Don’t call it a comeback. Ethan Schwesinger has been here for years.
Unfortunately, two ACL tears have kept the 6-foot-2 tight end and linebacker off the field for much of the past two years.
Schwesinger missed the entire 2016 season and only played in six games last year, yet he was the fifth-leading tackler on the team with 70 takedowns, and third on the team in receiving yards with 664 on 46 receptions.
Now that he’s fully healthy and cleared to play, Schwesinger thinks his best is yet to come.
“I’m much more comfortable mentally and physically. It’s the strongest I’ve ever been,” Schwesinger said. “I’m not taking anything for granted, play every play as hard as I can. Two seasons in a row, with the injury, it’s done right there, so I think the extra motivation will help me push harder and work harder.”
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Santa Clarita Christian’s starting quarterback Blake Kirshner, who had an array of weapons to throw to last year including Kade Kalinske and Schwesinger’s younger brother Carson, is looking forward reconnecting with his senior tight end.
“I’m excited to have Ethan back,” Kirshner said. “It was rough without him, but now he’s back and fully into practice and hitting, I’m just excited.”
Added Kalinske: “Ethan is a gamechanger, a big body who just makes plays. We struggle with him out because he just makes everybody better, so having him out there suited up, the team’s energy picked up in practice seeing him in pads and able to run again.”
Even with Schwesinger missing half of the season, Kirshner was able to put up big numbers last year by spreading the ball to his numerous receivers.
The Cardinals’ quarterback threw for 3,905 yards and 48 touchdowns last season, helping lead the team to an 11-1 season and a Division 13 playoff berth.
The team’s only loss came to Santa Clara in the second round of the playoffs, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of the SCCS players. They’ll have a chance to make up for it as they take on Santa Clara in the first game of this season.
“We are really focusing on Santa Clara cause that killed us in the playoffs last year. It destroyed us.” Kalinske said. “We’re really focused on beating them Week 1 and just working hard to beat everyone after and hopefully go undefeated again just like last year.”
Junior Lucas Pettee, who rushed for 991 yards and 10 touchdowns on 122 carries last season, returns as the team’s lead running back. Though SCCS’s offense focuses on four and five wide receiver sets, we can expect more from the ground game this season.
“We’re going to work in a lot more running plays,” Kirshner said. “While we’re going to stick to what we do best which is a passing offense, the more balanced you are the better, so the running game is going to be a bigger part of our game.”
That includes Kirshner’s own ability to run the ball, a new facet of his game that he worked on since last season concluded.
“I’ve been working on my footwork this year and speed,” he said. “You guys are going to see me getting more out of the pocket and running more of the read option.”
While the Cardinals’ offense is set to be even more dynamic this season, the team will still rely on what it does best — passing.
“We’re going to use our pass attack like we’ve always done,” Kalinske said. “With three out of our four receivers being seniors, we’re stacked. Our offense should be great.”