PHILIPSBURG — It’s been a tough couple of season with the Philipsburg-Osceola Mounties varsity football notching a lone win in 2017 and 2018. But this year, the Mounties look to improve with plenty of returning experience and a coaching staff that’s stayed intact from last year.
Second year head coach Brian McGonigal said camp has gone quite well with 37 players — 15 of which are returning letterwinners.
“We’ve pushed them a little bit mentally and physically and demanded more out of them during conditioning,” McGonigal said.
Last season, McGonigal said they would play well early on, only to falter in the late stages of the game. The staff hopes that isn’t a trend this season and have taken steps to prevent it.
“We were fatigued by the fourth quarter,” McGonigal said. “We didn’t do enough during camp last year to keep them conditioned. So that was a priority this year. It’s been good and they’ve bonded where they have great team chemistry.”
The Mounties will rely heavily on Ryan and Jeremy Whitehead to get the offense rolling, with junior Ryan Whitehead at quarterback once again and sophomore Jeremy being an all-around threat, including at QB.
“They’re great athletes, great kids and very coachable kids,” McGonigal said of the duo.
Kaleb Stamm looks to have a good amount of carries out of the backfield this season, with Aaron Depto also figuring in.
McGonigal said Hunter Weitoish will be a big factor at wideout.
“Those kids played as underclassman last year and they’re heading into the junior class,” McGonigal said.
For the offensive line, senior Tyler Anderson has been a three-year starter at guard and will anchor the o-line, while fellow senior Chase Chapman will figure in at wide receiver. Junior Nate Gustkey will also get time at running back throughout the season.
Players looking to also make an impact include lineman Nathan Howell, particularly on the defensive side, and David Weaver. Sophomore Aaron Eichenlaub should also get plenty of time on the offensive line, with juniors Parker Moore and Josh Lesko also factoring in.
Ryan Whitehead agreed with McGonigal in saying he feels they are much more prepared for this season than last year.
“(Practices) have definitely been more intense this year,” Ryan Whitehead said. “We’re doing a lot more conditioning just to get mentally and physically prepared for our games this year. I think overall, we’re coming together as a team more and we’re definitely doing more team bonding. Overall, I think we’ll have a better team.”
Depto reiterated Whitehead’s comments and has high hopes for what is to come.
“I’m really excited for our team and to get us going for a good season so hopefully we come out strong,” Depto said. “Like Ryan said, our team chemistry is really good this year.”
McGonigal said they will look to rely on the team’s athleticism and its skill players.
“We’re hoping our line can come together and play a lot better than last year,” McGonigal said. “That was probably our weakest area last year and they did fairly well in Saturday’s scrimmage. So we were pretty pleased with that.”
McGonigal said another strength will be that multiple players can step in at QB if called upon, as Jeremy Whitehead and Dakota Hofe can be called upon to lead the way.
A big factor in the Mounties being in the thick of things throughout the fourth quarter will be the health of its players.
McGonigal said it will be crucial for his team to avoid injuries due to the limited depth of 37 players.
“We had 16 seniors that graduated,” McGonigal said. “We don’t have nearly as much depth as we had last year. So staying healthy is a big thing.”
They’ll also look at establishing the run better than last season.
“That’s the big thing that we’re going to try and improve on from last year,” McGonigal said. “We weren’t good with running the ball so that’s a big focus. And I think our line play is much better this season.”
As far as the season goes, McGonigal said he’d like his team to be competitive in each game.
“Our motto is, ‘one play at a time, one game at a time,’” McGonigal said. “We just want to play hard. We’ve told them that if they take care of their attitude, effort and play with intensity, the wins are going to come.”
P-O travels to West Branch Friday and take on its rival for the first game of the year.
“I’m most excited on how we’re going to play this year,” Whitehead said. “We’ve got good players on our team this year and plenty of returning lettermen, so I think we’re going to have a good year.”
“I’m really excited for the first game against West Branch,” Depto said. “It should be a good game and it’ll be tough. We’re going to battle out there and hopefully we come away with a win.”
McGonigal agreed with his players, stating it’ll be nice to get into an actual game after all of the preseason practices.
“The kids have been banging heads with their teammates all week long and with everything they’ve worked so hard on the last 2-3 weeks and throughout the summer, finally putting it into a game, it’s fun to do,” McGonigal said. “It’ll be nice to see them go out and perform and to see how all that hard work comes to fruition.”