Bellefonte head coach Shanon Manning feels more at ease coming into the 2019 season than he did coming into last year’s campaign.
Manning felt pressure to sustain a high level of play last year after the 2017 Red Raiders broke through with 10 wins, including the program’s first district title since 1999.
The Red Raiders endured losing seasons in Manning’s first four seasons (2013-16) before emerging in a big way in 2017, and the last thing he wanted his program to do was to revert back to their losing ways last season.
“I knew how badly they wanted to win, and they didn’t want to be that team that went backward. I felt great for them,” said Manning of last year’s team. “This year, honestly, I don’t feel stress with this one.”
The stress is gone this year after his young 2018 team exceeded outside expectations by winning nine games and returning to the District 6-9 title game.
The Red Raiders own a 19-6 record over the past two seasons and more winning is expected out of this year’s team.
Bellefonte returns eight offensive starters and seven defensive starters, including senior running back C.J. Funk, who piled up 1,475 rushing yards and 20 offensive TDs.
Last year’s leading tackler, Ethan Rossman, will also take over the control of their offense.
The Red Raiders have had a revolving door at quarterback since Manning took over in 2013. The junior Rossman is the next in line and he’s looking to keep the winning going.
Senior center/defensive lineman Julian Emel has complete faith in Rossman, and he believes this year’s offense can be even more potent than the 2018 version.
“We love Ethan,” Funk said. “He has an absolute cannon for an arm. It’s been awesome going to 7-on-7s and seeing him kind of grow.”
Manning knows it will be tough to stay near the top of the Mountain League with the quality of play picking up across the league in recent seasons.
Bellefonte’s seniors have plenty of motivation to keep winning with the chance to be one of the winningest classes in school history.
Emel is enjoying the program’s turnaround because he remembers growing up and watching the Red Raiders struggle to get a handful of wins each season.
“We’re a team that people are chasing. We’re a team that has a target on their backs,” Emel said. “It’s a big difference and it feels good. It feels better than being lucky if you go .500. Now teams are looking at you and like, ‘Hey, we want that.’ ”
2019 BELLEFONTE RED RAIDERS
Last Year’s Record: 9-3 (District 6-9 Class 4A runner-up)
Coach: Shanon Manning (7th season)
Returning Offensive Starters: Eight
Returning Defensive Starters: Seven
Estimated Roster Size: 43
Schedule: Aug. 23, vs. Jersey Shore; Aug. 30 vs. Huntingdon; Sept. 6, at Philipsburg-Osceola; Sept. 13, vs. Central Mountain; Sept. 20, at Tyrone; Sept. 27, vs. Clearfield; Oct. 4, vs. Penns Valley; Oct. 11, at Central; Oct. 18, vs. Bishop Carroll; Oct. 25, at Bald Eagle Area
Manning’s Outlook: “We’re in a good spot right now. Last year was a little bit of a surprise. We had a complete rebuild. The nice thing is the kids bought into ‘expectations don’t graduate, let’s just keep playing.’ Last year, we had to make it through with a lot of young kids. A lot of sophomores played a lot of football and we had some success. Hopefully, that builds into 2019.”