Two new eras at MCC

 

Manistee Catholic Central freshman Preston Picardat (right) looks to throw as John Slivka blocks Juan Hernandez on the first day of football practice for the 2015 season Monday. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee Catholic Central freshman Preston Picardat (right) looks to throw as John Slivka blocks Juan Hernandez on the first day of football practice for the 2015 season Monday. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — For every high-school football team, the first day of practice every year represents a new start.

But Manistee Catholic Central’s start will be newer than most, as they transition not only to a new season, but a new coach and a new style of play.

The Sabers will play 8-player football starting this season, and will be coached for the first time by Phil Kroll.

Even undergoing two major transitions, Kroll said that he is confident that the team can get up to speed in plenty of time for the start of the season.

“I don’t think it’s going to take that long,” Kroll said. “If we can keep free from injuries, which is the key, I think we’ll be okay. We’ll be solid enough on the line that I think we can work an offense.”

The most obvious difference between 8-player and 11-player football is the predominance of passing as opposed to running the football. Normally, teams will remove both tackles and one running back to go from 11 to 8 players, which makes a power running game difficult to sustain.

Gone will be the dive plays and traps that have been a mainstay of the Sabers’ offense in recent seasons.

That is music to the ears or senior Chad Robke, who played tight end last year, but will run the offense as a quarterback this season.

“It’s more of passing game, so we’ve got to adjust,” Robke said. “I was a quarterback for four years in Pop Warner, so I’m excited to get back to that.

“Last year, we weren’t so great in the passing game, so I think our defense is key.”

Just as on offense, an 8-player defense will have to rely more on athleticism than brawn. But it is still football, and Kroll said that his Sabers will still be physical on the defensive side of the ball.

“We’ve got to get some hitters out here. We won’t know what we have until Friday, when we can put full pads on,” he said. “We need a couple of cornerbacks who don’t mind getting in and sticking their nose in it. That’s what we’re looking for right now.”

One thing will not change, and that is the need to learn and perform well on every play, no matter what the style of play. Kroll said that he will keep the offense relatively simple, so as to make the transition a bit easier.

“With so few guys, we want to learn it well and just execute, execute, execute,” he said. “It’s the daily grind. If we have to run the same play 50 times, we’re going to run it until we get it right.”

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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