Matt Warta is excited to be coaching the Centre Cougars this year. The 1999 Centre graduate was a member of the 1997 football team that won the state championship.
He started that year as a defensive end and played under three different coaches: Bud Peterson, Stan Wiles, and Justin Rediker.
“I played for three of the best coaches a high school athlete could ask for,” he said.
A Rule 10 coach, Warta is a kindergarten through fourth grade paraeducator and teacher’s aide.
Centre plays 8-man football. Warta is pleased that the team has seven returning starters who will play on both sides of the ball and serve on special teams.
Seniors include lineman Brendon Bina, receiver Dylan Deines, and quarterback Cole Methvin.
Juniors include Cody Svoboda, a kicker, Max Svoboda, a punt and kickoff returner, and Jacob Bittle, center lineman.
Sophomore Kyle Naerebout, at 280 pounds, contributes strength to the line.
“If he works hard and gives 100 percent effort, he will definitely be an animal out there,” Warta said. “Truthfully, all of my players have made improvements. I wish I could talk about all of them.”
Warta said sophomore Xavier Espinoza is a “great young man with loads of talent.” He is a split end, safety, and kick returner.
“I am very excited to see what he will do this year,” Warta said.
Jensen Riffel, a freshman, is another player with promise. Warta said Riffel loves the game of football and probably will play fullback and middle linebacker.
“I have high hopes for him,” the coach said.
Freshman Braxton Smith will be the backup quarterback.
“I have a great group of young student athletes,” Warta said. “To be honest, the season will go how our players want it to go. The result is all up to them and how they play. Regardless of how the season ends, I just want our athletes to enjoy the game of football while giving their best effort out there.”
The Cougars are in a new district and will face four new teams this season. Warta believes the team is balanced on offense and defense and should do well.
Kelly Steiner and Tim Vinduska are his assistants.
Centre finished last year’s season at 4-6. The team hopes to improve on that record and possibly go all the way.
“It would be awesome to have a ring as a state champion and another as a coach,” Warta said.
They will face Little River on the road Friday in their first game of the season.