Eagle seniors seek to carve out own niche
In regard to Cocalico, if there is anything to be taken away from Tuesday’s L-L Football Media Day, it is that this year Eagle seniors are determined to carve their own niche.
Fresh off an 11-2 season after which the Eagles said good-bye to 22 seniors, including star QB Jhet Janis and 1300-yard rusher Spencer Moser, to name a few, many may say the Eagles are in for a rebuilding year.
However, just don’t tell this year’s crop of seniors.
“My goals are definitely to stop hearing about last year,” said senior tackle Jake Keifer. “I’m tired of hearing how many players we lost. I’m ready to make a name for our own team. And we definitely have the skills to do that. We have a little more maturing to do as a team but we definitely have the tools to do what we need to do.”
Fellow senior tackle John Fry agreed.
“You always hear about your Spencers and your Jhets, (Mitch) Shobers…But I think we have a class that could have started last year on many other teams but we didn’t because of the talent we had,” he said. “I think a lot of guys are kind of taking that to heart and are really excited to finally be ready to be out on the field and having their own team.”
This is their team, and Head Coach Dave Gingrich enters his 11th year believing his team has enough left in the cupboard to re-load, and not have to re-build.
“First and foremost we did lose a lot,” Gingrich said. “We had 22 seniors, a lot were three-year starters and a couple four-year players, and they were great. But I think we got a lot of kids that have talent that are coming up though the system. And as a senior, this year I think some of those kids are ready to make their own name. And I’m anxious to see if they are going to.”
Obviously, to build a program as successful as Cocalico has been, Gingrich and his staff have been able to fill in the pieces after heavy graduation hits before.
He said one key to that is each year getting the seniors to buy in and lead the way.
“The way the program has been run is seniors lead, and underclassmen learn how to lead from them,” he said. “This past group…they were great leaders. We were talking on the way over here what those guys meant to the team, how tough they were and hard workers…I think these guys realize they need to do those things so that the next class can say that about them. And now I am looking forward to see what these guys can do.”
Senior Devon Delpiano said he and his fellow teammates have put in the time in the off-season for what figures to be a very tight Section Two this year with the additions of Lancaster Catholic from Section One and Garden Spot up from Section Three.
“We’ve been working every day,” he said. “Everyone is lifting, everyone is getting conditioned…we are also prepared for those fourth-quarter games we did not have last year. Last year we had a lot of blow outs, but this year we are all getting prepared physically, mentally for those fourth quarter games because we’ll have to finish some of those out. We are going to be prepared for dogfights.”
And Gingrich expects just that in a section he says is as tough on paper as he has seen in his 11 years.
“I don’t remember it being any tougher, maybe when Wilson was (briefly) in (Section Two),” he said. “But you take a team like CV that has been struggling and you move them to Section One and move Catholic, the two-time State champion, down into Two. You take a team at Ephrata that has struggled a little bit and move them down to Section Three and move Garden Spot up. Garden Spot is 17 and whatever the last two years…it adds to the section, and I thought the section already was pretty good, and now you add two move quality teams to it…There are not going to be any easy games in Section Two this year.”
Prior to section play, the Eagles open the season with three tough non-league games. They start it off at home August 29 vs. Daniel Boone before hitting the road for two games&tstr;on the new turf at Ephrata (Sept. 5) and at Cedar Cliff (Thursday, Sept. 11)&tstr; leading up to section play.