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Salina Central Football Tries to Bounce Back in 2013

Mike Hammett - August 23, 2013 5:46 pm

The last two seasons have been tough on the Salina Central football team.

The Mustangs opened the 2011 season 5-1 before injuries caught up with the team for an 0-3 finish in district play.

Last season, running back Malik Veal suffered a leg injury in the team’s preseason scrimmage, and struggled to get back to full strength throughout the season. The Mustangs also rotated quarterbacks between Mark Vaughn and J.W. Maldaner as they finished 3-6.

This year, the Mustangs return just five offensive and three defensive starters, and will face one of the toughest schedules in Class 5A, featuring Hutchinson, St. Thomas Aquinas, Derby, Maize, Salina South, Hays and Great Bend.

It would look like another long season is in store for the Mustangs. That’s not how head coach Mike Hall sees it.

Hall has witnessed the emergence of new leaders in the offseason.

“Our guys are really stepping up and holding other players accountable, and doing it in the right way,” Hall said. “It’s kind of developed into an excellent leadership role for some of our guys and they’ve taken it and ran with it.”

One of those players is senior linebacker Tanner Robl. Robl moved into a starting role at linebacker a year ago, and has taken over as the new leader of the defense with the departures of Mark Vaughn, Kade True and Nathan Garlow.

Robl, along with Mario Zepeda, stepped up in the offseason. However, Zepeda was lost for the season to a knee injury during summer camp.

“Both of those individuals really were great in summer camp and summer workouts as far as being vocal leaders, probably more so than what we’ve had over the last eight seasons,” Hall said. “Our guys have stepped up and really taken a vocal leadership role and holding everybody accountable. It’s actually developed a good chemistry with our team. Those guys that speak, our guys are going to listen. They do what they’re supposed to do. They’re putting out maximum effort every rep and every play and our guys understand that. Tanner has been an outstanding leader for us on the defensive side. We can plan on him being that voice for us throughout the entire season.”

Offensively, the Hall is hopeful for a healthy season from Veal, who enters his senior season. Veal has sustained injuries in each of the last two years.

“They’re kind of freak deals, because nobody works harder to get themselves prepared and ready for the upcoming season,” Hall said. “Just kind of wrong place, wrong time, a little bit of bad luck. He’s ready to prove that he can go through a full season. He’s going to have a lot of touches on the ball. He’s a special player, our guys know it. We’ve got some other guys that are stepping up and showing that they’re very capable of lightening the load for him for our offense, and also not making us so one dimensional.”

Hall says he believes junior fullback Clint Ryan and sophomore running back Dalton Peters will be key contributors in the backfield, while Kamen Kossow, Casey Rayas and Matt Rowe have all stepped up at wide receiver.

This year, Hall doesn’t plan on rotating quarterbacks. Senior J.W. Maldaner takes the reigns from Mark Vaughn full time.

“Mark was an outstanding leader for us last year,” Hall said. “J.W. kind of missed out on playing quarterback last year because of some arm trouble and he didn’t get the reps that he really needed to get himself prepared and ready. He contributed very much for us at wide receiver. But we’re expecting him to have a breakout season at quarterback. I think he’s ready for the challenge and he’s ready to lead our team.”

Up front, Hall says his team will be undersized, but he thinks his linemen will be athletic enough to maintain blocks.

“Every team we go against will be bigger than us,” Hall said. “I really like to think we can utilize some of our quickness and our hard-nosed mentality to get on people and sustain blocks to be able to move the football.”

But, Hall knows it comes down to a little bit of luck if you’re going to be standing at the end. The Mustangs have struggled with injuries the last two seasons, and Hall hopes it’s time luck, and health, is on Central’s side.

“That’s really our biggest concern going through our league schedule, because we play such a physical brand of football, that we get beat up,” Hall said. “The key for us to have some great success toward the end of the year is to be able to have minimal injuries or have guys be able to step up in those other people’s shoes as they go down. That’s going to be a tall task for some of our younger guys who don’t have a lot of experience, but we expect that out of them and to be ready.”

The Mustangs open the season on Friday, September 6 at Hutchinson. All Mustang games will again air on SportsRadio 1150 KSAL and online at ksal.com, by clicking on the NewsRadio 1150 KSAL link under the “On Air” drop down menu.

The Mustangs will also be featured on “Inside High School Football,” airing on Friday nights starting at 6pm on SportsRadio 1150 KSAL and ksal.com.

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