Sabers eye first WMDL football title

Manistee Catholic Central’s Blake Johnson (right) pulls in a pass under the watchful eye of assistant coach Gabe Wise (left) during practice for the 2017 football season Wednesday, as MCC prepares for its season opener at Hale on Friday, Aug. 25. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

Manistee Catholic Central’s Blake Johnson (right) pulls in a pass under the watchful eye of assistant coach Gabe Wise (left) during practice for the 2017 football season Wednesday, as MCC prepares for its season opener at Hale on Friday, Aug. 25. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Manistee Catholic Central football is poised to make a run this season as practice begins this week.

Throughout the opening week of practice MCC is hoping to just get some of the early-season jitters out of the way before going into a scrimmage next week at Brethren High School.

“We’re just working on the basics,” MCC coach Jake Szymanski said. “We’re getting our stances down and our routines down with our individual positions. We’re just stressing the basics, getting a lot of conditioning in and bringing these guys together as a team.”

The Sabers are entering their third season on 8-player football, and after entering the new game with a young team two seasons ago, now have a veteran squad that looks to chase a conference title this season.

MCC will be chasing the first-ever West Michigan D League football championship.

“Everyone here is focused on a winning season,” Szymanski said. “I think they have it in mind. As coaches I think we have it in mind. We’re just hoping that the potential comes out and plays on Friday nights.”

MCC finished 3-6 last year, but despite the losing record the team was playing its best football towards the end of the year. They finished the year 2-2, with wins over Brethren and Big Rapids Crossroads and a one-point loss to Grand Traverse Academy. Szymanski hopes some of the momentum built in the closing weeks of the season can give the guys confidence.

“We had our bumps in the road last year towards the end, but we were also playing real well,” Szymanski said. “We got bit by the bug that had us all year of not converting in the red zone and giving away the ball. Hopefully with that extra year these guys are going to be able to cash in on all of these opportunities.”

Szymanski hopes a group of players that he has had for a few years now will be able to lead MCC back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, and for the first-timer ever on the 8-player level. He points to three guys who have been with him for a couple of seasons now with Preston Picardat at quarterback, John Slivka at linebacker and on the line, and Nick Hansen at running back.

“Preston has probably come the farthest from year one where he could barely take a snap to last year. We haven’t had too many fumbles this year. That’s definitely a good sign,” Szymanski said.

“Jon has come out and he’s a vocal leader. He tried that as a freshman and that was hard with the senior class that we had, but the guys behind him have definitely fallen in line. He does a good job of leading by example.”

Despite not being one of the more vocal guys on the team, Hansen is moving into a leadership role during his senior season.

“Nick Hansen is a guy who isn’t much of a talker. We need him as a leader this year, and he’s fallen into that role. He’s uncomfortable with it, but he’s doing a good job and these guys are going to follow him,” Szymanski said.

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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