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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

2021 Preview: Palmyra Cougars

Coach: Chris Pope

Classification: 5A

League/division: Mid-Penn Conference/Keystone     

2020 record: 3-5, 2-4

Postseason: Did not qualify


Passing: Comp-Att., Yards, TD

Seth Robertson: 19-45, 190, 0

Rushing: Att-Yards, Avg., TD

Nick Wallaesa: 70-311, 4.4, 2

Seth Robertson: 27-75, 2.8, 5

Receiving: Rec.-Yards, Avg., TD

Jacob Deimling: 12-113, 9.4, 1

Seth Robertson: 4-27, 6.8, 1

KEY PLAYERS: Rich Kowalski, sr., RB-CB; Jacob Deimling, sr., WR-DB; Brady Holwig, sr., HB-LB; Jase Jones, sr., HB-DB; Jordan Blauch, sr., OL-DT; Alex Fuhrman, sr., OL-MLB; Connor Holzman, sr., OL-DT; Dan Steskal, sr., OL-DT; Kyle Chapin, jr., OL-DL.

OUTLOOK: What to expect from Palmyra is a bit unclear after the Cougars watched the heir-apparent QB Brennan Almond transfer out of the district. Coincidently, Jordan Wamsher transferred into the district during the summer and appears to be at the front of the line to take the first offensive snap of the season under center.  While Wamsher gets acclimated to the Cougars scheme, Pope will rely on an experienced front core to punch holes and keep the chains moving on offense.

1. Altered 2020 preparations hurt Cougars

COVID-19 impacted preparations for every team entering the 2020 season, but for the Cougars who were retooling in many areas the canceled team camps, 7-on-7 work and normal camps created a ripple effect in Palmyra that lasted throughout the first half of last year. “I think the teams that had more younger kids last year got hurt a little more,” Pope said. “We had a young team, especially up front. We didn’t have the camp experience that really helps you realize how hard you have to come off the line and the level of intensity that you need to compete at this level. I feel like we were close but not quite there. It took us about four weeks to really get to where we needed to be. Then we ended up being quite successful the last part of the season.” 

2. QB shuffle and a weapon to target
The Cougars thought they knew who their next quarterback would be when Seth Robertson hung up his cleats at the conclusion of the 2020 campaign. Then Pope and the Cougars learned that Brennan Almond would be transferring out of the district. A murky situation became more clear when Jordan Wamsher, a transfer from Cedar Crest, moved into the district in time to participate in summer camps.  The 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior now appears to have a grasp on the starting role though he may not be eligible to participate in the playoffs should Palmyra qualify. But first things first: The Cougars have their answer for Week 1. “He has a real good arm,” Pope said of the new addition to the squad. “He’s a good athlete who is still learning our system and working to be consistent with this throws and timing with our receivers.” Anthony Mansfield is one of those weapons Wamsher is working to build chemistry with.Mansfield showed flashes of brilliance last year as an electric kickoff returner but needed to refine his route running. This year, he’s primed for a bigger role as a senior. “We know we need to get him the ball some how,” Pope said of Mansfield who has shown improved hands heading into Week 1. “He’s legitimately fast. When you watch his returns on video, it doesn’t even seem like he is trying to run, but he is pulling away from people and it looks effortless.”

3. Leaning on the big men

The growing pains Palmyra experienced early last season as the greenhorns were gaining experience paid dividends later in the year as the Cougars won three of its last four games. Palmyra is hoping to cash in again with the play of an experienced line that includes Jordan Blauch (6-4, 235), Kyle Chapin (6-1, 250), Daniel Steskal (5-10, 220), Luke Gaugler (6-2, 195). “We thought that our offensive line would be good and be able to be a strong point for us,” Pope said of the play of his big men in Saturday’s scrimmage against Elizabethtown. “I think they were. We did a good job against E-town, but you are always waiting to see because you don’t know until you go full gear and get out there and after it. They are going to determine a lot of what we do this year. There’s a lot of potential, but we need to work to turn it into something.”

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