JOHNSONBURG – The Johnsonburg varsity football team looks to be at a disadvantage this season with reportedly only 21 players on the team and a new coaching staff but first-year head coach Jesse Schreiber is welcoming all the challenges.
"One challenge that we face is that we're a very inexperienced football team with losing 12 seniors to graduation," Schreiber said. "Two returning players are unable to play this year, one because of a transfer and the other due to medical issues, and both of those hurt badly.
"We have 20 kids but I think maybe 10 or so have never played football before, so we're very inexperienced."
One of the advantages for the Rams could be several key athletes who are difference-makers down the stretch, including Frank Kocjancic, who will double as wingback on offense and cornerback on defense, and Mike Shuey, middle linebacker on defense and fullback on offense.
With former starting quarterback Andrew Nortum gone after graduation, the team will look to Quinn Luhr as the leading passer.
"We basically figured out the position by trial and error by putting them out there, doing the passing tree back in mid-July and Quinn [Luhr] come in and looked really good, nice spiral, nice timing," Schreiber said.
Luhr will be joined by C.J. Herbstritt at tailback.
"I hope that we can switch it up because I don't want to end up being predictable and that would be a scouting issue as well, looking to see who we can really run against and who we could throw against more often," Schreiber said. "Defensively, hopefully we don't struggle there but I hope our linebackers will step it up with a 4-3 [defense], you'll probably see Mike Shuey in the middle, C.J. Herbstritt on one side and Eric Bevacqua on the other side.
"Frank Kocjancic should be good at cornerback and Quinn Luhr in the safety spot, and those guys will have to control the secondary."
As a member of the Allegheny Mountain League North Division, the Rams have routinely faced a rough schedule and this year will be no exception with a Week 1 matchup at home against Coudersport, and games against Cameron County, Elk County Catholic, Kane, Brockway and Curwensville.
Despite a stacked schedule, the new coach is looking no further than the first Friday night under the lights in Johnsonburg.
"I can't really go too far in but the first week against Coudersport will be tough," Schreiber said. "I know we're low in numbers and with a new coaching staff but we'd love to send a message out there to the AML that 'we're here and despite having 20 kids or so, we're going to play some football.'
"I don't want to look past the first week because that's where our focus should be, the first week of the season."