EBEN - Superior Central High School will be looking to qualify for postseason eight-man football playoff action for the fourth straight season when it opens 2013 play at 5 p.m. on Thursday at home against Brimley.
But to accomplish that feat, the Cougars of head coach Chris Messano will have to do that with a roster about half its normal size.
"We have 12 kids out," Messano said in previewing his 2013 club. "Normally, we have 25 kids, but we kind of expected such a low number.
The 2013 Superior Central Cougars include, front row from left, Klay Ryon and Ben Kulik; middle row, Cullen Jaqua, Kyle Kurth, Josh Herndon and Elijah Pasanen; and top row, Nick Maki, Tucker Spranger, Justyn Hill, Matt Maki and Dayne Nelson. Not pictured is John Timonen. (Photo courtesy of Chris Messano)
"We have talent in most positions, but no depth. It could be our downfall."
SC, coming off a 6-3 overall record, will open against a Brimley squad Messano, 31, said has "a lot of size."
"They used to run the ball on us. But they have a new coach (former Pickford High School running back Caleb Rader) and I don't know what system they'll run," Messano said.
"It's huge for us to start off with a win. It would help us gain some confidence and help erase any doubts of how successful we can be."
Messano, 21-6 entering his fourth year at the SC helm, said the Cougars will have a half-dozen seniors on the squad after losing nine players to graduation.
"We've good a good mix of size and speed, with decent-sized linemen," he said. "But we'll have inexperience in the skill positions, particularly at quarterback and receiver."
Messano said Dayne Nelson (6-0, 170 junior) and Elijah Pasanen (5-9, 180 sophomore) will rotate at the QB position.
"Dayne is more cerebral. He understands the offense," Messano, a 2000 graduate of downstate Utica Eisenhower High School, said. "Elijah is very athletic and more of a runner."
Josh Herndon (5-9, 160 junior) will likely be at tailback.
"He's a quick, shifty kid who will bring some experience" the coach said, adding SC is a read-option team that likes to spread a defense out. "Elijah may also see some time at running back, too."
Nick Maki (5-11, 150 senior) will man the wide receiver position.
"He has now been playing for four years, so he brings some experience to the lineup," Messano said. "He's pretty fast.
"Other than, we're inexperienced there and don't have a lot of depth."
Along the line, there will be three returnees in center Tucker Spranger (6-2, 175 senior), and guards Justyn Hill (6-3, 210 senior ) and Matt Maki (6-1, 200 senior).
Defensively, Messano said his squad will be experienced with some size, but "real thin (in numbers)."
"If anyone gets injured, we'll struggle. The need to stay healthy will be our biggest battle this season," he said.
The Cougars, a member of the Bridge Alliance, will play a seven-game schedule now that Mid Peninsula will not field a team this season.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.