It’s natural for a head coach with a new team to be excited.
For Pequea Valley’s new head coach Mike Choi, it’s like a kid in a candy store.
I dropped by Kinzers to see how Choi’s maiden voyage with the Braves was going and he was comparable to a delightfully ecstatic child who had to show off all the new toys he got for Christmas.
After taking me through all the facilities and introducing me to some administrators, Choi brought me to the spacious weight room where he continued to gush about the opportunity he and his staff had with their new gig.
“I came here because it was an opportunity to do something special. We get to build this thing from the ground up and create a culture that is not only exciting but lasting,” Choi said. “Everyone in the school and the community has been great and it will be great to see these stands packed on Friday nights.”
From the sound of Choi and his new players, the indication is that Pequea Valley picked the right man for the job.
Choi comes over from Class AAAA Great Valley where he was a longtime assistant and head coach for the past four years. In his four years of head coaching, Choi helped steadily improve the Patriots’ record every year; going 2-9 in 2010, 5-6 in 2011, 6-5 in 2012 and 8-3 last season.,
As much as Choi was excited about his new surroundings, he gushed even more about his players.
“I love the mental makeup of this team. When you step into a program and take over for another coach, you don’t really know what you’re stepping into,” he said. “These guys have started fresh and have been really good at letting things in the past go.”
Pequea Valley has had only one winning season in school history with no one on the current roster ever experiencing a .500 record. The Braves went 3-7 in 2013 under Evan Breisblatt who resigned in February to take over at District 1-AAA Phoenixville.
“This is the year we have to do it. I don’t think being 3-7 is what we want to be. I know I don’t want to be that. A winning season is what everyone is striving for,” junior quarterback Gabe Allgyer said.
Allgyer is taking over the quarterbacking duties after 2013 starter Hunter Smith was moved to fullback to better utilize his running abilities. So far, Choi has been impressed with Allgyer’s progression and leadership.
“I think the culture is slowly changing here. From what I’ve seen, we’ve inherited some great leaders on this team,” Choi said. “Our quarterback Gabe Allgyer is about as good a kid as you can get.”
Though it’s still early, Allgyer and his teammates are also starting to feel that culture change with Choi in charge.
I think it’s more of a loose atmosphere,” Allgyer said. “We’re having fun and I think that’s getting us to work harder and that’s a good thing for this school and the community.”
“The biggest difference is the motivation. It used to be all about winning but now it’s about caring for each other and picking each other up,” senior tailback/linebacker Matt Sparano said. “That makes us try harder for one another and in turn, that will make us win more.”
Along with Choi’s takeover, Pequea Valley is also getting a small boost from one of the best things that can happen to a small, struggling program; new players coming out for the team.
Such is the case for first-year senior lineman Cody Lutz who has been impressed with his new coach so far this summer.
“He brings a great atmosphere to the whole team and to the weight room,” Lutz said. “I’m just hoping I can make an impact on the team.”
It seems as though the seeds have been planted and the flourishing of Pequea Valley football could be on the horizon. With a winning season on his mind, Choi is confident that his new team has the tools to succeed not only in the long term, but in 2014.
“We want to compete in every game and challenge for the section title then look at our overall record and be better than that 5-5 mark. Then we can look to the playoffs and make an impact,” he said. “I think we’re going to be a lot better at the end of the season than we are at the beginning. If you have to play us, I think you’d much rather play us earlier in the year rather than later.”