PERKASIE — Walking up the Poppy Yoder bleachers and being dragged in every direction on Photo Day for the Pennridge football team was exhausting in its own way, but nothing compared to the first week of training camp.
The Rams new coaching staff, led by Jeff Hollenbach, has amped up the conditioning drills. It is the biggest difference between the new and old regimes for the defending Suburban One Continental Conference champs.
Along with learning Hollenbach's new playbook, the days have been doused with an extra dose of cardio. While execution is paramount, nothing matters if players are fatigued down the stretch of a close game.
"We are conditioning more and I would say I am in pretty good shape right now,' senior captain and offensive tackle Shane Kraynik said. "They have me running for days.'
Winning those close games last season is what helped the Rams finish 12-2 overall. As much as the County Fair Drill pains the players in the heat of August, they realize it will benefit them in the final quarter of an important game in November.
"The County Fair is where each coach has a different station,' senior captain and running back Mike Class said. "One station is hills, one is up-downs, there are defensive back drills, and all different kinds of things. While we are doing it I dislike it, but I know when it comes to looking for that fourth quarter last drive it is going to count.'
The voices commanding camp are different with Randy Cuthbert and crew split for Emmaus and elsewhere, but besides the conditioning, it is still football. And this football team still has high standards for themself.
"You go from Cuthbert and (former defensive coordinator Bob) Rosenberger's coaching styles to this staff,' senior captain and wide receiver Micah Stutzman said. "Last year I think they really wanted to keep us rested and healthy. They are all great coaches, but it is just new. We condition after every practice and we are all in great shape.'
Hollenbach is pleased with the way his Rams have adapted to the new coaching staff's style. He could tell he was inheriting some skilled football players by watching them compete from the stands last season, but as he gets to know them, he realizes it is their character that puts them over the top.
"They are an awesome group of kids,' Hollenbach said. "They come to work. They get along great as a team and treat each other well. I cannot wait to see the fire in their eyes on Friday night and what kind of competitive juices they. I have a feeling it is going to show up well.'
Not everything is ideal, but one week in with not just coaches, but players in new roles, every day is important so they are ready for Cuthbert and Emmaus in Week One. The Rams saw a lot of good and some areas in need of improvement in their scrimmage last weekend against Abington. Luckily Hollenbach has his team willing to run over hills to win.
"We have work to do,' Hollenbach said. "Such as defensively reading our keys, stepping up, and making plays and offensively getting off the line and making blocks. I have a lot of hope for this team.'