Mike Snowberry moved to a two-platoon system five years ago for one reason.
He wanted competition every day in practice.
The Luxemburg-Casco football coach is seeing plenty of it this year from a squad needing to replace 17 starters.
Or in Snowberry’s view, gain 17 starters.
“Kids rise to the top when they are pushed,” he said. “How do you push them? You put them in a competition at a position.
“Since we’ve tried to go to the two-platoon approach, it’s made a huge difference. You can just see the atmosphere at practice because the kids don’t like to lose to each other. That’s where we feel we gain an advantage by playing 22 kids.”
Since trying to designate all of the players on the roster to exclusively playing offense or defense, the Spartans have seen a steady climb in the Bay Conference standings, finishing second to West De Pere last season.
Although its season didn’t result in a conference title or its deepest playoff run, last year’s team was arguably one of the best in program history.
It just happened to coincide with a dominant Phantoms squad, which handed the Spartans their only two losses and went 14-0 to win a second straight WIAA Division 3 state title.
The Spartans had 23 seniors on last year’s team, including the Bay’s defensive player of the year in Drew Brusoe and offensive lineman Evan Kanz, who is playing for Eastern Illinois University and is the first L-C player to earn a Division I football scholarship.
“Every practice last year was a big challenge against those guys,” senior running back Dan Alioto said. “I think that gave us a lot of experience and training to do good this year.
“We’re definitely hungry. This summer we had the most guys lifting that we ever had and the most guys running, too.”
The Spartans figure to again be a predominantly running team which mixes in short passes as an extension of its ground attack.
But it’s going to be tempting to move the ball through the air given the arm strength of junior Caleb Willems, who enters his first year as the varsity quarterback after being the pitching ace for the baseball team.
“He has a great arm,” Snowberry said. “But what he really does well is get the ball out fast.
“We’re still going to be a high completion percentage passing team. We try to throw the ball short. We’re not really going to change a whole lot of what we’re doing. The difference will be that the ball is going to get to the receivers faster, so it will give them a chance to make a bigger play.”
Snowberry feels his team is stronger than last year’s but doesn’t possess as much size.
The defense has more holes to fill than the offense, where Newton Smerchek will take over as the leader on the offensive line after being named second team all-conference. Ethan Peters, who received first-team honors as a linebacker, is one of the only returners on defense.