Grappling his way through a challenge is nothing new to Cole Macek.
As a star wrestler at Montour High School, Macek also knows a little something about quick decision-making and what's needed to dominate an opponent.
Entering his third year as a returning starter on the Spartans football team, Macek hopes to use those attributes to make a smooth transition on defense, shifting from defensive end to middle linebacker.
"It's been a challenge," said Macek, a Kennedy Township resident. "It's a very difficult position, but I feel I have a nose for the ball. I'm still learning to read the offensive linemen, but I've been getting more and more comfortable."
A 6-foot, 225-pound tailback/linebacker, Macek is expected to play a key role on both sides of the ball this season.
"Cole has a strong work ethic," Montour coach Lou Cerro said. "Moving to the linebacker spot, Cole has had to learn the different reads. He's done a lot of work to prepare for the transition.
"Being that he's a successful wrestler, he understands the movement needed to play the position. With his toughness and his strong ability to move side to side, this is a position at which he should be able to succeed."
On offense last season, Macek rushed for 454 yards and seven touchdowns on 92 carries.
"Cole brings a lot to the field for us," Cerro said. "His best attribute is his toughness. He's played some running back for us and always gets the tough yards we need."
Macek already has gained interest from more than a few Division I-A and I-AA football programs, including Pitt, William & Mary, Ohio University, James Madison, Richmond, Temple, Villanova, Bucknell and Kent State.
"I think a lot of them are waiting to see game film of me at linebacker," Macek said. "After they see the first few games this season, hopefully they like what they see because I've been putting in the work."
Macek, however, wouldn't rule out wrestling in college.
"I really love both sports," he said. "It would be really hard to pick between football and wrestling, if I had to choose. I don't think I could.
"I'd love to wrestle in college. It would be the ultimate commitment because of the mental challenge. Don't get me wrong, though, playing football in college is still a big commitment. Either way, with either sport, I would love that challenge."
Macek finished his junior wrestling season with a 33-6 record after making his second trip to Hershey for the PIAA Class AAA tournament. He owns a 102-23 career record at Montour.
"He's in great shape and that work he does wrestling has helped him every year on the football field," said Cerro, who recently added the title of athletic director to his duties at Montour.
Cerro's football team, which won a WPIAL championship in 2011, went 9-2 last season after losing to Parkway Conference foe West Allegheny in the Class AAA quarterfinals. The Spartans, however, graduated 22 seniors from that team.
"We're going to need Cole to lead us on and off the field," Cerro said. "We've graduated so many guys. He played with those guys on some successful teams, so we're going to need him to have learned from those guys and help be a leader where we need him."
Macek believes Montour has enough skill-position players to keep the Spartans competitive.
"Our offensive line is going to need to step up so we can pound the ball," Macek said. "We have the weapons. We're going to need to win those close games.
"The Parkway Conference is always tough and we know there will be a lot of close games. Offensively, we're going to need to execute. Defensively, we should be OK. On offense is where we're going to need to step up to win those big games."
Montour opens its Parkway Conference schedule tomorrow night at Hopewell.
"I believe we can have a successful season as long as we put all the pieces together," Macek said. "We're going to need to play as a team and not as individuals.
"We may not have a lot of returning starters back, but we do have what it takes to make some noise in the Parkway Conference and in the WPIAL."hsfootball