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High school football: Limited numbers makes versatility a key ingredient at Hancock

September 01, 2013|By MARK KELLER | keller@herald-mail.com

HANCOCK — Football is always a numbers game at Hancock Middle-Senior High School.

The good news for the Panthers is the numbers are up in the first year under coach Todd Ruppenthal.

“We’re only carrying 19 on the varsity roster this year, but we were able to field a junior varsity team for the first time in more than five years and we have 17 players on that roster,” said Ruppenthal. “We have 79 boys in the school and nearly 40 are playing football. That’s good for us.”

However, only 19 players on the varsity roster leads to ironman football in many cases for the Panthers, and sometimes a lack of depth.

But it also gives Ruppenthal a lot of versatility with those players.

“One injury is more significant to us than it is to other teams,” Ruppenthal said. “So the kids have to be versatile. Right now, our backup quarterback is starting at guard. One injury can change as many as five positions for us, so kids have to be ready to step in and plug a hole wherever we have one.”

Junior Jesse Wolford moves from running back to quarterback this season — and of course, he doubles as a defensive back.

“Jesse had a great summer and a great camp for us,” Ruppenthal said. “Leadership-wise, he’s not overbearing, not overly vocal. He’s just more of the ‘let’s go’ type and everyone goes. The wheel really spins around him this year.”

Lining up behind Wolford in the I formation will be senior Jordan Keefer at tailback and junior Noah Teeter at fullback.

Senior Logan Manning will start as a slot receiver and back up both Keefer and Teeter.

“We want to keep guys as fresh as we can without having a big dropoff in talent,” Ruppenthal said. “We have to be able to give players a blow because one side of the ball affects the other.”

Junior tackle Travis Lawson anchors the offensive line. Senior Austin Edgerton will start at center and could play some guard as well. Seniors Cody Long, Dalton Heinbaugh and Harrison Layman fill out the front line.

Ruppenthal said the Panthers will employ several different looks defensively, working primarily out of a 5-2 set.

“We’ll run a little bit out of a 4-4 and sometimes out of a 6-2,” Ruppenthal said. “Again, it all kind of depends on who we plug into the lineup.”

The names are all familiar on the defensive side of the ball. Edgerton returns as a defensive end, Lawson will be one of Hancock’s top linebackers and Sam Haines will start at nose guard.

Wolford and Keefer will be the cornerbacks, and sophomore Jake Reed and junior Kyle DeLucia will start at safety.

The Panthers also have senior Sarah Mann as their placekicker. Ruppenthal said Mann will be the third or fourth girl to play football at Hancock.

“She’s been pretty consistent so far. The biggest thing for her is getting the timing down on field goals and extra points,” Ruppenthal said. “We’ve talked a lot, and I told her she’s not here to be a circus act. If she couldn’t help us, we wouldn’t have asked her to come out. The kids have accepted her and they’re rooting for her.”

Ruppenthal said the goals for the Panthers are the same as every other team: To finish the year with a winning record and make a run at the playoffs. Hancock hasn’t qualified for the postseason since making back-to-back appearances in 2003 and 2004.

Ruppenthal said he’s trying to link what was successful then — when he was an assistant coach — to what the Panthers are trying to accomplish now.

“Our expectations are what everyone else’s are. We do want to make the playoffs and they’re starting to believe that we can,” Ruppenthal said. “It’s a little harder for us to get there, but it is attainable.”

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