NEW CASTLE —
ELLWOOD CITY LINCOLN
Despite a slight decline in numbers, Wolverines coach Don Phillips is pleased to have 46 players out for the team.
Last year, 50 kids came out for the opening of Ellwood City’s camp.
“Right now, we have a couple of kids that we’re trying to see where they stand eligibility-wise. We’re right in that same number as last year.
“Our numbers are good. When you’re a double-A school the size of Ellwood, and you’re getting around 50 kids to work with, that’s a nice number.”
The Wolverines, who suffered through losing seasons most of the decade, are bidding for their third straight trip to the WPIAL playoffs this year. Phillips knows it won’t be an easy task.
“We like to hope the playoffs are expected of us now,” he said. “We’re to the point now that the kids know it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. We play in a very tough conference (Midwestern Athletic Conference).
“When you start looking at our conference, anybody can beat anybody. It’s that simple. You can not take your eyes off the New Brightons, Riversides, the Freedoms, Mohawk. Everybody else. On any given night, every team gets excited to play. If you aren’t up to your game, they can hand you a defeat.”
Phillips said his team made good use of the first day of practice, working on offense in the morning and defense in the afternoon.
“We tried to set the tone, trying to get the kids to understand that mental approach we need to have if we’re going to be successful,” Phillips said. “That mental approach is because of the nature of not only our conference, but the very nature of playing in western Pennsylvania. It’s very physical and if we can’t meet that challenge then we’re going to struggle.
“Right now, our kids had a normal first day in the sense of we’re still trying to get everybody organized and used to their equipment.”
Cox ranked fourth in the county in passing last year with 501 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions. He rushed for 279 yards as well. Jared Meyers, a junior, is the only returning Ellwood player that attempted any passes last year. Meyers, now a junior, was listed as a running back last year.
“Quarterback is one of many battles that is wide open. But I wouldn’t say it’s our biggest battle,” Phillips said. “Cox is just like losing a guy to graduation. That’s how I treat it. It’s nothing against that young man.
“I graduated Kyle Crawford last year, now I have to replace him. We had a lot of players where graduation took them from us. I want to see who has the ‘I’m playing’ type of attitude on this team.”