William Penn football thirsting for a win
It's been over seven weeks since the William Penn football team and first-year coach Russ Stoner began the season.
Seven opportunities to do something last year's team did not: Win a football game.
It hasn't happened yet, though there have been some close calls. A season-opening 11-point loss at Reading. A three-point loss Sept. 30 against the two-time defending YAIAA Division I champions at Dallastown.
"We are competing and that's what we want to do," junior quarterback Tallian Lehr said. "I know we want to win, but we're getting there."
This year's squad has three opportunities left. The Bearcats play this week at South Western, they play next week at home against winless New Oxford and they finish the season at Central York.
"When you look around the room (at the William Penn coaching staff), this is a group of guys who are not used to losing," Stoner said. "It's a hard thing to swallow, and we know it is a tough thing for our kids as well. We just have to keep plugging away and I'm going to keep encouraging them not to quit."
The spirit and bond this group has established is a key component in what has carried them thus far.
"We have a brotherhood," said senior Erik Mann. "Everybody believes in what we are trying to do. The coaches are making sure we keep believing in that. We are going to keep competing, keep fighting. We are going to show these other teams that we are not going to back down from anybody."
Last weekend's game against Northeastern was yet another game where things could have been different.
William Penn surrendered a 64-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. On the Bearcats' first offensive play of the contest, they fumbled and it led to a 30-yard touchdown pass by Northeastern three plays later. The Bearcats trailed by two scores in just 79 seconds.
"The coaches have given us the plays," Lehr said. "We just need to execute them. We are making a lot of mistakes that can be fixed. These games are winnable, we just have to go out and give our full effort."
The score over the middle two quarters of the game: Northeastern 7, William Penn 6.
"They are a very good football team and Russ is doing a great job," said Northeastern coach Jon Scepanski. "They haven't won yet, but it is coming. It is coming. We told our kids before the game that this is not an (0-7) team and we better come to play."
The gains that have already been made, however, cannot be measured in wins and losses, first downs or turnover margins.
"It feels like a family here, it really does," Mann said. "The coaches are doing an unbelievable job, they really are. We couldn't ask for better coaches. For us, it is learning how to win. That's the big thing."
For seniors like Mann and Durvel Wilson, they understand that they will not fully reap the benefits of a revived William Penn program directly.
"I just want to establish this culture for the young guys," Mann said. "We want to show them the way it is done and the way to win. Stay focused in the classroom and do what you got to do. The talent is here."
Both players recognize the greater good in what they are a part of.
"The coaches have been great, not only on the field but off the field too," Wilson said. "They are in it for us as people, too, not just football. The recipe is there in front of us. We have a lot of young guys."