Northeastern quarterback hearkens back to win over former team

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Shannon Valenti had quite the 2016: moving from one school (Central York) to another (Northeastern), starring as a junior quarterback for the Bobcats and guiding the team to a 9-3 season and an appearance in the District 3 playoffs. 

Valenti recently contributed to our new series Players' Post, as GameTimePA.com has asked YAIAA athletes to submit stories of their life on and off the playing field. Whether it's winning the big game, overcoming adversity and injury or balancing athletics and academics, we want to know your story. Contribute to our series by emailing bstoneburg@GameTimePA.com.

Moving schools was never an option for me, or so I thought, until things started happening at home.

I knew something was about to happen. My dad and his ex-girlfriend were not on good terms and their relationship was ending. My dad couldn’t keep the house by himself so we had to leave.

I’d been at Central York since I was in fifth grade, I basically grew up here. All my closest friends, teammates and girlfriend were at Central. I thought I would never leave. Central is where I wanted to graduate, but unfortunately things had to change.

Once my dad moved out in the summer, I had two options: West York or Northeastern. I disliked West York from the rivalry we had with them at Central and I did not like the area. I knew very little about Northeastern other than we destroyed them in the fourth game last season. My parents finally told me it was time for me to choose: live with my dad and go to West York or live with my mom and go to Northeastern…And Northeastern was the choice I made.

All summer my friends were giving me hell about leaving and playing for Northeastern. I got into arguments with them, people started to talk about me and things just kept adding up. I couldn’t focus on just that game because we had three games to worry about before we get into it with Central.

Week 4 finally arrived — the first divisional game of the season — and what do you know? We’re playing Central. All week I’ve been seeing things on Twitter and hearing people talk but I wouldn’t respond. It felt like the relationship I had with my friends had gone out the window so I knew this game would be big.

All the hype surrounding the game made me nervous. I had butterflies scrambling around in my stomach, like I scramble around from defenders when I’m getting pressured. But the butterflies are moving faster. The bus ride there I was in dead silence. Not a word came out of my mouth the whole ride there. When the bus stopped at the stadium I knew that it was only a matter of time before kickoff.

Sitting in the locker room before the game, I tried to distract myself from the nervousness and hype by telling myself, ‘Don’t worry man, we got this, just another game on the schedule.

But it was not just any game! It was a game where I had to come back and play against my old school and teammates. Throughout the week everyone kept going on and on about the battle between Nik Strine and Shannon Valenti. Who is going to have the better game? Whose team would win? The reason being Nik was the quarterback who played over me when I was at Central so people just wanted something to spice up.

During warm ups I’m not thinking about the battle. I didn’t care how he did and I didn’t care how I did. I just wanted to shut them up and beat them fair and square as a team. All the pre-game warm ups were over with, now we stand for the national anthem, here we go… It’s game time!

The first snap was a run but we messed up and got a penalty. I’m thinking ‘oh no, this is not a good start.’ Third play of the game coach calls a slant play and my heart dropped. My mind starts racing, I’m thinking ‘this is the first pass play of the game, I have to make it count and show everyone why I should have started at Central.’ But wait…. I thought to myself again, this is not about that. Just go out there, run the play like you know how to and move the ball.

Boom! A rifle pass right into the chest of my wide out Dez Wigginton as he picks up the first down. At that moment all the butterflies left my stomach and I knew: It was time to play some football!

Again and again the nerves came back as I looked over at their sideline. I started the game hitting a beautiful slant pass and then my passing just went downhill. I was so anxious to perform well and I was messing up trying to do too much. Our run game was strong, thank God, to keep us in the game. Throughout the first quarter it was tight, both offenses couldn’t move the ball. Then we went into halftime.

After that halftime break everyone woke up, nerves were out and we were ready to let the Cats loose. My running back Anu Johnson broke a big run and got knocked out of bounds by Central’s bench. I quickly ran over to pick him up and we both got hype and celebrated just so they could see why they should have played both of us while we attended Central.

The rest of the game just went our way. I faked the handoff, look up and throw a nice touch pass to my tight end JB (Jonathan Butler) who Mosses a Central defender (out-jumped him for the football) and scores a touchdown. Right then I’m thinking, this game could not get any better!

We get up 42-0 and coach finally lets the starters sit. Standing on our sideline, the joy that is shown on my face and the amount of energy I had was unreal. Laughing and joking around with my Bobcat teammates, we were all so excited and amped up about this win. This is the first time in history that Northeastern has ever beaten Central. It felt so good to come to this school and make history while getting a little payback.

The clock hit zeros and our bench erupted with joy as we ran around and congratulated each other. Going through the line slapping hands I’m seeing all my teammates giving hugs to my closest friends. Walking to the locker room I did not want to leave the field, it felt so good to get that win at their home turf. All the trash talking prior to the game was dead! We finally proved that Northeastern deserved some respect and on my end, it felt good to go and beat them after all the drama that was going on before this game.

Heading on to the bus, I’m feeling great! What a great game and team to be a part of. I’m glad I made this move and look forward to playing against Central York again next fall.

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