York, PA - If you want some insight into what has fueled the Biglerville football team's torrid start to the season, stop by the final 15 minutes of a Canners practice some time.
It is during that period that the foundation of Alex Ramos' team's 4-0 record has been forged, one sprint at a time.
As the team neared the end of another workout Tuesday afternoon, each of Biglerville's 30 or so varsity players lined up along the goal line of one of their practice fields. When Ramos blew his whistle, the line of bodies sprinted 10 yards and back ... then, after a short rest, 20 yards ... then 40.
On it went, until chests heaved and legs turned to putty. During the breaks between sprints, Ramos encouraged his team. He talked about playing a full 48 minutes.
And he peppered them with the buzzword that has been repeated to the Canners players since last December.
"We've been throwing around the 'F-word' here in Biglerville," Ramos said later, "and the F-word is 'Finish.'"
Therein lies the residual motivation left over from last fall. At various points of the 2011 season, the Canners relinquished a fourth-quarter lead against Littlestown and wilted in the second half against Delone Catholic and Bermudian Springs. Instead of contending for a division title, they finished 5-5.
Those losses hardened this senior-heavy group, which visits Delone Catholic (2-2, 2-1 in Div. III) on Friday. They added extra purpose to the sprints and the weekly hill runs -- the latter of which have worn a 15-yard wide swath of dead grass and dirt into the slope that runs adjacent to their practice field.
Validation has come in the form of four straight wins to start the season. Last week, Biglerville surged to an early lead against Littlestown and clamped down in the second half of a 24-6 win.
"That game made me a believer in hard work pays off," Fissel said.
But conditioning alone cannot completely explain Biglerville's early success. Experience has helped. So has the renewed energy supplied by Ramos, now in his third season.
Then there's the team's balance. Take the running back position. Last year, Fissel ran for 1,148 yards and 13 touchdowns. His 159 carries were 67 more than his next closest teammate.
The workload, however, took its toll.
"By Week 5, I was shot," said Fissel who is listed at 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds. "It would pretty much take me until Thursday to be recuperated."
This year, Biglerville has split its carries almost evenly between three backs: Joe Hurda (42 attempts), Fissel (40) and Jordan Wenk (37). Each has at least 310 rushing yards this season.
Fissel has been more effective in smaller doses, too: He's averaging 10.2 yards per carry and has eight touchdowns already. He ran 19 times for 140 yards and three scores in last week's win against Littlestown.
One more means to keep those legs fresh -- and ready to finish when the fourth quarter rolls around.
A trend the Canners know they'll need to continue through the rest of a packed division schedule.
Cooley watch: Eastern York running back Alex Cooley continues to close in on the YAIAA career rushing record. He needs 375 yards to overtake former Littlestown standout Jeremiah Collins total of 4,433 yards.
Cooley leads the YAIAA in rushing this season with 889 yards and 11 touchdowns on 81 carries.
Going for five: West York can make it 5-for-5 this season against YAIAA Division I opponents on Friday, when it travels to William Penn (1-3) for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
The Bulldogs have had considerable success against Division I teams in recent years; they're 15-3 against upper-division foes since 2008. West York (4-0) led off this season with wins against Central York, Dallastown, Spring Grove and Red Lion.
John Clayton is a prep sports reporter for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at 771-2045 or email@example.com.