L-L Media Day brings football fever
MANHEIM >> Monday it gets real.
Sure, there has been offseason weight room work, 7-on-7s, trips to team camp, and the just-completed heat acclimation week.
But Monday is when local high school football teams really start getting prepared for the 2015 season, which kicks off Sept. 4 at a stadium near you.
In advance of that, representatives of the Lancaster-Lebanon League teams gathered at Enck's Catering on Friday afternoon for the annual Media Day festivities.
Of course, both anticipation and optimism were running high, as players and coaches chatted away about the fast-approaching season.
Here are some takeaways from the event:
• Lebanon County's best player, Cedar Crest senior defensive back Evan Horn, was one of those on hand, discussing among other things his collegiate future.
Horn, who will appear on the cover of the Lebanon Daily News football preview tab later this month, has Division One scholarship offers in both football and basketball and admitted to being torn in trying to decide which sport to play in college.
One school — Temple – has told Horn they'd be willing to have him play both.
"I'm still trying to figure that out," Horn said. "I'd love to play both. Temple is actually the one school (interested in him for football and hoops), and that's intriguing to me that they want me to play both."
And in other Section One news...
•In Millersville, new Penn Manor coach John Brubaker looks to keep the Comet's moving forward. Despite the loss of 23 seniors from a year ago, Brubaker is confident in the program's direction, due to the presence of ten "awesome" seniors, including returning starters Jamal McCaskell, Carter Kinser, and Jonah Barley, all of whom will share time in the backfield and at linebacker.
"We're going to work to win a championship. We'll play games and let the pieces fall in place. I know these guys are going to give a great effort week in and week out and that's how we'll approach the game."
•In Lititz, veteran coach Bob Locker has seen steady improvement in Warwick's roster and attitude. Returning players Justin Smith and Colin Gibble will split time under center, while lineman Preston Forney is part of a veteran core of players on offense and defense.
"My confidence doesn't matter, it's what these guys believe and I've been very happy with what I've seen," Locker said. "Our seniors have paid their dues and it's my belief that they'll play with a chip on their shoulders."
•Players from defending Section Three champ Northern Lebanon expressed confidence that they would be in the mix for another title run despite graduation losses that claimed a trio of big-time playmakers in quarterback Isaac Ray, back Dominic Trader and receiver Mason Yost.
"They'd be stupid to do that," said new starting QB Isaac Wengert, when asked if he thought other teams would take the Vikings lightly. "We lost a lot of people, but we have a lot back and some with better talent."
"I think we're gonna get everybody's 'A' game," said offensive lineman George Thompson. "We expect, obviously, to defend our title again."
•Also expected to be in the title mix in Section Three are Annville-Cleona and Elco, both of which bring back considerable talent.
A-C is breaking in a new head coach in Matt Gingrich and coming off a trip to the District 3 playoffs.
"I think we're still gonna be there," said senior Brandon Light. "I know we lost a good amount of our line, but with the guys coming up I think we can still get the job done and get back (to districts), maybe even win a district game this time."
Elco, meanwhile, has plenty of reason to be excited, most notably the presence strong-armed senior quarterback Jeff Martin, who fired 19 TD passes a season ago and is heading into his fourth season behind center in Myerstown.
"There's a lot to be excited about, I think," said Elco coach Bob Miller. "We'll be very competitive. I think there's some teams that will be there (near the top) but certainly we're gonna hold our own and look to be up there with everybody else."
• Elco will again team up with Lebanon for a Week 3 Autism Awareness game, this year in Myerstown.
For that game and the rest, the Cedars may have a decidedly different look about them.
They're not discarding their patented Air Raid attack, but with a quality feature back in Malik Hunter and a physical offensive line anchored by Lucas Imm, Gian Fabian and Khalique Washington, the Cedars will emphasize the run much more than in years past.
"We feel we can run the ball and we're gonna do it," said Lebanon coach Gerry Yonchiuk.
And in other Section Two and Three news...
•In Elizabethtown, new coach Bill McDonald has ushered in a new commitment from the school and for the program, while instituting a new multi-set offense. Running back Amos Beiler and wideout Cole Epler look to benefit from the switch as well as a bigger offensive line led by senior John Bender.
"I think the offense is so varied that we can tailor it to our strengths," McDonald said. "I like the attitude. There's a lot of change that had to go on the last six months, so it's been fast and furious."
In Manheim, longtime offensive line coach Dave Hahn is stepping into the head coaching job this season after 34 years under Mike Williams. "On the field it's not a big adjustment," said Hahn of his new role. "(I'm) working with the coaches to let them know what I need, then allowing them to coach their areas in practice."
Expect senior backs Damon Camacho and Craig McKee to grind-out plenty of yardage as all eyes will be on the Barons and how they fare in the early going.
"I think more people are going to pay attention to what changes the coaches have made on the field," said senior wideout Gavin Guyer, "and how we're going to hold out this year."
• In Columbia, new coach Anthony Sattasante and the Crimson Tide will look for a bigger piece of the pie, having gone 5-15 the last two seasons.
"I think the kids are really hungry to reestablish the tradition and the pride in Columbia football," said Sattasante. "I think they're starting to understand what they have to do to make that happen."
Senior quarterback Dominic Sierra and linemen Jason Price and Robert Jackson like their coach's straightforward way of thinking.
"I think we have to play with a lot more pride than we did last season and the couple years before that," Jackson said. "We're really focused on discipline and self-confidence."
•At Donegal, coach Jeff Polites likes the mix of youth and veterans on this year's squad, as well as the way players will be pushing each other for playing time. Seniors Tanner Shirk, Mario Marshall, and Austin Dimeler will have to "share" the ball in the Indians' balanced Wing-T attack.
"So far preparation is fantastic, we have a lot of kids on our roster so we're excited about that," Polites said. "We didn't finish real well within the section last year so we want to make sure we do what we can to improve on that."