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Endangered Panthers?

Mark Hazelwood • Sep 30, 2012 at 4:45 PM

No one is perfect.

That makes the challenge of turning the St. Mary Central Catholic football program into a consistent winner again in the Sandusky Bay Conference sometimes seem larger than life.

“When we have a mistake, the teams we play have too much talent and are too well-coached to let us off the hook,” third-year SMCC coach Ryan Wikel said. “We know we have to play perfect football to have a shot.”

In many ways, the Panthers are a model program. Collectively, the players have no eligibility issues. There are no school discipline problems, and the current roster has put in over 100 service hours so far this school year.

But when the Friday and Saturday night lights come on, the game itself has become a struggle for the Panthers, who are just 7-39 in the past four-plus seasons. That includes a 2-29 record in the SBC in that span, where SMCC is a small Division VI school in a conference that features two schools in Division III, and four in Division IV.

After averaging 40-plus kids per season on the roster for decades, the Panthers (1-5) broke camp this season with just 27 players, including freshmen. There is no junior varsity or freshmen team. The junior high has a combined roster of seventh and eighth-graders in the low 20s.

Faced with shrinking numbers in a conference with schools that have enrollment four times the size of SMCC, the questions about how the Panthers are surviving are getting louder with each loss, including after Friday’s 67-0 loss at Clyde.

“It’s a shame that the scoreboard has become our measuring stick, but it is,” Wikel said. “And I understand. We’re out here to win football games too, but I think what people miss is, there is so much more here going on.”

Read more on SMCC's numbers game in Sunday's Register.

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