By Rob Whitmire
The excitement of fall sports is in the air with the start of football practices at SPASH.
The school’s Pom and Dance Team is perfecting its routine; the Cheer and Stunt Team is prepping to boost fans’ spirits; and the boys of fall have been hitting the gridiron since late July for what many refer to as “hell week”.
Panther football is putting the final touches to its game plan for the season opener Thursday, Aug. 18 at Community Stadium at Goerke Park. Head Coach Pete McAdams begins his 16th season at the helm.
SPASH, members of the Valley Football Association South Division, will host North Division opponent Wausau West with kickoff scheduled for 7:00 PM. The Panthers defeated West last year 35-10.
The Panthers finished the 2015 campaign with a 6-2 VFA record (8-3 overall), good for second place behind Fond du Lac. West finished its season at 3-5.
While the Panthers look to fill some important shoes of players lost to graduation the cupboard is not empty with the return of Seniors Gus Turner-Zick and Brandon Patoka in the offensive backfield.
Senior Beau Rosenthal returns under center to direct the offensive attack taking his snaps from senior Noah Stroik. Jacob Erdman, the unanimous pick All-Conference Offensive Lineman will lead the blocking up front at right tackle while Second Team All-VFA guard Manny Ramos returns on the line at right guard.
The sure-footed Joey Dorgan will continue the kicking duties for SPASH. Dorgan hit 7 of 8 field goals and 41 of 42 extra point attempts last season.
Turner-Zick was the top individual scorer in the division with 18 touchdowns. He also was the leading punt returner, averaging 23 yards on seven returns and one touchdown. He finished fourth in individual rushing with 971 yards on 154 carries and a 6.3 average per rush. Overall the Honorable Mention Tailback back lit up the board with 21 touchdowns on 231 carries and three through the air.
Brandon Patoka, a Second Team All-VFA Fullback from a year ago will complement Turner-Zick in the backfield along with junior Colton Kizewski.
Rosenthal put the ball in the air 88 times hitting his receivers 49 times for a .557 average, 782 yards and eight touchdowns. He also averaged 4.1 yards running the ball. He was a VFA Honorable Mention pick on offense.
Overall, Rosenthal threw for 928 yards with nine touchdowns and carried the ball into the end zone four times.
Rosenthal will look to senior receivers Jack Helfand and Eli Wachowiak along with juniors Joey Hauser and Connor Pliska.
Following Thursday’s game, SPASH travels to Wausau to take on the East Lumberjacks Thursday, Aug. 23 at Thom Field, then return home for an early season showdown with defending VFA South Division champs Fond du Lac on Friday, September 2.