson, Nick Keith, Jimmy Bryan, Tanner Arnold, Landon McDonald
Key newcomers: Josh Bryan, Brandon Kephart