Season Preview: Perryville Pirates hope to leave rough water

Thursday, August 25, 2011
LEFT: Junior Chris Zahner will step into the starting spot at quarterback for the Pirates.
ABOVE: Perryville senior Kirk Hadler (4) will have double duty as both a linebacker on defense and running back on offense.

Mike Wojtczuk took over as coach after Perryville endured an 0-10 season in 2010

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- Senior Wyatt McAfee acknowledges it's been a rough stretch for Perryville over the last two seasons, but he said a new attitude has swept through the Pirates program.

"Everybody is a lot more excited than they were last year, with the whole new coach and everything," he said. "I think we are all in this to turn it around and we're all excited about that.

"It's going to take a lot. Everybody's got to do their job and focus. I know we can all feel how hard this is going to be, but everybody wants it really bad. I believe we can do it if we all stick in there."

The Pirates are mired in a 12-game losing streak after going 0-10 in 2010. They have posted a 1-19 record over the last two seasons.

Perryville's Chris Zahner looks for an opening Friday, August 19, 2011 as Scott City High School hosts Perryville and St. Vincent's during the 2011 high school football jamboree. (Laura Simon)

But the Pirates don't want to hear about the past. Mike Wojtczuk took over for Keith Winkler as coach last month and has preached patience and staying competitive.

Wojtczuk was going to be the offensive coordinator before abruptly taking over for Winkler, so Wojtczuk already knew he wanted to make changes on offense.

"I knew one of the strong points for us this year was going to be our offensive line," Wojtczuk said. "I feel like we're big and strong up front. We're going to be young, but we're big and strong up front. I felt like whatever offense we decided we needed to do, we needed to take advantage of that and to be able to develop our running game a little bit more. We've got some nice backs in the backfield. We're really quick."

The Pirates lost running back Garrett Flentge, so McAfee and Kirk Hadler should see plenty of action in the backfield.

"Pretty much pounding them on the line and then we have some pass plays, of course," McAfee said about the offense. "A lot of play action, but primarily run."

Perryville also must replace Joey Bauwens at quarterback. Junior Chris Zahner will step into that position.

"We've got people flying from every which direction," Zahner said about the offense. "It's a pretty basic offense. It was a lot more simpler than last year."

Wojtczuk said Zahner's style also helped lead him to change the offensive strategy.

"Our quarterback is more suited for the run game than a spread it out and sling it everywhere passing game," Wojtczuk said. "Don't get me wrong, he can throw the football if he needs be. He's kind of a runner, too. That's kind of the reason why we went with this style of offense."

Senior Josh Pellikan, who will move to center for the first time, said the young offensive line is coming together.

"We've got to be disciplined, that's the main thing," Pellikan said. "We've got to trust our other teammates that they're going to do their jobs and we just have to do our own job."

The Pirates allowed 432 points last season, but they've retooled their defense in preparation for this season.

"In the past, we've been more of a 4-3 type tackling defense," Wojtczuk said. "The defense we're running this year is more of a situational style defense."

McAfee, who also plays linebacker, said he's noticed a huge difference in the defense this season.

"Last year, one of our big problems it seemed like was our defensive line was getting blown back into our linebackers a lot," he said. "That would make it hard for our linebackers to get any plays. This year, even in the scrimmages and everything, we're getting a lot more pressure and pushing them back. Our guys are able to fly in there more."

Hadler, who also will play linebacker, acknowledged proper defensive positioning will be crucial to success.

"We can't get beat deep," he said. "Last year there was a lot of getting beat deep. We got to read pass, read run and really go in there and fill holes."

Senior defensive end Robert Brewer said the defense will be quick but won't be afraid to crunch opponents.

"We'll get there, wrap up and make tackles," he said. "But if we have to be nasty, we can."

Perryville's schedule is challenging. The Pirates face seven teams that made the playoffs last season, including their first four opponents.

"What you've got to do is as the schedule gets tougher, you've got to get better as a team," Wojtczuk said. "You know that those teams are there and that the way your schedule is set up you've got to make the best of it."

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