By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
While Steve Hancock is entering just his fifth season at Springfield Catholic, the legendary coach has been patrolling sidelines for nearly 50 years, 41 of which have been spent as a head coach.
And, this year’s group at Catholic promises to be a special one.
The Irish have been 6-3 and 7-2 in each of the last two seasons, only to be upset in district play by Eldon. With 13 starters returning, and a pair of Division One prospects, Hancock is hopeful this group can make a run.
“We know how close we were to making a run in the playoffs and don’t want that opportunity pass us by again,” said Hancock. “We have several athletes who have started since being freshmen and they know this is their chance to make something happen, conference, district and state. You build for a great year and these senior athletes have been building and working their tails off to have a special year.”
Both the offense and defense will be led by a special group of seniors.
“We have four athletes who have been two-way starters since their freshman year in Tyson Riley, Wallace Squibb, Tyler Welch and Nick Crites,” said Hancock. “They are all very talented, multi-sport athletes and all have great work ethics. I know how hard they have worked for this season and I expect a great year out of all of them.”
Riley was an all-state selection as a junior, racking up more than 1,400 yards from scrimmage and 23 touchdowns. Defensively, he tallied 50 tackles and five interceptions. Squibb, a 6-foot-5 lineman has already been offered by Cornell, Brown and Missouri S&T. Linemate Tyler Welch was All-COC as a defensive end and also starts at guard. And Nick Crites rushed for nearly 400 yards and started at OLB.
Catholic also returns starters Hunter Brown (RB/DB), Logan Brock (K), George Hall (OL/DL), Charlie O’Reilly (WR/DB), Zach Gebhard (RB/DB) and Peyton James (WR/DB).
Hancock is also expecting contributions from Make Manzordo (WR), Cameron Mansker (RB/LB), Jack Ellis (RB/DB), Lucas Morrison (OL/DL), Dallas Welch (TE/LB), Ralph Hall (OL/DL) and Will Garand (OL/DL).
From a pure ability standpoint, the Irish return enough to win a district championship and potentially join teams like Rogersville, Cassville, Seneca, Monett and Mount Vernon to make Class 3 runs.
Joining the renovated Big 8 will give Catholic an even more brutal, matching them up with some of the state’s best Class 2 and Class 3 programs over the last decade.
For Hancock, that just means a more battle-tested team come October.
“The Big 8 is one of the strongest 3A football conferences in the state,” said Hancock. “Our schedule will be much stronger with no easy weeks. We know the Big 8 schools are physical and play great football. Along with our already tough small COC schools we have a great challenge. In order to be the best you have to play the best and joining this conference allows us to play the best.”
Springfield Catholic opens the 2018 season at home on Aug. 24 against Seneca.2018