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PUTTING IN WORK: Wildcats Football Making the Most of Offseason with Eyes on Big Season

Monday, February 12, 2024 @ 01:02 AM

Posted by Owen Krepps

CLARION Pa. (EYT)- While the spotlight is currently on the undefeated Central Clarion wrestling team, their gridiron counterparts are quietly laying the groundwork for success.

(Pictured above, Central Clarion coach Jase Ferguson talks with third-year Head Coach Dave Eggleton/photo by Kirkland Photography.)

The Wildcats football team, fueled by their remarkable 2023 season, is working hard behind the scenes, intent on extending their legacy of success.

Made up of athletes from Clarion, Clarion-Limestone, and North Clarion, Eggleton’s team is coming off an outstanding 11-1 season that ended in a 46-30 state playoff loss to Westinghouse.

While many glance at a team made up of three schools and automatically assume they will be competitive, Eggleton says the team’s success comes from the players’ work ethic, especially in the offseason.

“It is all because of the work ethic of our players,” said Eggleton. “It wasn’t a fluke. Many people think when you put three schools together that they are automatically going to be good. They don’t understand the work that these guys are putting in during the offseason.”

Central Clarion football coverage on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.

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The hard work paid off on both sides of the ball this past season. Led by junior quarterback Jase Ferguson, Central Clarion’s offense averaged 56.8 points per game and outscored opponents 682-145.

“That offseason preparation really helped us,” said Eggleton. “It also helped to have a kid like Jase running the offense. A lot of that starts with the quarterback. We also had a great offensive line, great running backs, and great receivers. It all kind of just came together.”

According to Eggleton, one of the biggest benefits of having a combined team is that it motivates kids to condition more in the offseason to work harder to earn a roster spot.

“When you have a team of 18-20 kids, you have a handful of kids that can come day one of the season and still probably start just because of the lack of kids,” said Eggleton. “Having a little bit more competition inside the school, guys know that if they want to get on the field, they not only have to show up for the season work, but they have to put the time in during the offseason.”

And unlike in smaller schools, the players who lose out on those varsity roster spots still get to play, as the junior high and junior varsity teams have healthy schedules and rosters.

“The co-op design allows kids to play at the appropriate level,” said Eggleton. “We have a really solid junior high program and a really solid JV schedule and then, obviously, our varsity schedule. So, it gives kids the opportunity to play and play at the appropriate levels, too.”

Seeing this, kids from all three schools are flocking to come out and play football for Central Clarion as nearly 100 kids are currently playing in the program.

“Our numbers last year were fantastic,” said Eggleton. “We were in the mid-50s at the varsity level and then at the junior high level, we were in the mid-30s. So that is pushing 90-100 kids in the program all together.”

Like any team, the Wildcats will lose several key seniors to graduation. But with a wide variety of interested football players coming up, they have an opportunity to continue their success.

“Our JV team was undefeated last year, and they went out and played some tough competition,” said Eggleton. “We also have a lot of varsity starters back and a lot of young guys that were playing JV last year that feel like they are ready to make varsity. We are excited about our opportunities for this upcoming season.”

Until then, the Wildcats will continue to work on what Eggleton believes is a major key to his team’s success, that being hard work and dedication during the offseason.

Central Clarion football coverage on Explore and D9Sports.com is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.
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