A new beginning for the Clarion Area football team as they begin the 2020 season as they will now be known as the Central Clarion Wildcats. However, under longtime head coach Larry Wiser the name certainly won’t change the philosophy of the team.
(Photo Courtesy of Bri Nellis)
“I’ve never been one to look past our first opponent,” said Wiser. “We look at that first opponent and I can’t even tell you who we play next. Especially this year because we don’t really know if we’ll be able to play all of our games.” Clarion lost several key members off a team that reached the District 9 championship game before bowing out to Ridgway. However, the Wildcats do return several players including their quarterback in senior Cal German who completed 99-of-177 passes for 2,369 yards. He threw 32 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions. His top target in senior Ethan Burford also returns. Burford caught 40 passes for 1,193 yards with 17 touchdowns.
Despite losing top running back Austin Newcomb to graduation who rushed for 1,276 yards with 21 touchdowns, the Wildcats will have a variety of backs to depend on this season. Cutter Boggess, a senior was second on the team in rushing with 624 yards on 90 attempts with four touchdowns. Breckin Rex, a junior in limited action rushed for 312 yards on 21 carries with three scores. Kyle Bottaro, a senior and junior Cooper Shall also return with 19 attempts for 61 yards with two scores and 16 attempts for 150 yards and one scores respectively.
Other receivers returning include senior tight end Hunter Craddock 10 receptions for 240 yards with six touchdowns. Boggess caught 25 passes for 517 yards and four touchdowns. Jason Ganoe a senior is also going to be a wide receiver.
“We do have a lot of skill position players returning,” said Wiser. “The key will be how our guys up front stay on their blocks and open up the holes for the running backs. Along with giving Cal time to throw. We lost some big tough guys from the line, but some of these other guys had a lot of playing time last season so I think they’ll be able to step in and make their own identity to help us be successful.”
Senior Jordan Wolbert is penciled in as the center while senior Patrick Gulnac and junior Luca Cherico will be the tackles. Senior Logan Lerch along with Kaoz Baker (Jr.), Kolten Bradley (Jr.), and Cole Wrhen (Jr.) competing for the other guard spots.
“Wolbert played a lot last year while we had Luca for about five games I believe. Baker had some playing time as well. We’ll have to see what we have in those other guys when we have our scrimmage. The whole key to our season on offense will be how these guys gel as a unit.”
Defensively the Wildcats will have Craddock at a Defensive End spot with Baker playing the Nose Guard spot. Wolbert will play a Defensive Tackle along with Cherico. Wrhen will be the other Defensive End. German will play at Cornerback. Bottaro will play Middle Linebacker while Rex and Boggess will also play Linebacker positions. Burford will play either a Safety or Cornerback with Cooper Shall or Logan Divins (Jr.) playing at the other Safety spot.
“Playing as a team is always the key to being a successful football program,” said Wiser. “If you don’t have that then things can go in the wrong direction in a hurry. I think we’ll find out some things once we have our scrimmage. I think these guys all have a good work ethic as they’ve all been to all of our voluntary workouts when we’ve been able to have them. The returning skill positions I think would be another strength of our team. We will have to change a few things up without the explosiveness, but I think we have some very capable guys. We should be able to have a good defense and I think with Beau Verdill (Sr.) returning as our kicker that we’ll have a very good special teams as well.”
Clarion is scheduled to open their season Friday against Punxsutawney at Clarion-Limestone High School.