WELLSBURG — The Brooke football team is building toward the future, but the Bruins are not looking past this season.
Brooke enters this season coming off of a 1-8 campaign in 2020. The Bruins won their first game of the season before losing their last eight. Brooke’s game against Wheeling Park was canceled due to COVID. The Bruins’ season was greatly impacted by COVID last year as Brooke was forced to shut down multiple times.
“The COVID protocols were something we had to learn to live with,” Brooke head coach Mac McLean said. “I thought we did a good job with it, but we had multiple shutdowns. We were shutdown in June and shutdown in July. We did not have any scrimmages. It affected us pretty bad. As a high school football coach, you can’t gripe. There are places that lost a lot more people, but it was a rough year. We started the season with 18 seniors, and we had six healthy at the end of the year. We had a lot of injuries. I think it was a matter of just not being in football shape. Everybody who plays knows injuries are part of the game.”
There are concerns of another season being affected by COVID, but that remains to be seen. Meanwhile, McLean and the Bruins are only focused on what they can control.
“It is something we have to live with,” McLean said. “You go to these rule meetings, and on each slide it says this may change depending on the CDC or the local health organizations. We can’t control it. We can only control what we can control. We are going to keep practicing and doing what we are doing.”
Brooke has made the most of its time out on the practice field so far this season as the Bruins have been working hard to improve on last season’s disappointing record.
“So far so good,” McLean said when asked how things are going. “I will say we have a very young team. I am going to say that in every interview I do this season. We only have six seniors, but we have a very big sophomore class. A lot of key spots this season are going to be filled by kids in the 10th grade this year.”
Brooke has 62 kids on the roster.
Head coach Mac McLean on the upcoming campaign
The Bruins do have some talented players on the roster, and most of the talent can be found at the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball.
“I think our strength is going to be our athleticism,” McLean said. “I think we have a lot of good athletes in our sill positions. The raw materials are there, but we are young and untested.”
One area for concern for McLean and the Bruins going into the season is the team’s lack of size. Brooke does have some individuals with size up front on the lines; however, as a whole the Bruins are on the small side of things.
“A question mark for us this season is going to be our size,” McLean said. “We do have some individuals with size, but for the most part we are small in stature and in depth.”
The seniors on the roster are: Nicholas Costlow (WR/DB), Luke Secrist (TE/LB), Stephen Harris (WR/LB), Ethan Marker (OL/DL), John Casinelli (OL/DL), Jacob Donley (OL/DL), Daniel Rawson (OL/DL) and Jakob Baustert (WR/DB).
The juniors are: Bailey Serevicz (K), Camden Taylor (WR/DB), Dominic Craft WR/DB), Logan Gaschler (QB/LB), Xzander Eltringham (WR/DB), Dylan Debnar (OL/LB), Caden Stevey (OL/DL), Will Garvey (OL/DL), Tanner Griffith (OL/DL), Hayden Parr (OL/DL) and Nikkolaus Kimball (WR/DB).
The sophomores are: Braelyn Sperringer (QB/DB), Anthony Bachinski (WR/DB), Gavin Moore (RB/DB), Jace Campinelli (RB/DB), Colton Palmer (WR/DB), Caden Langley (K), Gus Gilbert (WR/DB), Garrett Hornick (QB/LB), Ryan Voiers (WR/DB), Blake Turner (WR/DB), Hunter Mozingo (QB/DB), Hunter Kinsley (WR/DL), Dakota McMillian (WR/DB), Joey Clem (OL/DL), Madox Erdman (OL/LB), Mason Rees (OL/DL), John Baricska (OL/DL), Chase Felouzis (OL/DL), Blake Cole (OL/DL), Bryce Bateman (OL/DL), Tyler Wise (OL/DL), Harley Morris (OL/DL), Austin Morton (OL/DL), Nathan Kimball (OL/DL), Gavin Hastings (OL/DL) and Levi Keuthan (WR/DB).
The freshmen are: Aiden Brazeal (WR/DB), Noah McMahon (QB/LB), Joseph Hoggard (WR/LB), Dante’ Tulenko (RB/DB), Tristian Stevens (RB/DB), Chance Broztek (K), Darion Hilton (WR/LB), Garrett Moore (RB/LB), Calin Heaton (WR/DB), Seth Schroeder (OL/DL), Kennedy Jordan (OL/DL), Damian Maine (OL/DL), Slater Schroeder (OL/DL), Ryan Henderson (WR/DB) and Brayden McFarland (WR/DB).
Brooke’s success this season will depend on how fast the younger players mature.
“It depends on the time table,” McLean said. “We have a young group. We have a lot of sophomores on the team. We do have key seniors like Luke Secrist and Jacob Donley, who are oustanding student athletes and role models. They are showing the underclassmen the way.
“The young players are going to have to learn on the job against quality opponents.
“It is all going to depend on how fast our kids grow up,” McLean said. “We do not have a very forgiving schedule. It is going to be a matter of how fast our kids can improve. If we improve fast enough, I think we will be playing our best ball in October.”
The talent is there for the Bruins to be successful; however, a lot of talent is inexperienced.
“We have some good kids, but they are unproven,” McLean said. “When you get into late in the season, they are not going to be young kids anymore, they are going to be veterans. They are going to be battle-tested veterans, and we are going to get to have them for two more years — their junior and senior years.”
The Bruins have five quarterbacks on the roster, but McLean does not know which one will get the starting nod in Week 1.
“The biggest question mark for our program right now is who is going to be our quarterback,” McLean said.
Gaschler and Sperringer are competing to see who will start under center at quarterback.
Campinelli and Moore are the top two guys in the backfield. If Sperringer doesn’t win the signal caller job, he will play at wide receiver along with Costlow, Bachinski and Gilbert.
Donley – a guard — leads the way up front for the Bruins. Griffith will man the center position, and Clem will start at the tackle. There is a competition to see who will start at the other guard and tackle spots.
Donley along with Wise and Parr will lead the way on the defensive line. Secrist is the leader of the linebackers. Bachinski will start at cornerback, and he is being counted on to lead the way in the secondary.
“It’s football season,” McLean said. “The kids are excited. If it is baseball season, the kids are excited to play baseball. If it is basketball season, the kids are excited to play basketball. It’s football season, and they are excited. There has been a lot of good competition. The kids have positive attitudes. They are energized. We are just trying to fine tune some things. We are trying to fix our mistakes.”
One positive for Brooke is the Bruins are healthy as the start of the season draws near.
“Knock on wood so far so good,” McLean said. “I have talked to the staff and to the players. This is football, kids are going to get hurt. Kids are going to miss time. They are going to miss some games. They can’t have that mindset of oh no here we go again.”
McLean is surrounded by a good group of assistant coaches — Mike Bachinski, Tom Cole, Bryce Coleman, Kevin Elson, Zeke Farmer, Paul Julio, Kent Kidder, Larry Palmer, Jeromy Sadler, Ryan Scherich, Todd Sperringer, Kayla Thompson and Austin Williams.
The Bruins have made some changes to their schedule for this season, and a number of Brooke’s opponents are in the same boat as far as having to rely on younger players to get the job done.
“We want to be competitive,” McLean said. “If you look at the local teams we play, a lot of them are in a rebuilding phase. Up at Oak Glen, Ted (Arneault) graduated the best Oak Glen team ever. They should have been AA state champions. Frank (Sisinni) at Weir has a lot of young guys. Andrew (Connor) has a youth movement out at Indian Creek. These teams have a lot of young guys like we do, and we have to be able to play with them. We want to win more matchups than we lose.”
Brooke is scheduled to open the season Aug. 27 at home against Ripley, and the Bruins are looking forward to their game against the Vikings.
“Our goal is to finish the season above .500,” McLean said. “Like they say, you want to go 1-0. We are going to try and win our first one and then go from there.”