Experienced DVL foes made it tough for McLouth
The McLouth High football season started off on a high note this year.
First, the Bulldogs beat Immaculata, 34-6, in their opener. Then they won at Jackson Heights in a triple-overtime thriller in Week 2.
Unfortunately for MHS, that 27-21 win Sept. 15 at JHHS proved to be the Bulldogs’ final victory of the season. MHS lost its next seven games, most by large margins, finishing the 2008 season at 2-7, a one-game improvement from 2007.
First-year McLouth coach Chris Stewart said the Bulldogs’ schedule got much tougher after the first two games.
“We started out with a couple teams I felt like we were competitive with,” Stewart said.
After that, when MHS got into the meat of its schedule, Stewart said his players were going up against opponents with more experience and depth in their upper classes.
The scoring margin in McLouth’s losses proves that was the case. The Bulldogs were outscored by an average of 35.4 points in their seven-game slide. They were much more competitive Oct. 17 in a 20-14 loss to Jefferson County North, a setback that particularly disappointed Stewart, who felt that the Bulldogs matched up well with JCN. But for the most part, the Delaware Valley League slate was treacherous for MHS.
“A lot of the kids that were seniors and juniors had really good size, talent and depth in the DVL,” Stewart said.
Not that Stewart or anyone else on the McLouth team was making excuses, but the Bulldogs were hampered by injuries in ’08. Junior lineman Robert Saxton missed some playing time and junior linebacker Gus Harrison didn’t get a start all season.
The biggest injury, though, might have been to senior running back Skyler Terry, who re-injured his knee in the first quarter of the Jackson Heights game and never returned to action. His coach said he brought extra talent and experience to the team, as he proved in his single full contest, running for 84 yards and a touchdown in the season opener.
Stewart wasn’t sure if having Terry, Saxton and Harrison healthy would have made a difference in the MHS win-loss record, but he said he knew those players would have given the Bulldogs more depth.
Despite a disappointing record, Stewart said there were positives to take away from the season.
“Even when you’re getting beat and getting beat solidly by other teams, there’s definitely a learning experience to take away from that,” he said, adding that the process should make players hungrier to win.
McLouth has a number of underclassmen who should learn from this season returning next year.
Freshman Alex Courtney, who played linebacker and running back in different spots, as well as fellow frosh Shawn Dailey, will be a year older next season. Sophomore Shane Cassatt, who led the team in tackles at linebacker and played on the O-line, will return. So will juniors Chris Culter and Sheldon Mills, who both worked hard as linemen for MHS.
Of course, McLouth also will lose some talented seniors from this year’s team. Not only will the Bulldogs say good-bye to running back Jake Hullinger but they also will bid farewell to quarterback Derrick Crouse.
“Quarterback will be the most difficult position to replace,” Stewart said. “Derrick led the team and kept everybody focused, I was real proud of his effort.”
As the Bulldogs head into their offseason, Stewart said the coaching staff hopes to look at individual players and determine where improvements need to come, and do a better job of getting the players faster and stronger in workouts, while making sure the players enjoy the process.
It was difficult as a coach for Stewart to find joy in a 2-7 season. He said he frequently thought about the job he was doing on the sideline, wondering if he had done all he could to get the most from his players.
“You’re always looking at what you can do as a coach that could have been better,” Stewart said. “I take responsibility, I don’t think we played to the level we really, truly could have in a lot of these games.”