It is a new season and a new conference as the Pleasant Hope Pirates look to turn things around on the football field.
“We are very excited to come together with other teams to form the new Southwest Conference,” Pleasant Hope head coach Scott Wolf said. “A couple of those schools are coming from the Mid-Lakes conference like us (Marionville and Ash Grove), while others (Miller, Lockwood, Pierce City, Sarcoxie, and Diamond) are coming from the Spring River conference. It will be a conference that will give us a better chance to compete week in and week out.”
The Pirates have a good starting point with eight offensive and defensive starters returning.
Wolf will employ a two-quarterback system behind Jeremy Rotramel and Brendle McDaniel. Both will also see time on defense at linebacker. McDaniel is the team’s leading returning tackler.
“Jeremy is a senior and has played quarterback his past three injury filled seasons. Staying healthy this year would mean great things for us. Jeremy is very fast and has a skillset all teams wish they had,” Wolf said. “Brendle is a sophomore that started six games last year. His greatest asset is his ability to get the ball out quickly to the receivers.”
Whoever is throwing the ball, they will have a reliable target in senior wide receiver Teagen Keck who earned all-conference accolades after catching 24 balls for 271 yards last season. He will also lead the secondary.
“The goal is going to be getting him (Keck) the ball at least 10-15 times a game either throwing to him or handing him the ball,” Wolf said. “Last year he was quick, but after a year of track he has gained some more speed. He also is a great leader for the young players and a mainstay in the defensive secondary.”
Jeffrey Tanner (junior), Mason Williams (junior), Preston Griffith (senior), Andrew Page (sophomore) Jacob Puryear (freshman), and Marcus Price (freshman) all will potentially see time at wide receiver.
Senior Jake Skidmore will anchor both the offensive and defensive lines at center and defensive end. He was named all-conference on the offensive line last season.
He (Skidmore) has a great personality and does anything we ask of him, including only missing less than five workouts in four years of being involved with the football program,” Wolf said. “He will anchor a defensive line that will be undersized, but quicker. Jake’s heart is what really sets him apart of any other player. I am excited to see what kind of year he can have his senior year.”
Wyatt Chapman, Dalton Taylor, Matthew Burnett, Preston Carpenter-Ford, Cody Mitchell, and Nathan Johnston will join Skidmore on the offensive line. Chapman, Taylor, Burnett and Carpenter-Ford will go both ways on the defensive line as well.
Juniors Devon Stidham and Jeffrey Tanner will be the key ball carriers running behind that line. Both will also see time as linebackers.
Mason Williams (junior), Andrew Page (sophomore), Jacob Puryear (freshman), and Marcus Price (freshman) will join Keck in a secondary that will try to find its identity in the early part of the season.
Health will be the key for Pleasant Hope if the Pirates are to improve this season.
“Keeping players on the field and coming together as a team are important for us,” Wolf said. “We have been hit hard with injuries over the past couple of years, so we are working harder on strength and endurance. This falls back on the players working hard to get themselves ready for the season and doing what they have to do by putting the team first.”
Pleasant Hope will host a jamboree on Aug. 17 with East Newton, Marionville and Miller. Pleasant Hope will open the season one week later at home against Marionville. The Pirates will be looking to win two games in a season for the first time since 2011.
“Our successes in the past have not been on the scoreboard, but simply keeping the team together and progressing as an entire program. We have continued to grow our younger players (first grade through sixth graders) with winning football teams, so my hope is to see those players keep playing,” Wolf said. “We have had several players stop playing over the past three years for one reason or another. The hard part is (that) if those players all stayed with it, the program would be in a totally different place than it is now. But the program keeps moving forward. We hope to take a giant jump forward as a program this year.”