The first week of high school football season is always an upbeat time for teams. That definitely should be the case at Philipsburg-Osceola, which returns a talented core to make a run at the District 5-6 playoffs if some things break the Mounties' way.
Heaven knows P-O is due, because it seems like pretty much whatever could go wrong has in the offseason.
It wasn't enough that Kurtis Walker, a potential game-changer at defensive end, broke his arm and is doubtful for the Mounties' season opener with Chestnut Ridge. That season opener itself had to be moved from Philipsburg to New Paris because the new lighting that was expected to be installed at Memorial Field came in behind schedule.
Athletic director Lee Fisher said the Mounties should be OK to make their home debut Sept. 17 against Juniata.
That, however, puts added pressure on the Mounties to perform over the first two weeks when they finally get to play on their home field. Season openers traditionally bring in big crowds.
"First games have so much uncertainty. In 20 years of coaching, I never lose as much sleep as I do the Thursday before the first game,'' P-O coach Jeff Vroman said. "You want to get off to a good start. You only have 10 weeks to prove yourself ... If you get behind, you have to play catch-up.''
Vroman's biggest disappointment, though, is that, in the reorganization of the Mountain Conference, P-O lost its game with Bellefonte, traditionally one of its biggest draws, if not the biggest.
The rivalry can be traced to 1898 and had been played continuously since 1954. In recent years, the Luther Trophy awarded annually to the winner of the game had been upgraded, and the teams had eaten together midweek of the game. Last year, the teams wore throwback jerseys.
But the schools are in opposite divisions of the MAC. New conference by-laws make it so non-divisional games are based on an enrollment-prioritized basis.
"Too many times,'' Vroman said, "we've gotten away from traditions.''
Huntingdon's Jim Zauzig is going for history tonight when the Bearcats play Mount Union.
If Huntingdon wins, it will be Zauzig's 104th as coach. He is 103-43 in 13 years as coach. J.G. Evehard was 104-20-3 guiding the Bearcats from 1919-1931.
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