By Jacob Mathias
After a disappointing 2014 season, the SPASH Panther Varsity Football Team is training hard for a winning season as the second week of practice comes to an end.
The Panthers finished with a 3-4 conference record last season and a 5-4 overall record having lost by one score or less in every game but one, an 11-0 loss to Oshkosh North. 2014 was the second year in a row the Panthers fell short of a playoff run. Prior to 2013, the Panthers have had a winning season since 2002 with the exception of 2011.
“Every year really our goal is to win the conference. This year is no different,” said Head Coach Pete McAdams. “Last year was a very tough year.”
McAdams said the team is focusing on making big plays when needed and turning those plays into scores to hopefully turn those close losses from last year into wins. He said the Panthers are a running offense first but he wants the team to be able to make pass plays when they want to, not just when they’re forced.
With a school the size of SPASH, the football team is usually senior-led, leaving a big void at the end of each football season.
A full starting roster has not yet been set.
On defense, the Panthers lost senior linebacker Noel Winch who led the team with 78 tackles on the season. Winch is now with Winona State University. Also lost was senior defensive lineman Andrew Ruzek who finished last season with 32 tackles and two quarterback sacks. Ruzek now plays for the University of Wisconsin.
“Those kids your don’t replace,” said McAdams. “So hopefully you have other kids that step up and fulfill the roles that we need from them to be leaders to make our team as successful as we can.”
A number of junior defensive player from last year return for the season. Inside linebacker Nathan Engle, who played alongside Winch, returns after completing 39 tackles and team high four QB sacks.
“Because of some of the injuries we sustained last year on defense, we did get a lot of guys experience last year playing,” said McAdams. “We’re going to need those kids to step in as if they’re all returning starters this year and right from the get go.”
On offense, senior all-conference receiver and running back Victor Kizewski returns. Last year, Kizewski ran for 612 rushing yards and 337 receiving.
“Our big emphasis on offense is going to be two things. We’ve got to get points on the board and big plays,” said McAdams. “We’ve been lacking the big play the past couple of years and so we’re going to do everything we can to get some big plays. Victor Kizewski can bring those to us but so can some other players.”
Senior wide receiver Mack Journell is expected to bring a lot of experience to the offensive team as well and McAdams said he is a boon to the players on the field with his ability to read the opposing defense.
“The kids have a lot of energy, great enthusiasm. They definitely are working hard and giving us their best efforts,” said McAdams. “As coaches that’s what we’re always looking for. We’re happy and pleased with how things are going and fired up.”
The Panthers head to De Pere on Friday, August 14 for a preseason scrimmage and travel to Wausau West the following Thursday, August 20 for their first full game of the season at 7:00 PM.
|2015 SPASH Panther Varsity Football Schedule|
|Thursday, August 20||7:00 PM||@Wausau West|
|Thursday, August 27||7:00 PM||Home vs. Wausau East|
|Friday, September 4||7:00 PM||@Fond Du Lac|
|Friday, September 11||7:00 PM||Home vs. Oshkosh North|
|Friday, September 18||8:00 PM||Home vs. Neenah|
|Friday, September 25||7:00 PM||@Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln|
|Friday, October 2||7:00 PM||Home vs. Marshfield|
|Friday, October 9||5:00 PM||Home vs. Oshkosh West|
|Friday, October 16||7:00 PM||@Hortonville|