Sosnoski Palmyra's little big man
Off to a 6-2 start and in the hunt for a second consecutive district playoff berth, the Palmyra football team has done some big things this season and may yet do more.
There's plenty of credit to go around for that, and no small amount of it should go to the Cougars' little big man, junior linebacker Devan Sosnoski.
Standing just 5-feet-4 inches tall and weighing in at a decidedly unfootball-like 136 1/2 pounds, Sosnoski could easily be mistaken for a team manager or statistician by those who may run across him in street clothes and are unaware of his gridiron prowess.
But when he's in uniform and buzzing around the field leading the Cougars' fierce and supremely stingy defense, there is no misunderstanding Sosnoski's place in the Central Pennsylvania high school football hierarchy.
Quite frankly, he's a tackling machine, owner of 83 tackles through Palmyra's first 7 games (That's an average of almost 12 per game. Stats from Friday night's 34-24 loss to East Pennsboro aren't yet available) and the leader in the entire Mid-Penn Conference in that department, according to PennLive.com.
So Devan Sosnoski may not fit the stereotypical physical profile of a hard-nosed, hard-hitting linebacker, but, well, he sure is one. There are players much bigger than Sosnoski at every level who shy away from - and even loathe - contact. No. 3 in the Palmyra uniform, on the other hand, seeks it out.
"It's pretty hard," Sosnoski admitted, of the challenges of playing linebacker at his size. "But I don't think it's that different because I've been playing this way my whole life. It's natural, I guess. My favorite thing about playing linebacker is the constant hitting, every play. I'm either hitting someone or I'm getting hit by a blocker."
When he began playing football as a youngster Sosnoski was initially - get this - a lineman on offense and a linebacker on defense, before moving to safety at the middle school and high school level. This year, though, he was switched back to his true love position - linebacker. The results speak for themselves.
"It really comes down to his intensity. He's an intense young man," Palmyra coach Chris Pope said of his junior linebacker. "He's tough. Pound for pound, he's probably one of the toughest kids I know. When you're intense and you're tough that way, you can get a lot of things done."
In addition to hopefully helping the Cougars back to the postseason, Sosnoski has two specific things he'd like to get done this season.
First, he'd like to exceed 108 tackles to surpass the family record held by older brother and 2016 Palmyra grad Mason Sosnoski. Then, via some urging from Palmyra assistant and former Penn State wide receiver Graham Zug, Sosnoski would like a shot at nearing or reaching his body weight in tackles by accumulating 130 or more.
"My brother's is definitely the most important, because I have a bet with him," Sosnoski said, flashing a smile, of the tackle goals he's chasing. "He said if I beat it I'll get something, hopefully money. To beat the other one, 130, that's gonna be hard to reach. But I think if we go deep in the playoffs I'll be able to get it."
Pope certainly wouldn't bet against it. Though Palmyra has had some smallish linebackers in the past, the Cougars' head coach doesn't recall any who made their presence felt the way Sosnoski does.
"He's an impact player," Pope said. "If I was an opposing coach I'd definitely kinda think about what we're doing in relation to where he is. Again, I just think it's his desire. He's tough, he's high-intensity. Defense is so much about emotion and energy and having a will to get there. And he has a strong will."
That doesn't mean that the big guys never win their battles with Sosnoski. But when they do, he comes right back for more, using a little guile and help from the defensive line teammates that he is quick to credit.
"If you're (playing) downhill more it's easier to get by the bigger guys and not take on blocks from them," he said. "But against Steel-High (last week) they got me pretty good. I got blocked a lot of times."
But even when he's not joining in on a tackle or making one by himself, Sosnoski, who also sees some action as a backup running back, is standing shoulder-to-shoulder - figuratively, anyway - with his teammates. It's hard not to respect a guy who plays as hard as Sosnoski does despite limited physical gifts.
"I think he definitely has the respect of his teammates, without a doubt," Pope said. "Just because of the way he plays and practices."