Mechanicsburg moves up a division, are they still a team to beat?


Mechanicsburg Indians

Mechanicsburg High School is one of the biggest additions to Division V
this year, joining the already loaded Region 20. But before the
divisional realignment bumped them up to D-V, the Indians made a mark
on Division VI, posting an unbeaten record in 2008 with a regional
finals appearance. Can they do the same this season?

Mechanicsburg (12-1)

* Players To Watch – RB/WR/DB/P Joe Webb (6-1, 190, Sr.), OL/DL Josh Salyers (6-5, 220, Sr.), OL/DL Tyler Wasserman (6-2, 220, Sr.), RB/CB Mason Poland (6-1, 185, Jr.), TE/LB Cody Rodgers (6-3, 185, Jr.), FB/NT Carl Conley (6-1, 225, Sr.)

* Outlook –
Mechanicsburg High School is one of the biggest additions to Division V this year, joining the already loaded Region 20. But before the divisional realignment bumped them up to D-V, the Indians made a mark on Division VI, posting an unbeaten record in 2008 with a regional finals appearance.

“I think obviously we’re very happy (with the 2008 season),” head coach Chris Kosiorek said. “We didn’t reach our ultimate goal, which was our kids had a strong belief that we could advance to the state championship last year. We started off against West Jefferson and beat them in overtime, and that was a huge boost for our program and our overall confidence. We were fortunate enough to win our conference, go undefeated at 10-0, and then finish No. 1 in our region. All of those things were I guess expected; that’s what our kids set out as goals, and we achieved those in the regular season.”

The Indians were cruising along in the postseason before falling short to Sidney Lehman Catholic in the regional finals. The result was not what they wanted, but Mechanicsburg did not let it lessen their season.

“In the playoffs, we faced New Miami and then we played Covington, and we did pretty well against both of those teams,” Kosiorek said. “We felt very comfortable and confident going into the regional final; that’s only the second time in school history that Mechanicsburg has been there. Then we faced a very, very strong team in Lehman Catholic, and although we lost the game, I thought we had our opportunities to advance. But when you come to a regional final and you have some turnovers and you make some mistakes here and there and you face a quality team, that stuff’s going to happen.

“Like I told the kids after that last game, don’t let this game dictate our season because it didn’t define our season. We had an outstanding year. We had great seniors. We had 12 leaders that took charge and made the coach’s job a lot easier, and then we had underclassmen that followed the guidance of those seniors and the coaches, and that’s why we had the season that we did.

Mechanicsburg returns five starters on each side of the ball from last year’s team and enters into the 2009 season with high hopes and expectations again. The road got rougher with the leap up to Region 20, but Kosiorek says that the team plans on being competitive regardless of the level of opponent.

“It does not bother me at all,” Kosiorek said. “I went to (Youngstown) Cardinal Mooney and coached at Cleveland Benedictine, and our motto and our theory was it didn’t matter who we played. You’re always going to face schools that are bigger than you, have more kids and stuff like that, but it all comes down to the playing field. It doesn’t matter what division we’re in, it’s still eleven-on-eleven. We’re going to be competitive every Friday night, so whether we’re in D-VI or D-V, that’s irrelevant. We have to show up every weekend to play.

“We play a very, very competitive schedule throughout the year. We play several Division V teams, a few Division IVs, and one Division III. We’re getting prepared in our offseason. When we go to our seven-on-sevens, we always play up; we play against Division I and Division II schools in our seven-on-sevens because we need to see that competition. So when we get into conference play, our kids are prepared. They understand what to expect. We as coaches, we’ve been around a lot of different divisions to understand that it takes a lot to be successful, so we’re just sharing our ideas with the kids.

“Again, it doesn’t matter what division you’re in. Every coach will tell you that if your kids are ready and prepared on Friday night or Saturday night, they’re going to give you a chance to win, and that’s all we can ask for right now.”

One area where the Indians expect to be strong is at the skill positions.

“One positive is I think we have very good skill kids and we have a few kids returning on the offensive line and the defensive side of the ball, so I think our starters, I feel very comfortable with these kids,” Kosiorek said. “We have a lot of kids with some experience.”

One of the key players will be senior Joe Webb, who was all over the field as a junior. Webb, who will be a fourth-year starter, caught 39 passes for 666 yards and 8 touchdowns while rushing for 208 yards on 28 carries on offense, while on defense, he grabbed two interceptions and totaled 94 tackles. Oh, and he also handled the punting duties as well.

“He’s a possible candidate for player of the year in Division V if he stays healthy and keeps progressing,” Kosiorek said.

While the starters seem set, Kosiorek would like to see the overall depth of the team develop some more.

“I think our depth and our special teams, we’re going have to get some of these freshmen and sophomores to fill the roles,” Kosiorek said. “Last year, I thought we had quality depth at the special teams positions where we could spell some of our starters and they could get a break, because if you plan on going deep into the playoffs… you’re looking at around 17 games in about a three-and-a-half month period, so you’re going to need to get your kids rest. You’re going to need to stay healthy.

“So I feel very comfortable with our starting group, it’s just a matter of who’s going to step up as far as role players. Like I said, last year we had those kids. Those kids last year that were role players are now going to be our impact players, but they need to step up their role, and that’s where the offseason weightlifting comes in and leadership in the school. Then those new kids, kids that were just kind of JV players or scout players last year, they’ve got to understand what their responsibilities are. That’ll be told to them and addressed, and if you get that all straightened out, we could be alright.”

The team has certainly answered the bell as far as offseason preparation as well.

“In a word, it’s been great,” Kosiorek said. “We started morning lifting at 5:30 in the morning (around March), and we’ve been averaging about 42 kids, and we only dress from 9 through12 about 50, so we’re getting close to 80-85 percent of our kids there at 5:30 in the morning. I think that says a lot about what our kids are trying to accomplish.”

Schedule-wise, the Indians face a lineup of familiar opponents, led by fellow Region 20 power West Jefferson.

“Our schedule’s very similar to last year,” Kosiorek said. “We play Ben Logan, who’s Division III, and then Fairbanks, and then outside of that, we open up with West Jefferson, Adena, and then we play our conference. It’s going to be competitive. We’re looking forward to it, our kids are excited, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re prepared in this offseason, which we as coaches are making sure that these kids are ready.”

All signs point to another winning season for Mechanicsburg as the team seems to be focused in one direction. But Kosiorek cautions that this year’s team must build upon last year’s success and not be satisfied.

“When you get a group of kids that buy into something, and I think these kids are buying into the system and buying into what we as coaches are trying to accomplish, it makes it a lot easier, but there’s a lot of work ahead of us,” he said. “Just because we were successful last year doesn’t guarantee anything, and that’s been stressed to the kids a lot. If we want to rely on last season, it’s going to be a long year, no doubt about it.”


9/4 @ ADENA (FRANKFORT)        

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