Greyhound football, coming off a historic 10-0 regular season and a trip to the District 3 Class 5A Quarterfinals in 2019, is chasing perfection once again this fall.
They have no other choice. With District 3 limiting the number of 5A playoff teams to just four in 2020, the ‘Hounds will most likely have to repeat that feat in order to achieve their goal of a long postseason run.
For the Greyhounds, led by an experienced core that includes senior quarterback Zack Manning, the pressure to once again be perfect is not something that is going to derail their season.
“We are not going to worry about the pressure, nobody is really thinking about it,” Manning said. “We are going to do what we did last year. That is our plan, to make the playoffs. We don’t care how many teams there are.”
Unlike most teams, the Greyhounds have been there before. They know what it takes to finish the regular season unbeaten, and they believe that they can do so again.
“We don’t look at pressure like that and we don’t look ahead. Our goal is to win every week. The nice thing about being undefeated and having the success that we’ve had is that some of the swagger we have comes from it,” said Shippensburg head coach Eric Foust. “We look at our schedule and nobody is going to say, ‘We can only win four because these three teams are going to beat us.’ I’m not willing to say that there are three teams, two teams or even one team that is going to beat us.”
The Greyhounds enter the 2020 season with a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the football, returning just three starters on offense -- Zack, senior wide receiver Isaiah Houser and senior offensive lineman Dalton Foore -- and two on defense -- Isaiah and junior defensive lineman Anthony Smith.
“I think we have good cornerstones with Zack and Isaiah,” Coach Foust noted. “It’s very difficult right now because normally the decisions we have all summer to make we have a week and a half to make. We aren’t nearly as comfortable [with our lineup] as we were last year at this time. There are still more questions.”
Offensively, the ‘Hounds will look to take advantage of Zack behind center, offering a thunder and lightning combo through the air with a deep threat in Isaiah and a goal line target in the 6-foot-7-inch Smith along the flank.
Zack is entering his third year as the Greyhound signal caller. Last season, he posted 1,054 passing yards and 15 touchdowns. Isaiah, meanwhile, recorded 29 receptions for 657 yards and 10 TDs.
“I expect great things out of Zack. I think that we’ll throw the ball more and that offense will suit him a little different then maybe it has in the past. But he is ready for that,” said the Shippensburg head coach. “We have a lot of weapons at receiver with Isaiah and Anthony. Erby Weller has done a nice job for us and Jeremy Thomas has been a real pleasant surprise. We have a lot of good receivers that’ll help Zack along, we just need to find our identity.”
Anthony, meanwhile, made a lot of news over the summer, with offers pouring in from D-1 schools. He will take on a much larger role for the Greyhounds on both sides of the ball.
“It never changed my mindset,” Anthony said of his busy summer. “I just tried to work as hard as I can. Coming into this season, I have the same goal as last year; I just want to win.”
Said Coach Foust, “I’m really pleased with the maturity that [Anthony] has developed over the offseason. He’s grown as a leader. When you get those D-1 offers you worry that the kid is going to be too big for the team, but it has almost humbled him. He is a much better teammate and an even better kid.”
Defense has always been a strength for the Greyhounds, and despite the turnover they are confident in this year’s group. One that has worked hard and patiently waited for their turn on varsity.
“Our linebackers are physical,” Isaiah noted. “They might not be as big as we’ve had in the past, but we’ve got speed and they can get to holes and get to gaps. Us defensive backs, we are as confident as ever. I think the defense will be fine. Everyone from last year is stepping up and has gotten a lot better. I am very confident that we can be even better than last year.”
“We have a great junior group of defensive players that we are going to find out if they are ready to play or not. Right now, we don’t know,” Foust added. “Almost all of these kids I’ve known since youth football. They played the same defense and a lot of them have played the same position since they were 10 or 11. I thought we had a good JV team last year with our defense. But they have to figure out what Fridays mean.”
For the returning players, the goal for this season is not just to finish undefeated, they want to bring a district title to Shippensburg.
“A district championship is on our mind. That is what we didn’t do last year,” Zack stated.
“We’ve only got seven games, but we are going to try and make the most of it,” said Isaiah.
2020 Greyhound Football Schedule
Friday, Sept. 25, Waynesboro Away, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 2, Mechanicsburg Home, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 9, Northern Away, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 16, West Perry Home, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 23, East Pennsboro Away, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30, Greencastle Home, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 6, Susquehanna Twp. Home, 7 p.m.