High School Sports

Centre County coaches discuss offseason changes at Mountain League football media day

Philipsburg-Osceola’s Levi Hughes returns to the Mounties’ backfield this season as P-O tries to halt a 27-game winless streak. The Mounties open their season Sept. 2 against Bald Eagle Area.
Philipsburg-Osceola’s Levi Hughes returns to the Mounties’ backfield this season as P-O tries to halt a 27-game winless streak. The Mounties open their season Sept. 2 against Bald Eagle Area. Centre Daily Times, file

Hired a little more than a month ago and tasked with going back to basics, Philipsburg-Osceola head coach Mike Mann admitted something at Tuesday’s Mountain League football media day at Bald Eagle Area.

The past few weeks have been a tad overwhelming.

“It’s continuous,” Mann said with a laugh.

But for Mann, a P-O graduate and Mountie football player in the 1980s, this new job invokes a sense of pride. The Mounties are 1-39 over their past four seasons and have lost 27 consecutive games, and while he wants to help change that consistent losing, he doesn’t think any good comes from dwelling on the past.

“We no longer talk about what happened last year or in the years before,” Mann said. “We’re going to start from here on in. We’re working on what we can do to win and progress, and I want these kids to have fun. They’re still kids.”

And sure, there’s always stress on new high school football coaches, but Mann doesn’t feel any overbearing pressure to perform.

“We’re only going to go up. We can only go up,” Mann said. “I’m looking forward to this year, and maybe get a few wins here and there.”

On the ball

Fellow new Centre County head coach Jesse Nagle said Bald Eagle Area football is in for an intriguing offensive change.

“We’re going to spread people out,” Nagle said. “That’s no secret.”

The former State College linebackers coach and BEA graduate wants to liven up the offense, focusing more on a spread system with plenty of no-huddle.

Nagle said he brought film of the no-huddle offense being executed at a high level with him to BEA. He’s seen how it can affect both sides of the ball, and was pleased with how well it was received by his players.

“Once they started doing it and understanding the game speed and how you can wear people down, they just sparked,” Nagle said. “Just putting those wrist bands on, they get excited.

“We’re gonna run and gun. We’re gonna have some fun.”

No longer winging it

Bellefonte is also making a switch on the offensive side of the ball.

Red Raiders head coach Shanon Manning said the program has phased out the wing-T offense in favor of a more pro-style, spread system.

The change comes with the addition of new offensive coordinator Barry Jones, coupled with the loss of several key seniors. Bellefonte lost running backs Austin Jackson (1,027 rushing yards), Dillon Kephart (411 yards) and Nick Jabco (211 yards) to graduation.

“As that group of seniors went through, we stuck with the wing-T for their duration,” Manning said. “It was a natural break. It was a natural progression. If we were going to make a change, this would be the time to make a change.”

Manning also believes the pro-style system will simplify things for the Red Raiders — less movement and more straight-forward.

“It seems to be easy,” the coach said. “They’re more familiar with the terminology, there’s less moving parts, so we’re able to rep our offense with a little more frequency.”

Modifications made

From last year’s offseason to now, Penns Valley head coach Martin Tobias has made a few structural tweaks to the Rams’ program.

Tobias, brought back to Penns Valley after being removed from his position in November and a subsequent coaching search, enters his 21st season at the helm hoping offseason conditioning alterations pay dividends. Tobias said the spring training program was boosted from three days per week to four, and that the emphasis on strength improvement has carried over into the summer.

“We’re seeing the difference, and so are the kids,” the coach said. “We want to be conditioned so we can make it through the full 48 minutes, to be as strong in the fourth quarter as we are in the first.”

Tobias also said changes have been made to the coaching staff in terms of individual responsibilities, and adjustments to the way practice is run have been installed.

“We’ve also been talking to other colleges and high school coaches about how they do things, so we’ve implemented some changes there,” Tobias said. “Some people on the outside might not see, but the kids will notice at practice and hopefully it’ll transfer over to the field. That’s the goal.”

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9