The 2017-2018 Panther Football Team has surely left its mark on the high school football arena. With its 7-2 record, at the time of this article, the team had proved its worth with coming from behind victories against West Allegheny and Fox Chapel. This team is a culmination of years of hard work, camaraderie, new leadership, and student support from the outside.
In the 2017-2018 season, the team was greeted by a newly revived student section to cheer them to victory. Student Section Leader, Angelo Rhad, said, “I think that the student section has changed a lot this year because we have been to every game, home and away, supporting the boys out there, having a good time. I think the main reason we changed is that we changed the atmosphere to more of a positive atmosphere. We’re hoping we have a huge influence on [the team]. We like to think we help them win games, but they’re pretty solid.”
Along with the student section, the players on the team also had their impressive coaching staff behind them. On his transition to the high school, new coach, Mr. Junko, said, “My transition to St. Clair has been fantastic; the kids are great to be around. My favorite part of the day is being out there with the St. Clair kids. I really enjoy it”
As far as plans for playoffs and beyond, Coach Junko said, “Well, you never know, we have [one] more game to finish out. We need to the year finish strong; it helps our seeding. So, our focus right now is getting a good seed for the playoffs and making sure we finish out the regular season the right way.”
Even though the team is doing considerably well, Assistant Coach Mr. Robbins said, “This team, I think, still hasn’t peaked; we still haven’t played our best game, you know, from start to finish. We’re kind of waiting for that to happen. But if we keep working toward what we’re trying to accomplish, eventually we’ll put a full game together. And I think the sky’s the limit. I feel we can really go far, but we gotta put a full game together.”
He notes that “the boys” perform so well in part because “they are a close-knit group. These boys have grown up playing the game together. They’ve been successful, ever since the third grade, and they’ve remained friends all the way through.”
With the coaching staff and student section, the players were surely destined to succeed. Senior Phil Elias said that team was so strong this year because “everyone on the team’s likes each other, so I feel that the bond we have represents on the field.”
Phil’s plans for the end of the season include “hopefully bring back the Upper St. Clair football tradition that’s usually going far, winning a WPIAL, we made that a goal since day one and we wanna accomplish that.”
In addition to Phil, senior Dom Cepullio says that the team is performing so well because ‘as a group, we definitely get along better.” He also feels that the team has stronger leadership this year.
It is no doubt that this team is a hard match to face. What they will do in the playoffs is uncertain, but it is certain that this team will go far.