Coaches Quinn And Cathcart Share Their Thoughts On The 2022 Junior High Wildcats After Their 8-0 Season.

Photo courtesy of the Wildcats: 2022 Undefeated Junior High Wildcats

The 2022 Clarion Wildcats Junior High Football Team recently concluded an outstanding undefeated season, finishing at 8-0.

Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator Jess Quinn and Assistant Coach Randy Cathcart shared their heartfelt thoughts on the team.

Coach Quinn

Coming into the season, none of the coaching staff knew what we were going to have. There were only two players returning from last year’s team that had any significant amount of time on the field, Conner Eberhardt and Brendan Bracken, both linemen.

Sparq (strength and conditioning program) started in June and those two boys (among others) attended almost every day, lifting and running, preparing for this season. I pulled them aside one morning in the weight room and told them they would have to step up this year and lead by example. And they did not disappoint!

When the schedule came out and we saw there were 10 games (including a scrimmage in DuBois), it appeared that we would be playing for a while. In seasons past, schedules were comprised of at most, 6 or 7 games, having no scrimmage. So at first glance it looked like a long season, in Junior High terms.

We finished the season without a loss and our defense was superb in giving up only a single touchdown all season!

I can honestly say that the scrimmage in DuBois feels like it was just yesterday… actual date, August 25th.

I cannot think of a way to properly express my feeling about this group and this coaching staff.

First to the staff, Randy Cathcart. Coach Cathcart and I have been at this in one form or another for a very long time. I cannot thank him enough for keeping me calm (well somewhat calm) but being the presence that is incredibly supportive and teaches so well. I would not be coaching if not for Coach Cathcart. Coaches Ben Smith and Jared Beggs, both fantastic young men who have a demeanor that helps get the very best out of the boys. When you look at this staff, it is amazing to think of these coaches who were All-State players in their day, passing on the love and knowledge of the game to this generation of athletes. I cannot thank you all enough.

The boys are amazing young men. They know what it takes to succeed, hard work, sweat, and yes even some tears, but they understood my style and the fact that everything is constructive, only meant to get the best out of them.

In many ways our Junior High team mirrors the Varsity.

Our offense was brimming with talent. Quarterback Ethan Rex managed the offense perfectly. He has an arm that can throw the ball and country mile with precision.

In the backfield we had Alex Love and Trey Hooks. What a terrific 1-2 punch. Alex ran hard up the middle but had quick enough feet to make a cut and get to the outside and to the HOUSE! Trey had a running style that took advantage outside of the formation. He could take the ball on a jet sweep and before the defensive tackles and ends knew it, he was out of their reach and on to big yardage. Reese Runyan joined Hooks and Love in the backfield as well and for the first time running the ball, he was very effective!

At wide receiver we had quickness in Dylan Smail and Kingston Danner! The amazing thing about these two is they are as good at running the ball as they are catching it! These were two of the fastest boys on the team. Dylan Smail has one of the best set of hands I’ve seen. He has an incredible ability to adjust to the ball while it’s in the air.

Now on to the most important guys on the field – The Offensive Line!

I’ve already mentioned Conner and Brendan of which I could not be prouder. Each of these boys wanted to do more for the team, but understood the importance of getting the younger kids time on the field. Their strength and speed are only the beginning. They are very smart football players as well.

We had many different contributions from a number of players at the other three positions. Billy Kahle settled in as our starting center. Although Billy is a very young eighth grader, he never backed down from anyone who lined up across from him! The Center/Quarterback exchange is the most important part of football and was key to our success as an offense.

Our pulling guard- Kaden Phillis (along with Billy) probably took the brunt of the “constructive criticism” and never missed a step. He rose to every occasion and met every challenge we put in front of him. Kaden is a wonderful athlete who may some day run the ball for the Wildcats, but understood the need the team had this season and selflessly played guard for us.

Other linemen that saw action for the Wildcats were Jondell Jones, Patrick Durish, and Thomas Ferguson. Each boy played multiple positions all season long. They did whatever was asked of them and helped the team be as successful as it could be.

First year players Parker Miller and Marlon Lewis rounded out the offense at tight end. Both Parker and Marlon did extremely well. My hope is that both boys continue their career with the Wildcats. They have so much potential. I know Parker wishes we threw more waggles and waggle throwbacks, but that’s my fault.

Ben Naser really found a home on the defensive line this season. He played nose guard and was very hard to block! He was constantly causing havoc in the opposing team’s backfield!

I would absolutely encourage every eighth grader to move to the Junior/Varsity team next year. If you had any fun, or thought this was a special experience, keep playing! You’ll find out just how much fun it is when you are older!

The younger players on the team saw a good amount of time on the field. Brody Beggs and Carter Hindman, primarily on defense were productive for us. Brody was at cornerback and Carter at linebacker and defensive end. Each saw some time on the offensive side of the ball as well, with Brody at tailback and Carter at quarterback. Next season we expect big things from both boys!

The younger players that came to every practice and ran all the drills to only receive limited amount of time on the field understood that their time is next fall. Casey Kemmer is a very good tight end/receiver. He has outstanding hands and catches everything thrown his way. Kason Keihl, Gage Kinnan, and Lucas Ion will be an important part of the defense as linebackers and ends. Ryan Miles, and Tyler Brown as running backs, receivers and defensive backs will also have big roles for us. Jackson Mravintz has the heart of a lion! Despite his size, this young man backs down from nobody! He is one of the best tacklers on our team! Several linemen will be huge for us. Matthew Raymond is among those young men. He really came on by the end of the season on both sides of the ball.

Coach Cathcart

The Central Clarion Junior High Football Team’s defense was dominant during the 2023 campaign. 

The starting unit allowed just one touchdown (in 9 games) during the undefeated season and in several games only allowed one or two first downs. 

The defensive front-four consistently controlled the line of scrimmage and were led by Conner Eberhart, Reese Runyan, Brendan Bracken, and Kaden Phillis. 

The linebackers were Alex Love, Ethan Rex, Parker Miller, and Carter Hindman. 

The secondary consisted of safeties Dylan Smail, and Brody Beggs, and the corners were Kingston Danner, and Trey Hooks. Alex Love led the team in tackles and Ethan Rex led the team in interceptions.

Many others contributed to this group’s success (Patrick Durish, Jondell Jones, Marlon Lewis, Jackson Mravintz, Ben Naser) and the seventh grade group played a significant amount of time.  The future is bright for the Central Clarion Wildcats Football Team!

Coach Quinn’s Summary

Now the focus shifts from enjoying the fruits of our labor (an undefeated season) to begin working for next year. We are proud of the accomplishment, but we will not rest on our laurels, always pushing forward to get better and staying together. None of us can do this alone, but TOGETHER, we can accomplish great things.

To finish, this was one of the best years I’ve had coaching. One other year, the fall of ’06, is right there too. That group of boys went on to win the D9 Championship and had a deep run in the playoffs because they kept working and stayed together. This team reminds me so much of that one.

This team understood what our goals were:

#1 Learn the Game of FOOTBALL

#2 Have Fun playing the Game of FOOTBALL

#3 Win

I would like to think we did all three this year. One final note, on behalf of the team and the coaching staff, THANK YOU to all the parents who followed their boys this year and to the BOOSTER CLUB for all the support with clothing and food for away games!

As Coach Cathcart stated earlier about the team, the future is indeed bright for the Central Clarion Wildcats!

(Great Season Junior High Wildcats!!!! Thanks to Coaches Quinn and Cathcart for this article and to the Wildcats for the photo!!)