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Players ‘excited’ with season around corner
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org, Staff Writer
It is easy to get excited in the off-season. Heck, everyone is undefeated.
But optimism is particularly high at this time of the year as summer turns to the home stretch, signaling the start of high school football practice.
Locally, Cocalico and Ephrata seem extremely pumped up to get the year underway, and for good reason.
Cocalico enters the 2012 campaign looking to make another run at a Section Two title and a playoff run. After reaching the District finals in 2010, the Eagles were young a year ago and struggled to a 5-5 mark, missing the playoffs. The good news is those kids now have a season under their belts, and with eight starters back on each side of the ball, Cocalico is being mentioned as a team that can challenge for a Section Two crown.
"We’re pretty excited," Cocalico quarterback Brock Gosling, who returns for his third season as the starting QB, said. "I can’t wait."
Fellow senior Tyler Buckwalter echoed those thoughts.
"I’m really excited," he said. "As a team, we’ve really developed a lot over the years and we have a team that’s been together for a long time, since middle school or junior high, and now that we’re seniors, I just really see maturity in our group and a lot of skill that we’ve developed over the years."
Excitement reigns at Ephrata as well, but for different reasons. After suffering through a 1-9 campaign a year ago, Coach Jim Vieland stepped down in the off-season.
Enter long-time Ephrata midget coach and former Cocalico assistant Scott Shelley, who jumped at the chance to guide the Mountaineer program and bring it back to respectability. In coaxing former successful head coaches Phil Kauffman (Cocalico) and Merv Witmer (Ephrata) out of retirement to join the staff, there is a buzz coming out of Ephrata’s camp that hasn’t been there in years.
"I’m looking forward to playing for them," Ephrata senior Cody Springer said. "It seems like they know what they’re talking about, so I think we should do pretty well this year."
The players have already noticed the kind of impact this coaching staff could make.
"Our summer workouts were intense," junior Bobby Nye said. "They are just pushing us to do things the right way."
Added fellow junior Koty Keefer, "They’re definitely going back to the basics and stressing the little things and making sure everything’s done to a ‘T.’ They want to make sure we’re being taught the right way."
To say Ephrata is starting the season from scratch is an understatement. The Mounts graduated virtually their entire offense, and will have a slew of new starters on the defensive side of the ball as well.
The good news is Ephrata does have some speed in the skill positions and will utilize that in Kauffman’s familiar Veer attack. It also will help that Ephrata moves back to Section Two after spending the last two years in Section One.
"We’re running Veer, and these coaches ran it over at Cocalico for several years, so they really know what they’re doing," Keefer said. "Every little detail, they’re making sure we’re doing it right and just focusing on the execution of the Veer more. So I think that should help us out."
If the Mounts can improve as the season progresses, the players feel they could be a factor in Section Two.
"Well, we weren’t very good last year and you can look at the stat sheet, we don’t have many guys coming back," Keefer said. "So we’re just looking to go out there and be competitive in a lot of these games and maybe surprise some people."
"We need to) just finish out games," Nye added. "Last year, we started out strong and then toward the second half, we didn’t play as well as we did in the first half. We just want to finish games out and play harder, I guess."
Ephrata opens the season Aug. 31 with a non-league game at Exeter.
Unlike Ephrata, with most of its lineup returning, Cocalico should be strong across the board according to Buckwalter.
"We have a lot of strength in our line and we have a lot of decent strength in our skill positions too," he said. "But I’d say most of our strength is in our line, our defensive line.
Gosling said the off-season was big in terms of creating camaraderie amongst the team members.
"It’s been great," he said. "We’ve had a lot of guys coming out to our workouts and we’ve all really started to bond through that and started to come together as a group and really learn how each other plays."
Buckwalter added, "It was nice to see everybody go from one point to another in that amount of time. A lot of kids made a lot of improvements, so it’s nice to see that. I think we should have a pretty good year."
"Of course, every year our goal is to go undefeated, but we’re just trying to take it one week at a time," he continued. "Go 1-0 every week– that’s our goal right now."
The Eagles have a difficult non-league schedule that includes the likes of Daniel Boone, Governor Mifflin and Reading to get them ready for the Section Two grind.
"If we can hold out the first three weeks, I think we have a pretty decent chance of doing well the rest of the season," two-way starting senior lineman Logan High said.
Gosling added, "We just have to take every game by itself and we can’t look forward to the next week. We have to just focus on that week, and if we do that, I think we can take care of what we have to do."
Cocalico opens the season August 31 at home vs. Daniel Boone. More PLAYERS, page B-2