Coach: Eric Foust (66-61) // Mid Penn Colonial // District 3 // Class AAA
Shawn Michael / GameTimePA.com
There’s been plenty of talk about Shippensburg’s youth heading into the season.
After all, the Greyhounds have just eight seniors on their roster, with five of them expecting to play big roles on the team this season.
But don’t take their youth for inexperience.
Behind a strong junior class, Ship returns a solid nucleus on both sides of the ball, with seven returning starters on both offense and defense.
“As a team, we are young, but there are plenty of guys here who know what to expect,” Shipppensburg quarterback Tyler Gustafson said. “A lot of those guys have a year of experience under their belt from last year, and we’re hungry to improve.”
Last season, the Greyhounds finished 5-5, with a 4-2 record in the Mid Penn Colonial Division. They were on pace to earn a share of the division crown until a 14-0 loss to James Buchanan in Week 9.
“We had a letdown game, and you can’t do that,” Ship coach Eric Foust said. “We had some chemistry issues, and we weren’t the most disciplined team. But I think all of those things have been taken care of.”
Offensively, Shippensburg looks poised to have a very talented unit, especially at the skill positions. Gustafson, who has earned the nickname “President” during early practices, is looking to build off a strong finish to last season.
In the season finale, he finished 19-for-26 with 339 yards against Greencastle-Antrim, including three passing touchdowns and two more on the ground. He finished the season with 1,166 yards passing and six touchdowns.
Zion Ware (130 carries for 467 yards) and Cole Friese (5-for-27) will man most of the duties at running back, and Cameron Tinner could also see some carries in the backfield.
At wide receiver, the Greyhounds have two proven pass catchers in Wade Mills (24 catches, 316 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Cody Gustafson (32-466-1) who expect to give opposing defenses fits. Kyle Yost, Nick Kubala and Ethan Davidson are expected to be the main cogs on the offensive line.
Tyler Gustafson said, “I think we’re going to be much more versatile on offense. I think we’re going to have a lot more success throwing the ball, and I think teams are going to have a hard time adjusting to us.”
Defensively, the Hounds again return plenty of starters, but will have to replace some key pieces on a unit that gave up an average of 18.9 points per game last season.
Seniors Dylan Rotz and Nathaniel Sheffield will be looked upon to replace the play and leadership of Mike McCleary and Ryan Ingram at linebacker, and both players think this unit has a chance to be better than last year’s.
“We have some pretty big shoes to fill, but we just have to keep working,” Rotz said. “One reason I think our defense will be better is because of our offense, but we have to keep our momentum going and stay strong in the second half.”
Yost and Davidson will return up front on the defensive line, as well as Mills at outside linebacker. In the defensive backfield, Friese and Cody Gustafson will man the outside cornerback positions, and Tinner will return to his spot at strong safety.
Sheffield said, “I thought last year we had a lack of discipline, and I don’t think we have that this year. We just have to execute our game plan every week.
“I think we should be better on both sides of the ball, and I think we will be a much better team because of it.”
Shippensburg isn’t short on motivation, either. After a .500 season last year, the team is determined to get back to the top of the division.
“We went 5-5 last season, and in Shippensburg that’s a bad year,” Tyler Gustafson said. “We want to get the division title again this year, and we want to get into the playoffs and win.”
Foust said, “The plan is to win the division, but I think that is everyone’s expectation heading into the season. The great thing about this team is that winning comes first. That’s what these guys want. They know we’ve climbed that mountain, and they want to stay at the top.”
Date/Result // Opponent // Time/Score
L // @ Dover // 17-42
W // Chambersburg // 26-21
9/18 // Bermudian Springs // 7 p.m.
9/25 // @ East Pennsboro // 7 p.m.
10/2 // @ Mechanicsburg // 7 p.m.
10/9 // Waynesboro // 7 p.m.
10/16 // @ Northern York // 7 p.m.
10/23 // Big Spring // 7 p.m.
10/30 // James Buchanan // 7 p.m.
11/6 // @ Greencastle-Antrim // 7 p.m.
District 3 Class AAA
- First round // L //Solanco // 43-0
Result // Opponent // Score
L // Dover // 13-34
W // Chambersburg // 15-0
L // Bermudian Springs // 0-21
L // East Pennsboro // 0-28
L // Mechanicsburg // 21-45
W // Waynesboro // 18-12
W // Northern York // 10-7
W // Big Spring // 14-0
L // James Buchanan // 0-14
W // Greencastle-Antrim // 42-28