Losing the program’s best-ever rusher, statistically, is usually enough to make any team take a step back.
But the Shippensburg football team has no such plan.
Returning most of its key players from last year’s team that advanced to the District 3 Class 5A playoffs, the Greyhounds, who finished last season with a 10-2 record, bring lofty expectations into this year. Ship opens its season on Friday at Dover at 7 p.m.
“We have a lot of seniors and a lot of experience on this team,” Ship coach Eric Foust said. “We return four guys on the line, our quarterback, most of our receivers and running backs.”
Gone is Adam Houser, who finished his career with the Hounds last year by breaking both the single-season rushing record and the career rushing record. But the backfield will still feature returning seniors Jacob Loy and Alex Sharrow, who was off to a hot start last year before missing the final half of the season because of injury.
“Jacob was our second-leading rusher last year, and Alex was having a good season before the injury,” Foust said. “Max Kalb and Delonte Wilson will also do some things for us in the backfield. We don’t expect to replace Adam with just one player, but we think we have the pieces to still remain efficient in the run game.”
At quarterback, junior Zack Manning returns after a season in which he wasn’t asked to do much in the passing game. That figures to change this season.
Said Foust, “I think the difference in him this year is night and day. Obviously, he’s gotten bigger, stronger and faster, but I think his confidence is something that really sticks out to me. He carries himself as a leader, and he works with his teammates well.”
At receiver, nearly all of Shippensburg’s skill positions return, headed by tight end Nick Gustafson. Isaiah Houser and Anthony Smith also figure to get plenty of action in the pass game.
“Our style historically has been a run-heavy style, but that could be tough to do with this group of receivers. We’re excited to see what we have in that aspect. We want to put the ball in the hands of people that are going to make plays,” said Foust.
On the offensive line, Rook Smith, Carter Craig, Noah Foust and Colton Musser all return to work in the trenches. Dalton Foore will fill in the 5th spot for the Greyhounds.
“Our offensive line probably averages about 250 pounds across the board,” Foust said.
Defensively, Shippensburg doesn’t feature a ton of standout talent, but Foust believes it will be deep enough to be a strong unit.
He said, “We don’t really have any stars, I’d say, but I think we have a lot of good players that will contribute for us.”
Up front, Eric Reed, Craig and Smith will anchor the line, while Musser and Foust will be the keys at linebacker. Gustafson, Mac Cramer and Derek Kunkleman are also expected to contribute at linebacker. Loy will be featured at strong safety, while Christian Melendez will start at free safety. At the cornerback position, Foust expects Houser, Sharrow, Kalb and Wilson to all contribute.
“We’ve looked good in our scrimmages, but you never quite know how to judge your team when you don’t exactly know where the other teams will fall,” Foust said. “But I do know that our program is expected to win, and I think we will be able to keep that winning going and have another successful season.”