It’s a whole new season, both literally and figuratively, for Dane Sanzenbacher of Toledo Central Catholic High School, the defending Division II state football champions from the 2005 season.
No one outside of the Fighting Irish community knew a great deal about Sanzenbacher, the crafty wide receiver, going into last season, unlike this year where the entire eyes of the Ohio State football nation will be upon him.
“I feel good coming into the season. I’m even more prepared than I was last year, as far as knowing what to expect this year.” said Sanzenbacher back on the eve of his team’s first scrimmage in preparation for the 2006 season. “Last year I was kind of in the middle, not knowing really where I was going to fit in. But now I know my role and I’m going to try to fill it to the best of my ability.”
The Fighting Irish lost a great deal of talented seniors from their state championship squad, particularly on defense where they have only three starters returning on that side of the ball.
“My role is basically just to step up when I’m called upon,” Sanzenbacher said. “The other players need to trust that I’m going to be there when we need a play.”
It’s similar to what his role was last season.
“Yeah but I was kind of flying under the radar a little bit more last year,” Sanzenbacher said. “I think teams are going to be looking out for me a lot more now.”
This past year has been an incredible journey for Sanzenbacher for the most part.
“I’m not going to lie, I didn’t really expect all this,” he said. “It came pretty fast, starting off with our winning season as a team and going into the playoffs not even thinking that the state championship is that close of even hope. We were just trying to do well and do our best, and we ended up winning that and that just opened up more doors for me. And then Ohio State came along and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Even his own individual performance surprised him to a degree. Sanzenbacher got better as the season went on last year. The bigger the game, the bigger the performance that Sanzenbacher put on.
“Honestly I didn’t see much of that coming. Even I don’t know where it came from,” he said. “I just got out on the field and things started flowing and here’s where we are. But when we got into the playoffs, everybody on the team picked it up even more, escalated their play, because we had to in the situation we were in. We just did whatever we had to do to win.”
And when the state title game came around, Sanzenbacher and his teammates truly believed that they were going to beat Canfield.
“By the time we got there we had to believe,” he said. “A little earlier in the season you might have been skeptical about ‘can we even get that far’ or ‘can we win it all,’ but by the time you get to the last game you have to have confidence going into it.”
As far as this year is concerned, Sanzenbacher is out to prove that the Ohio State coaches really knew what they were after when they offered him an early scholarship after he attended their senior camp in late June.
“A lot of people think that I might be undersized or not fast enough or something like that but I guess they saw something that they liked and they want me out there and that’s definitely where I want to be,” Sanzenbacher said. “I’ve never even been to a game there yet and I can’t wait to go to one and see how it is, but every time I’ve even seen the games on television and the atmosphere there and everything, that’s the place that I want to be.”
Photo Gallery : Toledo Central Catholic's Dane Sanzenbacher