The Shenango High football team took its knocks last year.
Jimmy Graham was forced to call upon many untested players, including a large group of freshmen, in his first year at the helm.
This year, though, that is the good news.
Those inexperienced underclassmen now qualify as veterans, as they try to help the Wildcats improve upon their 0-7 Midwestern Conference record and 1-9 overall slate from a year ago. The Wildcats’ lone win came in a nonconference game in Week 4, 34-33 over Serra Catholic.
But Shenango started seven freshmen the final game of the season and has 10 players back on each side of the ball who started at one point last year. Graham says he already is seeing improvement over the team that got outscored 466-136 a year ago.
“Hopefully we’re moving in the right direction,” said Graham, himself a former multi-sport star at Shenango. “We’re going to be the underdog in a lot of our games because of our youth, but at least now, those young players have some experience under their belts.”
Senior letterman Evan Koscinski, a slot receiver-defensive back, did not come out for the team this year after suffering an injury. Senior running back/linebacker/special teams specialist Carlton Sluder suffered a broken ankle last week when his foot got rolled upon in a pile.
“He would have seen significant playing time,” Graham said. “The break wasn’t as bad as it could have been, though, and he didn’t need surgery. It’s possible that we might be able to get him back in a few weeks if it heals quickly.”
Shenango’s offense will feature a pair of brothers in sophomore Tino Campoli at quarterback and senior Anthony Campoli at center. The team will run a lot of the spread offense, with multiple two-back and one-back sets.
Sophomore Colton Ferrucci will be the left guard, senior Jake Stephenson the left tackle, sophomore Trevor Valenti the right guard and sophomore Jason Domenick the right tackle.
Sophomore Will Patton will be the tight end, senior Maddox Smiley the fullback, junior Reis Watkins the running back and senior Jason Kraner and senior Xavier Gumpp the receivers.
On defense, Stephenson, Anthony Campoli, Valenti and Alex Suber will anchor the line.
The linebackers will Ferrucci, Patton and Smiley, with sophomore Adam Bryant and junior Ryan Lenhart rotating in.
Watkins and Kraner will be the safeties, with Gumpp, freshman CJ Miller or sophomore Preston Schry also in the defensive backfield.
Aidan Johnston is the kicker and Watkins will punt.
“We want to create a little bit of consistency on both sides of the ball and be much more aggressive than we were last year,” Graham said. “Unfortunately, a few games got away from us quickly and took us into situations where we weren’t comfortable playing. We backed ourselves in a corner and went into scramble mode. Hopefully this year we will be more balanced and able to run the ball more.
“We really need to be able to control time of possession,” he added. “With 31 players, we don’t have that luxury of depth, so most guys are going both ways. We need a lot of long, sustained drives.”