PC fall sports take a turn for the best

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Ellie Geib and Maya Garrison, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Staff Writer

2020 has not only been a year of “firsts” nationally and globally, but also for Portage Central athletics. In a year full of challenges, setbacks, and surprises, our teams have persevered and been extremely successful. For the first time since 2016, the Portage Central Football team has advanced to the second round of playoffs with an impressive 28-12 win over Jackson. Portage Central Volleyball swept long-time rival Mattawan in three sets for the first time in five years this past Monday, and defeated Portage Northern last night, earning the title of District Champions. 

 

FOOTBALL: 

 

Up until Mid-September, there was great uncertainty about the football season, if there would be one, and how it would look. Regardless of the game cancellations, COVID-19 restrictions, mask requirements, and low capacity stadiums, the Portage Central Football team has had an exceptionally successful season compared to past years. Although their season started off rough, with a cancelation of the first game due to COVID-19, and three losses following, the Mustangs ended their regular season strong with two big wins over Battle Creek Central and Gull Lake, advancing them to the playoffs, where they won the first round against Jackson. 

 

“I feel that in our last couple of games, we started to click on offense, defense, and special teams. Winning my first playoff game was so much fun, and to know that we were one of the schools moving forward was an awesome feeling,” Senior Wilson Schnurstein said. “Making it to the second round of the playoffs is a nice reward after all the years of hard work.” 

 

Over the season, players have had to change the way they play due to COVID-19. They have to wear plastic shields over their helmets to act as masks, play with lower capacity stadiums with not as much encouragement from the student section and parents, and participate in social distancing protocols. In addition to these daily changes, they were not able to participate in their normal summer camps and practices to get ready for the season, and their first three regular season games were canceled. 

 

“This year our practice schedule was all messed up compared to last year,” junior Tyler Stolsky said. “First we were going to play, then we weren’t, then we were playing, it was a big mess. But as soon as we got our groove we were good.”

 

Despite all of these obstacles, the team has grown together this season, pushing through all of the challenges together, which shows in their performance during games and practices. 

 

“I think that something that is different on this team than any other, is the junior and senior class are all just really good friends,” Schnurstein said. “I really like to be around all of them and I think the bond that we have made over the past three years is very strong.” 

 

The football team advances to the second round of playoffs against East Lansing tonight, in hopes of continuing their season. 

 

 

VOLLEYBALL: 

 

Similar to the football team, volleyball players have overcome many obstacles this year to succeed collectively as a team. It was not until early September that they knew they would be able to have a season. Players trained in the preseason on the turf on McCamley Field, and the usual summer camps and practices did not occur. However, players have not allowed COVID-19 to impact their success as a team, and have defeated Mattawan, Sturgis, and Portage Northern in postseason play, earning the title of District Champions for the first time since 2016. 

 

With little time to train on the court before their first game, the team has greatly improved over the course of the season. It took time for every player to become confident in each other and really trust each other. Junior Mehl Hansen said that it took time for players to build on their individual strengths, but also how to work together as a team. 

 

“This is definitely a different season, and we have never seen anything like this before. I think finally beating Mattawan this year in the first round of districts, on top of COVID-19 made it extra special,” Hansen said. “We don’t know when the last game is this season and we don’t know what next season looks like, and I think that is a good reminder to continue to play with heart and not take for granted what we have.” 

 

In a normal year, the stands would be filled with spectators and fans cheering players on as they continue to move through district and postseason play. For the whole season, tickets have been limited per player due to COVID-19. 

 

“Usually we are allowed to have our friends come and watch us play, but that has become extremely limited now,” senior Madison Dorff said. “However, it is really nice to be able to still have a season within this pandemic. We all feel really lucky to be able to come into the gym everyday and do something we love.” 

 

Amidst this unprecedented time, the Portage Central Volleyball team is thankful for the season they have been fortunate to have, and hopes to continue their success in regional play. 

 

 

PC: Action Exposure Photography