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Irish looking to rebuild

Steve Dewitt has 36 seasons, 244 wins and 12 small-school playoff berths behind him.

Chances are, he’ll need every minute of that veteran, hall of fame experience to coax a lean squad of 17 through the 2013 season unscathed.

A few extra trips to Mass probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

“To tell you the truth, this is the biggest challenge that we, as a staff, have had to handle,” the Catholic Central High School football coach said.

The Irish aren’t just low on numbers, but on experience, too. Only three seniors and two juniors suit up.

“Complementing the numbers issue is the fact that we’re younger than ever before,” Dewitt said. “But we’re getting outstanding leadership out of our seniors and we’re striving to be the best we can be.”

Numerically challenged or not, Dewitt senses a bit of Rudy-esque determination in this hard-nosed bunch, who for weeks have been running the hills of Buck Creek State Park in pursuit of the best conditioning possible.

“Rudy’s a good analogy,” Dewitt said with a chuckle. “I mentioned something to them just the other day about David and Goliath, and they said, ‘Coach, do you have to get Biblical?’ But what I’ve seen out of our three seniors is a growth, a drive and a competitive spirit that disregard the past.

“When I pray to God and look down at the lower levels of football, where the numbers have actually increased, I take heart that (our situation) is just temporary.

“But at the same time, we’ve got to continue to put one foot in front of the other and get better each day. We’ve got to stay with the task at hand and be purpose-driven. These guys have accepted these challenges and they remain optimistic.”

Accepting leadership roles are seniors Cameron Luther, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound running back and linebacker, Joe Murphy, a 6-2, 210, two-way tackle, and Ryan Fain, a 6-1, 205 quarterback and defensive end.

Luther and Murphy are three-year starters. Fain has two seasons under his belt.

“I wish we had a little bit more experience to surround those guys with,” Dewitt said, “but what our young guys lack in experience they make up for in heart and desire, and I have to continue to tap into that best I can.

“I’m no Norman Vincent Peale, but looking at the possibility of things is what life’s all about, isn’t it? And for the most part these kids are. If we don’t teach our kids to work through challenges, what’s the point? What are we here for?”

Dewitt knows a thing or two about motivating players, having guided the Irish to 12 playoff appearances since 1987 (six straight from 2003-08), and a 1991, Division IV state runner-up crown.

But concern for potential injuries on such a lean, Division VII squad keeps the long-time coach up at night.

“Honestly, I don’t know how we’re going to handle it,” Dewitt said. “I wish I had something romantic to say about it, but I don’t. The kids are just going to have to step up to the challenge, and to this point, they have been.

“We ran more than 100 (scrimmage) plays at Northridge — more than an actual ballgame — and we were able to withstand that with a great deal of character. But we had a physical awakening in the Miami East scrimmage that put us back in reality.”

Central, which hosts Shawnee on Friday, advanced to postseason play in 2010 and ‘11, but has been in the throes of rebuilding since.

“I thank God for the experience and years we have on this staff, so we can just move through this,” Dewitt said. “I like the journey we’re on with this staff and these players. I see the (larger) purpose. I understand and accept that this is our job.”

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