'The show must go on': Coachless Colonials host Lineman Challenge at New Oxford
Saturday's annual Lineman Challenge proved to be a perfect remedy for New Oxford football.
After a rough week in which its players and coaches learned that their head coach Jason Thurston was abruptly leaving the program via an email, the Colonials let loose and had some fun as they hosted 14 local teams at New Oxford's football stadium.
Offensive and defensive linemen donning their school's colors moved from station to station, flipping tires, lifting weights, pushing buses and sacking dummy quarterbacks.
It wasn't a day for the "skinny guys," New Oxford rising senior lineman Brock Hartman said, but it was a good day to be a big guy.
"It's always the skinny guys who get all the glory," Hartman joked. "So this is a nice change to focus on the big guys and give people a chance to come watch us for once."
After Thurston's announcement, there were questions to if the event would go on as scheduled. But the administration, booster club, players and volunteers came together, Conewago Valley School District Superintendent Russell Greenholt said, and decided the show must go on.
"What we wanted to do was make sure the teams that were coming here still wanted to be here," Greenholt said. "And there was no question with that, they wanted to come. So we wanted to make it happen for them and for our kids."
There are a lot of moving parts in hosting an event of this magnitude, said New Oxford varsity assistant coach Larry Baumgardner, who spent several hours setting the field up with the players in Friday's heat. He credited the administration and booster club with taking the brunt of the responsibility to keep it together.
Members of the booster club cooked breakfast sandwiches, and parents cheered on the players as they competed in each event. With the early morning haze still lingering in the air, Greenholt, who emceed the event, welcomed the linemen from Delone Catholic, Boiling Springs, Dallastown and other nearby schools around 9 a.m.
"This is what we're here for today," Greenholt said pointing to a group of Northeastern players cheering as their teammates completed a strength drill. "Just a chance to watch these kids compete and enjoy themselves. A lot of people came together to make this happen, and we're all very grateful."
Flipping tires and tackling fake quarterbacks was a much-needed stress relief for the coachless Colonials, Hartman said, and it gave the team a chance to come together.
"Today shows we won't get too overwhelmed by not having a head coach, and we're still going to push on no matter what," Hartman said. "We're trying to do the best with what we have. Everybody here is hungry to win and get better no matter who the coach is. The show must go on."