PARKERSBURG - Despite losing eight seniors -more than one-third of his roster from last season - second-year Parkersburg Catholic head football coach Jeff Campbell has a solid core group of returnees to buoy the Crusaders' chances for another successful campaign this fall.
PC made the Class A playoffs last season for 17th time in last 18 years, but its first under the command of Campbell, a former Crusader player, who moved up from offensive coordinator to assume the head coaching position, one held by his predecessor Danny Tennant for 27 years.
Catholic finished 6-5 in 2011, losing only to five other 'A' playoff squads -Buffalo, Pocahontas County, Wirt County, and the two state finalists, Williamstown and champion Wheeling Central.
Photo by Steve Hemmelgarn
Parkerburg Catholic head football coach Jeff Campbell talks to his players during a recent practice session.
The 2012 Crusaders face the same regular-season schedule as last year in almost the same order, but flip-flopped as last season's six home games are on the road this fall, leaving Catholic with only four home games against the teams it played on the road last year.
Gilmer County and Williamstown, though, have switched positions on the schedule, with PC meeting the Yellowjackets in the ninth game, instead of the 10th, this season, and Gilmer moving from the ninth to 10th spot.
''Our schedule's always rough,'' said Campbell. ''We play in a pretty tough conference, the LKC, but we were really pleased with how it turned out last year (with losses only to Wirt and Williamstown).''
PARKERSBURG CATHOLIC CRUSADERS
Aug. 24:at Buffalo
Sept. 1:Pocahontas County
Sept. 8:St. Marys
Sept. 15:Calhoun County
Sept. 21:at Wirt County
Sept. 28:at Doddridge County
Oct. 5:at South Harrison
Oct. 13:Valley Fayette
Oct. 19:at Williamstown
Oct. 26:at Gilmer County
Campbell admitted ''learning an awful lot last season.'' And since his rookie head-coaching season last year, Campbell thinks he's ''hopefully getting better with planning things out ahead, although I'm still learning on the fly as I go.''
Nevertheless, ''I think we're already a lot further along this year preparing for the season.''
The bulk of the Crusaders' graduation losses from last season came on the line, including starters Pete Walters, Drew Christy and Cody Somerville,
So that's sort of a major rebuilding job right there, but Campbell is looking to his two returning starters on the line in seniors Garet Leisure and Joe Welch to serve as the mainstays -and leaders -in anchoring things up front this season.
Of course, the quarterback position is always a key to any team's success. Daniel Collie has departed via graduation after a two-year stint as Catholic's starting signal-caller, but is being replaced by junior left-handed thrower Payton Sturm, who has been in the Crusader grid program since he was a freshman and served as Collie's backup the last two seasons.
Campbell called Sturm ''extremely intelligent. Payton can do a lot of things, even like figuring out what the other team's going to do defensively while he's walking up to the line.''
With Zack Romine off to play baseball in college, someone has to replace him at tailback.
''We're still working on that,'' said Campbell, but senior Charles Schriner could play a prominent role in the solution to that problem.
Another player to watch this season for Catholic will be senior wide receiver Mitch Davis, who Campbell said ''really came into his own toward the end of last season.''
Add to that four sophomores, wide-out Nick Roedersheimer and running back Jake Boice along with linemen Evan Dexter and Evan Summers. ''That's the thing with these sophomores,'' said Campbell. ''They got a fair amount of (playing) time last year as freshmen, so they're really coming along now.''
''But really, this June for us was probably more about teaching some of the younger kids than anything else,'' stressed Campbell. ''And once we get to July 30 (first day of pre-season practice) and we start looking at who we've got for sure, then we'll be able to tell a lot more about what we'll be able to do this season.''
In the three-week summer coaching period last month though, Campbell said he ''had never seen that much improvement from the first day to the last. The kids that we had out here then really did get better.''