WELLSBURG — Brooke football coach Mac McLean led the Bruins to a 5-4 season last year and while that was a great improvement, he is ready to focus on the upcoming campaign.
“Every interview I’ve had this year starts out talking about last season,” McLean said. “We played older than we actually were but we had some key injuries.
“Now our expectations are to take the next step forward this season.”
In order to take that next step, the Bruins will have to do so without some key players who graduated last year.
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) all picked up diplomas last year.
“Jake Donley, Luke Secrist, and Dan Rawson were all OVAC All-Stars,” McLean said. “It will be rough replacing them but they left good ground work behind them.”
Coach Mac McLean discusses the upcoming campaign
Despite the loss of some key pieces, McLean is thrilled about the number of upperclassmen on this year’s roster.
“We have two big strengths this season,” McLean said. “Our senior leadership and the numerical size of our junior class. Our juniors were a huge part of what we did last year and it’s good to have them back. As far as senior leaders go, Logan Gaschler, Tanner Griffith and Will Harvey have each been in our program for a long time and they have stepped up and become vocal leaders for us.”
Leading the offensive line this year will be Griffith, along with juniors Blake Cloe, Bryce Bateman and Joey Clem, along with sophomore Slater Schroeder.
“We’re excited about the experience on our offensive line,” McLean said. “Jake Donley is the only part of our offensive line who is departing. Tanner Griffith played center last year for us and he is a hard-nosed high school player. Joey Clem started every game last year and Blake Cloe is back, too. He started every game at tackle last year and Slater Schroeder started every game at guard last year. Bryce Bateman is new up front as it stands right now.”
The quarterback position is another strength for Brooke as junior Braelyn Sperringer returns after a strong sophomore campaign.
“Sperringer is back for his junior year and he had a breakout season last year,” McLean said. “He’s excited to take the next step. He is mature beyond his years. His freshman year he was a wide receiver but he picked up the reins last year and he earned himself some accolades. He works on everything. He’s a three-sport letterman and he’s really filled out a good bit. He’s a more physical presence now I believe.”
Juniors Jace Campinelli and Gavin Moore are back to handle the carries out of the backfield, while juniors Anthony Bachinski and Gus Gilbert will be solid receivers for McLean.
“Both of our running back got carries last year in Jace Campinelli and Gavin Moore,” McLean said. “They both had pretty good seasons on both sides of the ball. Anthony Bachinski and Gus Gilbert were both injured last year so I’m excited about having both of them back on the field together at the same time spreading out a defense.”
Junior tight end Garrett Hornick is also an asset in Brooke’s offense.
“Garrett is a very capable blocker at tight end,” McLean said. “He had four touchdown receptions last year, too, so he is also a good pass-catching tight end.”
The defensive end position is uncertain at the moment but McLean will count on some key veterans on defense.
“Our biggest question mark is defensive end,” McLean said. “Tanner Griffith saw the most reps at defensive tackle. Junior Mason Rees will see time on the line and senior Blake Shorts has had a knee injury that cost him two seasons but he is coming back for his senior year and we’re excited to have him.
“Sophomore Garrett Moore and Logan Gaschler are going to be at linebacker and we’ll be rotating a lot of guys at middle linebacker with Rees, sophomore Darion Hilton and Campinelli. We have the entire secondary coming back, too, led by Gavin Moore and Bachinski.”
Seniors looking to fill key roles will be James Griffith, Camden Taylor and Josh Chamberlain.
Juniors in the mix for valuable minutes are Tristan Emery, Gavin Hastings, Gabe Brewer, Hunter Knisley, Steven Miller, Caden Langley, Harley Morris, Coltan Palmer, Dakota McMillan, John Baricska and Chase Felouzis.
Sophomores vying for bigger roles include Owen Haught, Triston Stevens and Dante Tulenko.
Freshman aiming to bust on the scene are Alex Dunn, Ethan Fisher, Conner Ray, Aiden Lathen, Ty Sperringer, Aiden Provenzano, Anthony Perloski, Marcus Reed, Landon Tibbs, Rocco Sacripanti, Jude Blake, Dominick Carbasho, Tajeh Black, Aiden Stock, Orrin Newton, Cole Henry, Kolton Eltringham, Antonio Mazza and Christian Kellar.
“Last year we ended up looking in at the playoffs,” McLean said. “We want to play some bonus football this year but we have to win the first one before we can worry about other things. We’re young but talented. We’ve got some strength to compete with teams on our schedule. Our one weakness is depth but hopefully we won’t have to worry about injuries. It should be an exciting year.”
Joining McLean on the sideline are assistant coaches Paul Julio, Ryan Scherich, Jeromy Sadler, Mike Bachinski, Zeke Farmer, Tom Cole, Koty Hudson, Austin Williams, Larry Palmer, Todd Sperringer, Kevin Elson, John Emery, Eric Waters, Rich Henry and Brian Davis.