SSC football looking to replace several seniors
STANDISH – Last season the Standish Sterling Central football team got within one win of a trip to Ford Field and an appearance in the state championship game.
The Panthers finished the season with a sparkling 12-1 mark, but heading into the new campaign head coach Pat Walderzak faces a lot of question marks after losing several key players to graduation from that team.
“We lost most all of our defensive line,” he said. “Our defense was tough, and our offense I thought was pretty powerful, and our kicking game was quite solid.
“We were pretty balanced last year and we have spots to fill all over.”
Some of the top players lost to graduation from last year’s team are starting quarterback and defensive back Austin Collier, 3-year starting linebacker Adam Gulvas, defensive end Josh Augustine, split end Mark Lawrence, and wing back Casey Potts.
Even with those losses, the Panthers still have a lot of experience coming back, including a slew of seniors who saw plenty of action last season as juniors.
Offensively, senior Mitchell McFarland is expected to direct the Panthers spread attack at quarterback after starting in the defensive backfield a year ago.
The Panthers have a solid receiving corps coming back as seniors Kevin Reeves and David Lungren, and junior Cole Walderzak will be relied on to reel-in passes this season.
Running back Trevor Trombley will anchor the Panthers fortunes in the backfield, where the senior has started the last two seasons.
Along the line, senior tackle Derrick Fenwick and senior center Trevor Karbowski will lead the charge. Fenwick is entering his third year as a starter, Karbowski his second. Joining Fenwick in a tackle slot will be junior Mike Hinkley, while seniors Ryan Schmidt and Dan Kocot are expected to play in the guard slots.
Defensively, McFarland will continue to play in the secondary, where Reeves and juniors Channing Spencer and Ryan Veitengruber will join him.
Manning the defensive front will be returning starter James Bashor, a junior, along with seniors Jesse Bashor, Derrick Beardsley and Tyler Schuman.
Two-year starters Alex Schmidt and Zack Neid will anchor the linebacking corps, while Tanner Mitrzyk is also expected to plenty of action. Schmidt is a senior, while Neid and Mitrzyk are both juniors.
“We’re all trying to figure out who our leaders are,” Walderzak said. “But not like we don’t have leaders. We’ve got a great attitude, the kids are working hard and heading in the right direction.”
And the Panthers’ coach hopes the direction they travel is a good record in the Northeast Michigan Conference, then another playoff berth.
“Tough,” Walderzak said of the conference. Pinconning is going to be improved, and John Glenn and Ogemaw Heights … well, their John Glenn and Ogemaw Heights.”
And don’t count the Panthers out. “We lost a lot, but we’ve got some good people back,” he said.
The Panthers open the season Friday, Aug. 28 with a non-conference road game at Almont. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.