“Second Verse, Same as the First …” probably isn’t the mantra one has in mind to describe the 2016 Manheim Central Barons.
Yet those lines, derived from the popular — some might say annoying — scout song “The Little Red Wagon,” among other places, might have special significance for The Big Maroon Barons.
Fact is, good things are expected once again in Manheim, with head coach Dave Hahn beginning his second season at the helm after his team forged a three-way tie atop Section Two in 2015 thanks to a heart-pounding victory in the regular season finale.
“Obviously, that gives these guys confidence that you can be in a tight game, you can be down, and the wheels aren’t going to fall off,” said Hahn, who is in his 22nd year overall with the team. “If you keep working hard you’re going to be at the right end of it and that’s what we did last year.”
That positive outcome also means Hahn won’t have to make any drastic changes in year two.
“I’ve always had a lot of responsibility as a coach anyways. Yea, there’re more things on my plate but I’m treating it just like last year,” he said. “Dotting every ‘i’, crossing every ‘t’, making sure we’ve got everything in working order.”
Hahn embraced hallway recruiting this offseason to offset a glut of graduation losses, but the one benefit of yearly turnover is that those who gained experience last year can take on leadership roles.
“We have kids, but we’re not battle-tested,” Hahn said, listing running back, tight end, offensive line, and defense as areas with some question marks, for now.
Fortunately, the Barons have 16 returning letter-winners to guide the younger crop, including quarterback Kody Kegarise, linebacker Nick Brown, and offensive lineman Elliot Martin.
“These guys have seen a lot of different things happen so now I’m banking on their leadership,” Hahn said. “They’ve been through the grind, they understand what they’re seeing, so now they can help and be an extension of the coach.”
“I think we have a number of senior guys that are great leaders, captain or not,” said the two-year letterman. “We can show the younger guys the way.”
Hahn specifically mentioned how the communication between he and Kegarise has improved since they were both in their first year running the show, a point Kegarise willingly conceded.
“He can tell me what he thinks and I can tell him what I’m seeing out there,” the quarterback offered. “Now, I’m able to recognize defenses and tell him plays that we can run against it and that really helps us out.”
Elliot, meanwhile, lists himself, center Adam Kline and Garret Fittery as three players who bring leadership to the offensive line.
“We can put some of the newer guys in there and we can help them through,” said Elliot, another two-year letterman, who has had Hahn as his line coach since he began playing at Central. “I’m pretty comfortable with most of the guys who have been working in.”
Ultimately, how quickly this year’s upperclassmen can gel with the newcomers could determine whether the Barons have to battle-it-out at the end of the season or whether they can garner sole possession of Section Two.
“As seniors we’re all taking the leadership role now,” Kegarise said. “We’re always going to compete. Yea, we want to be the top like everybody else does. We’re going to play just as hard to get there.”