Rebuilding Cougars to adopt ‘road warrior’ posture
SPRINGFIELD >> The training-camp practice at E.T. Richardson Middle School ended just around dark, and the Springfield football players were ready to do what soon will become ordinary.
Gathering off to the side of the 50-yard field, the Cougars retrieved their water bottles, equipment bags and other personal items, then crammed into cars for the short but inconvenient ride back to school. So it must be in what figures to be a season of building in so many ways.
With the football stadium and practice fields being reimagined amid a reconstruction of the high school, the young Cougars will spend a season traveling. Each day after class, they will board a bus for a seven-minute, two-mile trip to the Church Road Field near the edge of Morton for practice.
And on game nights, they will be bussed to Strath Haven for their home games.
“That’s what we are going for,” quarterback Kevin Rechner.
They have no choice, for construction projects of any kind take time. And few are more aware of that than coach Chris Britton, who will have to make due with only 12 seniors on a team of 65 players. Pardon the dust.
“It’s just a light year, one of those years,” Britton said. “The numbers are still there. I think we had 40 freshmen. The senior class is not a big athletic class. So it’s going to be a lot of kids’ first time playing varsity football.
“It’s going to be interesting.”
On one level, the simultaneous building is timely. The challenges of playing in the ever-rough Central League without a true home field should strengthen the young Cougars, enabling them to return to scheduling normalcy next season in peak condition. But more immediate satisfaction is also possible.
“It’s tough,” Rechner said. “It’s really tough because I always wanted to play under the lights at my own stadium. But I think with the difficulties, it will make us all stronger, because we can learn to adapt to different situations.”
That task will begin with Rechner, a 6-3, 195-pound first-year starter charged with replacing Jack Psenicska, an honorable-mention All-Delco who last season passed for 1,661 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“He was behind Slinger Jack,” Britton said. “He’s a smart, well-rounded kid. He can do a little bit of everything.”
Rechner will rely heavily on junior running back Jack Clark, who flashed enough excellence as a sophomore to bump into a starting role late in the season.
“If you are starting as a sophomore, you must be doing something right,” Britton said. “He is a really good lacrosse player. So he is a multi-sport athlete.”
Center Nick Cariola returns to anchor the line, and will also play some at guard. Classmates Nick Marascio and Gavin Atchison will provide Rechner with veteran cover, as will tight end Aidan Shandley.
Speedy Alex Williams, a 6-2 senior, will create opportunities in the passing lanes.
Defensively, the Cougars will count heavily on junior inside linebacker Michael Grapin, senior defensive end Devin Allen and the 6-3, 220-pound
Shandley, who has been receiving some college attention for his pass-rushing skill.
“Everybody has to pay close attention to detail, really know their task, know the signals,” Shandley said. “We are doing a hurry-up offense and defense this year, so there’s going to be a lot of signals on the sideline. There will be a lot of mental stuff.
“We’re just changing it up and trying something new.”