MP meets Marion in season opener
Friday night kicks off what the Mt. Pleasant football players and their coaches are hoping is an improved season.
The Panthers have been working hard through some sweltering practices this week in preparation for their season opener at Marion tomorrow night.
“The kids are playing hard and handling the heat; they’ve been pretty resilient and are still focused,” Coach Shawn Striegel said. “It’s all positive for what we’re trying to accomplish on Friday.”
And what they want to accomplish on Friday is the first step toward their season goal.
“Obviously, we play to win,” Striegel said. “With the new playoff system, our goal is to be in the playoffs at the end of the season.”
In the current system, the top four teams from each district qualify for the playoffs — last year’s Mt. Pleasant team, despite finishing with a record of 2-7, would have earned a playoff berth with a win over Fairfield.
Along with a spot in the playoffs, the Panthers’ first-year varsity head coach is looking for some overall progress on the field.
“This team was 2-7 last year, so we have a lot of improvements to make,” Striegel said. “We’ll find out each Friday if we are (improving).”
The Panthers’ first loss last year came at the hands of Marion — by a score of 70-7.
“I think the kids were embarrassed last year, and they’ve got a little chip on their shoulder at this point,” Striegel said. “It’s good to have a little bit of that, but we (as coaches) are not reminding them (about last year’s opener). We’re focused on getting better.”
Striegel also notes that, along with proving themselves after last year’s loss, the Panthers have some extra incentive to bring their best game on Friday: a television audience.
Mediacom will air the game on MC 22 on Saturday, Aug. 31 (9 p.m.), Sunday, Sept. 1 (6 p.m.) and Wednesday, Sept. 4 (time to be determined).
“It adds to the pressure, but it also adds to the excitement,” Striegel said.
The Marion team that the Panthers are facing tomorrow night will look a little different than it did last season.
The Indians, who went 8-3, graduated 25 players off last season’s roster, and with their graduation losses, they lost a lot of size.
“They graduated their line,” Striegel said. “Instead of a big team that tries to run you over, they’ll try to be shifty and speedy now. We’re prepared for that, and we’ve put ourselves in a good position.”
Marion also graduated running back Trev Beiry, who rushed for 1,252 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, and who picked up 132 yards and scored twice against Mt. Pleasant.
However, they return Colton Mowry, who was second on the team with 423 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns on the ground — including two against Mt. Pleasant.
They also bring back quarterback Trevor Hardman, who completed 55 passes and threw for seven touchdowns last season, as well as Quinn Cannoy, who led the team with 387 receiving yards.
For its part, the Panther offense aims to improve its ground game.
“Our focus is on being better at what we do,” Striegel said. “We’re trying to establish our identity as a team that can run the ball and pass when it needs to. In reality, we just need to play good football.”
Kickoff for the JV game is scheduled for 6 p.m. — it was moved back an hour due to high temperatures, but quarters will be shortened in an effort to keep the varsity start time at 7:30 p.m.
The freshman football team hosts Marion tonight (Thursday) at 6:30 p.m.. The game was originally scheduled for 5:30 p.m. but has also been pushed back an hour in order to avoid some of the expected heat.
Mt. Pleasant starters:
Pos: Name, Ht., Wt., Class
QB: Dustin Amos, 6-3, 180, Senior
FB: Carson Remick, 6-0, 190, Senior
TB: Josh Larson, 5-11, 160, Senior
WR: Clayle Franklin, 5-9, 160, Junior
WR: Cole Phillips, 5-11, 148, Junior
TE: Justin Dilks, 6-3, 220, Senior
C: Alex Nunez, 5-7, 210, Senior
LG: Marcus Moothart, 6-2, 185, Junior
RG: Justin Nichting, 6-4, 220, Senior
LT: Matt Scudder, 6-2, 225, Senior
RT: Jackson Kelley, 6-5, 280, Junior
K: Zoom Gwamna, 5-9, 160, Junior
Pos: Name, Ht., Wt., Class
LT: Ben Canby, 6-1, 220, Junior
NG: Alex Nunez, 5-7, 210, Senior
RT: Dante Vandenberg, 6-5, 231, Junior
LB: Dustin Amos, 6-3, 180, Senior
LB; Justin Dilks, 6-3, 220, Senior
LB: Carson Remick, 6-0, 190, Senior
LB: Tyler Ruby, 6-2, 215, Junior
LB: Josh Larson, 5-11, 160, Senior
LC: Austin Smith, 5-8, 155, Junior
RC: Justin Chalupa, 5-9, 140, Senior
FS: Spencer White, 6-3, 175, Junior
P: Ben Canby, 6-1, 220, Junior