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Williamsport may be rebuilding

September 06, 2000

Williamsport may be rebuilding



By MARK KELLER / Sports Editor


WILLIAMSPORT - The Williamsport High School football program has enjoyed something of a renaissaince since Eric Michael took over as head coach in 1996.

The Wildcats have rattled off four straight seasons with a .500 record or better under Michael - a streak the school hasn't seen since 1970-74, the first five years Williamsport fielded a team.

Michael hopes that some of that recent history will rub off on the 2000 Wildcats, a group that boasts nearly twice as many juniors as it does seniors - many with no varsity experience.

"To be honest, we've got a lot of question marks in terms of game experience," Michael said. "There's a lot of juniors ... a lot of first-time juniors, guys that just haven't gotten that game experience."

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That's not to say there is no game experience. Players like Danny Rand, Ryan McDonald, Jon Wolfensberger and Aaron Palmer either started or saw significant time last year when the Wildcats were in the hunt for a Class 1A playoff spot in the final week of the season.

They are the players Michael has looked to to guide the newcomers on the field. He says it's a task the seniors have willingly taken upon themselves.

"They're the nucleus, they've been through it and they know what it takes to win," Michael said. "They realize there are some young guys around them this year and that if they want to win this year, they have to help them get better."

The Wildcats will be hard pressed to replace the starters lost on the offensive side of the ball. Rand started at fullback last year and is the lone starting skill player returning.

Nathan Henderson will be on the wing with first-year senior Kyle Wilson at halfback. Adam McAllister, another first-year varsity senior, takes over at quarterback from two-year starter Ryan Grabill.

Still, Michael is only mildly concerned.

"I'm not saying we're not talented, because I think the juniors and the first-year guys we have are going to be fine," Michael said. "Right now we're taking the wait-and-see approach. There will always be someone new.

"First we had Chad McAllister at quarterback, then came Grabill. Now it's Adam's turn to step in. We had Josh Robins and Jon Massey running the ball, now it's to Danny."

The Wildcat drawing the most attention by far is McDonald. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound lineman is getting looks from several Division I schools, including Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Michigan State.

"As he goes, we go," Michael said. "With his mental experience, he's essentially a coach on the field. His leadership, he's a good role model ... those things may be as important to this team as the physical things he brings. I'm glad he's playing for Williamsport."

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