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FOOTBALL: Pequea Valley playing for history, culture change

It's a stigma they are vigorously trying to erase.

Pequea Valley has had a football program since 1999 and has yet to experience a winning season.

In 2014, the Braves knocked on the door of history with a 5-5 record, but couldn't quite achieve the ultimate goal of breaking .500 and getting into the District 3 Class AA playoffs in Mike Choi's first year as head coach.

"We were really happy with the first year although we didn't reach our goal," Choi said. "Our goal was to be the first team in Pequea Valley history to have a winning record and to get to the playoffs."

What hurts even more is that Pequea Valley dropped a heartbreaking 41-33 double overtime loss to Octorara in Week 3 that ultimately would have given the Braves a 6-4 record and potentially slipped them into the playoffs.

"We still have a sign in our locker room that has '.01' on it because that's how many percentage points we missed the playoffs by. We have some unfinished business." Choi said.

With the regular season approaching, Choi and the Braves aren't dwelling on the shortcomings of 2014; rather they are excited for the opportunity they have in 2015.

"We felt we competed in every game last year except for two. Now we want to put ourselves in a position where we can realistically win every game," Choi said. "The goal hasn't changed from last year in a lot of ways because we still want to be the first team in Pequea Valley history to have a winning record but we have to start with being competitive in every game."

A new wrinkle in the Braves offense will consist of 2014 quarterback Gabe Allgyer moving to fullback while sophomore Jordan Lapp will take over the duties under center.

"Our goal as a coaching staff is to put the best eleven on the football field," Choi said. "By putting Jordan in a quarterback and moving Gabe to fullback, we have put our best eleven on the football field. Gabe brings something at fullback that an option offense needs. He's a tough, strong running back that hits the hole hard and if going to get your four yards ever time."

Lapp saw limited time at quarterback as a freshman but progressed enough since last year to get the starting nod in 2015.

"I know I have weapons and I have what I need to produce a solid offense," Lapp said. "I just need to make sure everyone knows what they're doing and get the ball to the right person."

Moving to fullback won't change Allgyer's leadership duties however as he analyzed what the Braves have to do to be successful in 2015.

"Mentally, we have to work harder each week," Allgyer said. "We have to stay focused and not get too high or low. If we stay focused week by week, we should be able to win a lot of games."

Allgyer's teammates aren't shying away from expectations either, regardless of history.

"I think the playoffs are an expectation. I like to win and I'd like to be in the playoffs every year," linebacker Donnie Broomell said. "If the playoffs were an expectation last year, there's no doubt that playoffs are an expectation this year."

"When people ask how we are going to do this year, I tell them that I don't think we're going to lose a game because I think we have the weapons to win every single game," receiver Chad Mullen said. "It's all about bringing the younger kids together to work with the seniors."

As if fighting for a winning record and playoff spot isn't enough, the 2015 Braves are also striving for something that goes beyond the next four months. They also are battling for a new culture in their small town of Kinzers.

"A couple of my friends have actually come out for the team because we did so well last year and people, instead of asking about the soccer team, are asking about the football team and how we are doing," lineman John Gregson said. "There's definitely a different attitude about it."

While It would be easy and completely understandable to take nothing but personal pride in being the first Pequea Valley team in history to notch a winning record, the 2015 players are looking at the overall impact of what a mere 6-4 record might have.

"It would mean a lot in the present because we would finally have our first winning season but it also sets the tone for the culture in the future so it can keep succeeding and we can have the mentality that we can have a winning season each year," senior guard John Lindquist said.

The Braves will begin their quest for a winning season on the road at York County Tech on Saturday, September 5.

"I think it would mean everything for us. We have been working hard and we believe we deserve it," cornerback Jason Stoltzfus said. "It would mean everything for us."