WHITE PIGEON — Joseph Morsaw has no problem making his team’s lofty goals public. He and the White Pigeon Chiefs are after a St. Joseph Valley league championship in the final year of the conference.
After a 2-7 record last year in his first season at the helm, bumping Mendon out of the pole position will require few mistakes and some luck. And the Chiefs are going to find out just how close they really are to competing for a league title and qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2009 in the first few weeks of this season with Thursday’s road game at Union City and a visit from Watervliet in Week 3 — both postseason teams from a year ago.
“The outlook for this team is to battle Mendon for the top spot in the conference and win the last SJV football conference title,” Morsaw said bluntly. “Our team is looking to make the playoffs and run deep into November. We expect those two games (Union City and Watervliet) to be benchmark games to measure our team’s ability to make a quality run at conference and playoffs.”
Both sides of the ball struggled mightily at times in 2012, with the Chiefs losing their first three games by a combined score of 147-50. White Pigeon regrouped with back-to-back victories over New Buffalo and Centreville, allowing just 16 total points in those two contests, and mostly kept pace with Bronson in a 22-14 loss in Week 6. The offense produced just 15 points over the final three games and the defense surrendered 124 points to close the year against Mendon, Climax-Scotts and Cassopolis.
However, like with any coaching change, Morsaw believes the groundwork has been laid and that positive results are just around the corner.
“The team stuck together to finish the season and support each other throughout the school year,” Morsaw said. “They worked hard to build up the program and get things moving in the right direction for the program, school and community. They took the ideas we introduced, such as family and tradition, and embraced them into their daily life. Those qualities have been passed on to the next generation and we expect the same with the 2013 season.
This year’s squad boasts plenty of talent, including the return of senior Cahil Krajniak (5-foot-11, 157 pounds), a running back and safety hampered by injuries in 2012. He rushed for 6.6 yards per carry in limited action and will lead the Chiefs’ secondary this fall. Classmate Chas Rathburn (5-9, 172) led the program in rushing last season and averaged 5.3 yards per take. He completes what should be a solid 1-2 punch for the White Pigeon backfield. Rathburn also registered a team-high 72 tackles and seven sacks at linebacker.
Senior quarterback Matt Eger (5-7, 171) is back for his third year behind center and is a solid decision maker guiding the offense. With the ability to extend and make plays with his legs, the Chiefs will need that athleticism from him at cornerback as well. Junior Trampus Whitaker (6-0, 223) and senior Connor Mroz (5-11, 212) hold down both lines, with Mroz expected to spend more time at tight end than tackle this year to help the Chiefs set the edge for the ground attack. Junior wideout/safety Donavon Gremore (5-9, 136) also brings experience to the table and will be a critical piece of the White Pigeon defense.
WHITE PIGEON CHIEFS
Coach: Joseph Morsaw (2-7 record, 2nd year)
2012 records: 2-7 (1-2 SJV, 3rd place)
Key players: Cahil Krajniak (Sr., RB/S), Chas Rathburn (Sr., RB/LB), Donavon Gremore (Jr., WR/S), Dylan Hochstetler (Jr., QB/DB), Matt Eger Sr., QB/CB), Trampus Whitaker (Jr., OL/DL), Connor Mroz (Sr., TE/LB), Shaun Harmon (Sr., RB/LB).
Aug. 29 at Union City
Sept. 6 THREE OAKS RIVER VALLEY
Sept. 13 WATERVLIET
Sept. 20 at New Buffalo
Sept. 27 CENTREVILLE
Oct. 4 at Bronson
Oct. 11 at Mendon
Oct. 18 at Lawton
Oct. 25 CASSOPOLIS