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The first day in full pads, a bright sun and quick-moving drills combined to have sweat flow freely on Aug. 17 as the Elizabeth High School football team prepared for the coming season.
“We have a lot of kids coming back and our strength is in our upper class. We also have pretty good depth, particularly at the skill positions,” Cardinals coach Mike Zoesch said as he watched the team warm up. “We have pretty good size but, of course, you always wish you had bigger kids. But what our guys lack in size, they make up in heart and determination.”
Eight players from the 2016 team graduated, and since five of them were starters, the coach expected experienced players in just about every position, and he believes Elizabeth will be a stronger team this year.
The Cardinals were 4-5 overall and 3-2 in Class 2A League last season. The team scored 198 points and opponents scored 178 points against them. They are in the same league this season. League opponents include Kent Denver, Elizabeth and Sheridan.
Zoesch did say the said the turnout was a little less than last year, with 58 on the roster so far this season. He said he is going to try to field three teams — varsity, junior varsity and C-level — but he will see how that works out with the number of players available.
“Offensively we’ll keep the ball on the ground most of the time,” the coach said. “Our strength will be and has always been our defense. Defensive has always been our focus and we will probably be a salty defensive team this season. We have strength in the defensive line, at linebackers and in the secondary.”
Senior Nate Spidel will play defensive end and offensive tackle for the Cardinals this season.
“I feel I will be a much better player this season because of the experience I have had and the things I have learned playing varsity football for the Cardinals for the last two seasons,” he said. “I like playing offense but I really like playing defensive tackle because I like hitting guys on the other side of the ball.”
He said defensively the toughest play he has to deal with is the counter, which appears to be going in one direction but the runner comes back the other way.
“It is a hard play to defend,” he said. “But you just have to learn to read the other team’s offense and be ready to fill the gap when they do run the counter.”
He said his personal goal is to be dominant at both positions he plays, but he also said his goal is to be a leader, help his team pull together to win games and make it to the playoffs.
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