Inside the 59ers
Last season: 9-1
Returning starters: 8 (5 offense, 3 defense)
Returning offensive leader
Shamir Johnson, Sr., RB. 64 carries, 556 yards, 9 TDs.
Returning defensive leader
Nick Serrato, Sr., DL. 42 tackles, 5 sacks.
Shamir Johnson, Sr., RB. Fast and strong and a great weight room leader, the compact tailback will step into the featured role that Mason Zurek played last year en route to Times Offensive Player of the Year honors.
He's got next
Tylor Petkovich, Jr., TE/LB. Don’t check the spelling on the first name, but check out those growth plates. At 6-foot-3 he’s yet to fill out, but his body and his skill set have made considerable progress.
The Times' breakdown
Championships are not only the goal but the expectation at 5959 Broadway. Making their first appearance in the Class 2A state tournament since moving down from 3A, the 59ers committed eight turnovers and lost to Wheeler at home in the sectional opener last fall. The shocking loss soured an unbeaten regular season that included a rare win against Merrillville and marked just the program’s second first-round exit in the last 11 years. A host of talent departed, but this humble, hard-working group is eager to get better, and these players continually ask themselves how they can eliminate imperfections. “Once we mature and gain experience we’re going to be a good football team,” coach Phil Mason said. “We’re prepared to take some lumps and learn from mistakes and become a really good football team.” Mason said he still has a bad taste from the Wheeler loss, but the rest of the team has removed it from memory while working harder to curtail turnovers. Shamir Johnson will take the featured role out of the backfield, but junior QB Matt DeSomer will have to be sharper. Division I prospect Nick Serrato, Zack Kogut, Mark Dravet and Tylor Petkovich will have to carry a defense that lost eight starters. “We’re going to be a team vying for a championship,” Mason said. “What that championship will be lies with the kids.” — Paul Trembacki