PENNSBURG >> The numbers were already stacked up against the Perkiomen School’s football team.
A modest 18 players on the roster with just five seniors peppered in.
Not a single lineman weighing in over 230 pounds.
And less than a week of practice under their belts.
Despite everything they found themselves up against, the Panthers hosted The Hill School, a much more well-rounded team, during a joint practice earlier this week.
Perkiomen School is looking to build on its success over the past two seasons, where the Panthers have gone a combined 13-5 coming off a three-loss season in 2016.
That will come with a great challenge, though. Perk will be without 11 seniors from last year’s squad — including three running backs and all five members of the team’s offensive line.
“We could have nine, maybe as many as 11 guys going both ways this season,” said head coach Tom Calvario, who still held out hope that more players would show up when opening-day registration officially kicked in at the end of the week. “It will be a challenge, not only physically for the players, but also managing numbers.
“It’s a learning curve for all of us — coaches and players, as well. We need players on the field as well as guys to practice with.”
Three-sport star Nick Guadarrama will be under center for the second straight season. The 6-6 quarterback should have no trouble getting through conditioning and into midseason form, as he spent this entire past summer playing with Puerto Rico’s Under-19 World Cup Basketball team.
Guadarrama had plenty of chances to showcase a strong arm and plenty of poise throughout his team’s joint practice against The Hill. The main concern now for the Connecticut native will be developing the timing with his receivers as the team tries to find a balance in the run game.
“It’s gonna be a lot different that last year,” said Guadarrama, noting that last fall he re-classed as a junior. “Last year’s team helped me out a lot with learning the new system. Now it’s my turn to show it to the younger guys.”
Calvario explained that the Panthers won’ feature a complicated offense, mostly because they won’t have the means. That said, he hopes the players will develop the chemistry as the season carries on.
Of any team, Perk can hardly afford to get the injury bug this season. Already limited by the amount of players on the team, Calvario admits even one player going down can make all the difference.
“You can see how young, small and inexperienced we are,” he said. “We can’t afford to run these guys into the ground. Everybody’s gonna have to have a role.”
Four Good Measure
Over the past three seasons, Perkiomen School has had Nativity BVM’s number in particular. The Panthers have won the past three matchups — 38-0 (2016), 34-0 (2015) and 49-7 (2014) — and have out-scored them 121-7 during that run.
Perk will travel to their Pottsville host on Friday, Sept. 29 for a game under the lights.
Perk School hasn’t gotten the edge on Tower Hill dating back Sept. of the 2014 season. Since, Tower Hill won 28-12 in 2013, 28-8 in 2014 and 41-0 in 2016. Perk will play host to them on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m.
There was one thing noticeably missing from Perk School’s sideline throughout the week.
Earlier this past year, Tom ‘Z’ Ziemak died after a two-year battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Coach Z had served as the quarterbacks coach the past two seasons after his diagnosis forced him to stop working. The more he got involved with the team, the more engulfed he came to find himself in Perk School football even as his health declined.
“It’s gonna be hard,” said Guadarrama of playing without Ziemak, “but we’re gonna be playing for him.
“He taught me so much as a quarterback. He taught me to keep the ball up and never focus on one receiver. Scan the field and find the open man.”
Calvario and the Panthers made a banner to honor ‘Z’ this past summer that now hangs in the home team locker room.
“He meant a lot to this team and to all of us,” added Guadarrama.