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FOOTBALL: Benjamin, Manheim Township eager to take next step

Being a senior on a football gives you an opportunity to be a leader. If you're the senior quarterback however, you don't have a choice.

Manheim Township quarterback Erik Benjamin was already a leader on his team before his senior season but admitted that there is a bigger sense of duty as the 2015 season approaches.

"There's more responsibility in being the main leader on the team," Benjamin said. I'm just trying to unite our senior class together to act as a strong nucleus for our football team."

Benjamin is coming off a junior year in which he passed for 2108 yards and 23 touchdowns while leading Township to a 7-3 regular season record and a berth in the District 3 Class AAAA playoffs.

"Week in and week out of playing top competition definitely prepares us for playoffs and prepares me as a player," Benjamin said of the L-L League. "Seeing different looks and coverages makes me faster with my reads and that is something you might not see in lower-end divisions."

Township finished second in Section One with their only section loss coming to perennial powerhouse Wilson.

Wilson was also the team that bounced the Blue Streaks out of the playoffs with a 21-7 loss in the second round. Township's Section One foe has knocked them out of the playoffs for the past two seasons in addition to taking the regular season matchups as well.

Being an optimist, Benjamin is using the losses as motivation.

"It's a great experience. They're obviously a great football team with a great tradition. They're also the kind of the team we aspire to be; have a great line and have a good balance of run and pass. We want to go deep in the playoffs like they do."

As the Streaks prepare to begin their playoff quest, Benjamin spoke of some of the improvements fans might witness with the 2015 version of Township football.

"Our line is more experienced this year. We have four big guys coming back in Tanner Evans, Allen McCloud, Tim O'Hara and Alex Mancini. All of them have game experience, which is different for our team because we sometimes go into the year a little uncomfortable with the line. This year we have a stronger grip in that area."

Benjamin also showed excitement in another portion of the offense.

"We definitely want to establish a better run game this year because we're usually known as more of a passing team so it would be great to have a solid balance of running and passing. We have two backs that did very well in team camps in Nate Seprinski and Mat Van Gordon."

Benjamin's premier returning receiving target will be fellow senior John Stutz, who hauled in 29 receptions for 534 yards and seven touchdowns last year.

With receivers Fisayo Oluleye and Isaac Vasquez both graduated, there will be plenty of opportunities for some new faces to shine in the Streaks' passing game this year.

"Junior Kade Kubicki will be a surprise this year," Benjamin said. "No one really saw him last year due to an injury early in the season and because he was so raw and young. He has really come into his own this offseason and has done well in our 7-on-7 workouts."

With a deep playoff run as the goal, Benjamin stressed that it will take a lot of meticulous work in the coming weeks to get to where he and the Streaks want to be.

"It comes down to execution for us. We have a lot of potential on this football team but 'potential' is a scary word. We have so much capability but if we don't do the little things right and execute properly, we can't beat teams like Wilson."

Manheim Township kicks off the season on the road at Central Dauphin on September 4.