Rams boost physicality in first week of practice. That and other notes from around the YAIAA

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Kennard-Dale’s defensive unit may be smaller than some of the other defenses in YAIAA Division II football, but their physicality could make up for that this season.

A much more aggressive Rams’ defense was on display at practice this week in Fawn Grove and has been an emphasis for head coach Chris Grube.

“It’s definitely been the biggest focus here the last two weeks,” Grube said. “We’ve got a lot of skill on our defense and a lot of depth there, specifically our speed… Just fly to the football, that’s all I want. If you fly to the football good things are going to happen.”

And the team is buying into that philosophy early in camp and position players that aren’t traditionally physical are becoming more aggressive as well. Part of that has to do with the players trying to change the perception of Kennard-Dale football.

“I guess it’s just the fact that we want to change this program around so much,” said senior defensive back Shawn Ellis. “We’re all coming out here, especially these seniors, we’re all coming out here and hitting hard because we know it might be our last time. We pass that down on – that mentality I guess – to everyone else below us and we’re all just coming out here and playing hard.”

The added ferocity from the Rams may also stem from the man calling the shots on the defensive side of the ball, Jeff Lange. The Kennard-Dale defensive coordinator is a former United States Marine and has brought the Marine Corp mentality to the team.

The players in turn have taken to coach Lange as well, even doing a Marine Corp chant to end practice on Wednesday.

“We love the old war stories that he tells our kids and happens with Marines,” Grube said. “Marines don’t get tired and that type of mentality. My seniors, especially Ellis and (Nick) Fritz, have bought in and that has trickled down to my underclassmen.”

— Christian Arnold

Suburban already back in class

The weather has been hindering teams’ ability to practice this week, but York Suburban has had to contend with another element that other Division II teams aren't concerned with just yet: the start of school.

York Suburban High School began classes this week, while other Division II teams don’t return to the classroom until next week. That fact allows other squads to get more time on the practice field.

Since his players are back in the classroom during the first week of official practices, Trojans’ head coach Andy Loucks has to utilize practice time efficiently.

“We modified practices this week to try to enable us to get as much time as possible,” Loucks said. “At the same breath I don’t want the kids here until 10 O’clock at night. For us we just have to maximize what we’re doing and get the most out of the reps that we have. It’s difficult.”

The impact on the players is minimal, according to Loucks, since the returning players are already familiar with the system and the team works in the spring and over the summer. It’s the younger players that don’t benefit, Loucks said.

“They’re not as comfortable, they don’t know what’s going on as well as the older guys do,” Loucks said. “So for a lot of them, things are going so fast their heads are spinning. Now you throw school into that mix and that probably makes it 10 times worse.”

— Christian Arnold

Intensity, energy high at Northeastern practice

Expectations for Northeastern are high after the program's first playoff win last year, but the Bobcats didn't seem to be feeling too much pressure on Wednesday afternoon.

Early in the Bobcats' midweek practice, the players gathered in a circle around the logo at midfield, with two players at a time stepping into the circle to compete in pushing the other out. The players on the outside cheered like rabid fans. Even the coaches got excited during the competition. In between, everyone smiled, laughed and joked with each other.

Before they split for the next drill, the players gathered at midfield and loudly sang a team chant while jumping up and down.

They looked like they were having fun and aren't feeling any outside pressure as the season nears.

— Zach Miller 

Bermudian teaches receivers to handle contact 

As a former high school football player, watching teams practice this week made me feel pretty nostalgic. But as a former offensive lineman, this was admittedly the first time I really focused on what skill position players were doing.

Of all the drills I witnessed, one from Bermudian Springs really stood out. Receivers would run a crossing pattern and get hit by a teammate with a pad as soon as they caught the pass.  The intent of the drill is to teach players how to hang onto the ball despite contact.

I’m not sure if more teams around the league use this exercise, but it seems like a great and creative idea. Receivers aren’t immune to hard hits during games, so it makes sense to prepare them in practice. It’s worth noting that Bermudian players weren’t being blindsided or slammed to the ground during the drill.

As I visited other practices throughout the week, it was fascinating to watch quarterbacks and receivers work on developing chemistry. There’s more to it than just tossing the ol’ pigskin around, with players needing to memorize routes and perfect their footwork. I witnessed both Fairfield and Hanover drilling players extensively in those areas.

So while I’ll always root for the big guys in the trenches, the players scoring the touchdowns certainly work hard too. What they do is not easy.

— Matt Allibone 

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