By John Hartsock
Veteran Portage football coach Gary Gouse thinks the Mustangs' backfield this year is the fastest he's ever coached.
Senior Jarod Pisarchik makes a big contribution to the unit's speed. The 6-foot-1, 160-pound burner, who starts both ways for Portage at wingback and defensive back, was also a state qualifier for Portage's track team in the PIAA Class AA boys 400-meter dash last spring. He also posted the school record of 52 seconds in the 400 dash.
"He's been playing for three years, and he has great speed offensively and is also very good in man-to-man coverage on defense,'' Gouse said of Pisarchik. "He works hard all year around, and leads by example.''
Pisarchik was a weight-room warrior this past offseason, making it to all 124 of Portage's weight-training sessions.
"He's very dedicated in the weight room, and whenever we're doing sprints and conditioning drills, he's always right up there in front,'' Gouse said.
Pisarchik is one of 10 returning offensive starters and nine returning defensive starters back from last year's team, which posted a 10-1 record, won its conference [WestPAC] title, and made it the District 6-A semifinals.
"Last year, we didn't have any experience at the start of the season, and we ran a completely new offense and new defense, but everybody worked hard,'' Gouse said. "This year, we have a good nucleus of players returning. We have eight running backs who could play at any time. We've worked all summer on our speed, and that should be a big plus for us. This is the fastest team I've ever coached.''
Pisarchik hopes the Mustangs can parlay their experience into a trip to the District 6-A championship game at Mansion Park in November.
"We have a good number of returning junior and senior starters back,'' Pisarchik said. "We'd like to make it to Mansion Park. Our big goal is to win the District 6 Class A championship. That's never been done in our school's history. We'd also like to win the WestPAC again.''
As the veteran of Portage's secondary, Pisarchik draws the opposition's best receiver.
"I'm expected to make big plays, and stop the run,'' he said. "Offensively, all our running backs have different running styles. But we're all going to be expected to block well for one another, and when we get the ball, we're going to be trying to make something happen with it.''