An annual sure sign of the approaching autumn could be seen in the Manheim area Friday in the form of the annual Lancaster-Lebanon League Football Media Day, held at Enck's Catering at Kreider Farms on Route 72.
Excluding Mid-Penn conference member Palmyra, five of the six county teams - Annville-Cleona, Cedar Crest, Elco, Lebanon and Northern Lebanon - were among those represented at the event, which serves as a yearly prelude to the start of fall practice.
Yes, starting Monday the pads and helmets officially go on, with opening night of the regular season set for Friday, Aug. 31, at a stadium near you.
The annual Lebanon Daily News football preview tab will come your way a few days before the first games, but in advance here's a few appetizers to tide you over before the preview main course arrives Wednesday, Aug. 29.
A good place to start with this mini look-ahead is Lebanon High junior quarterback Mark Pyles, who in addition to guiding the Cedars' Air Raid attack will also be the cover boy of this year's preview tab.
Unquestionably the county's top returning player, Pyles, who shared the QB duties with graduated co-starter Alex Trautman last season, has added 15 pounds of muscle to his now 5-foot-11, 200-pound frame and appears poised to accomplish even more this season than he did during his first two eye-opening campaigns as a two-way threat at quarterback and linebacker/defensive back.
"It feels great to have the full responsibility," Pyles said. "It's a big job to have, and I'm doing my best to come in and be ready for it. Our strength coach, coach (Nick) Watt, has been working us all off-season to get us conditioned so we can play both ways. I think I'll be fine with that."
Lebanon coach Gerry Yonchiuk certainly concurs.
"His growth, his improvement, in my opinion, (will make him) one of the better football players in the state of Pennsylvania this year," Yonchiuk said. "I don't say that lightly. I think Mark's ready for that challenge."
Pyles' potential exploits on the gridiron weren't the only items of note from media day. Here's a few other points of interest:
A-C coach Terry Lehman indicated, though, that junior Mitch Rodkey will head into camp as the starting quarterback since Pletz has yet to spend any time on the practice field with his new teammates.
"Mitch is our starting quarterback," Lehman said. "But if you're asking me, on offense are we gonna have two quarterbacks in the game at the same time, I could probably say, 'Yeah.' I know (Pletz) is very athletic and I know Mitch is. That's (adding Pletz) a luxury. That's something that's just a little icing on the cake."
The quarterback situation is just another aspect of the Raider squad that is in transition, as new head coach Robert Miller continues accelerated preparations for the 2012 season after replacing Mark Evans, now the head coach at Manheim Township, in July.
"We've got a good core group of kids that have really done a lot over the last couple weeks to help make the transition a little bit easier," Miller said. "And now, it'll be nice to have everybody there and get everybody started and on the same page."
"As I said before, it's bittersweet," said Evans, who expressed those same sentiments back in June after accepting the job at Manheim Township. "But I'm excited about the change, the new challenge. Coming in late, we certainly have our work cut out for us, but I think I've got a quality staff, just some outstanding coaches. And on top of that, we've got some awesome kids. But I miss the kids at Elco, definitely."