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Coach ‘em Up

It was only a couple of years ago when the level of play of local high school football teams was at a sub-par level. Remembering back I don’t believe any local team finished with a winning record. Wow, has that changed.

J.C. Keefer head coach at Montoursville has energized the Warriors. They remind me of the Blue and Gold of years gone by. I’m sure former great Head Coaches Chuck Bowman and Jim Bergren are proud. Big line, tough – hard-nosed kids can run it down your throat or beat you with a big run. Old school football. They have a tough defense that will hit you hard and take away the run.

In a short time Keefer has turned up the intensity and has laid a foundation for a solid program for years to come.

Across the creek in the Township, it is Justin Van Fleet at the helm. Don’t let his young appearance fool you. He has football savvy and the ability to motivate and sell his program. New uniforms, new turf and a new attitude about the Lancer grid iron program. He has a willingness to use the speed and athletic ability often found in Ken Robbins Stadium, but the mind set of the coach the stadium is named for.

Run the football, when you throw it make the other team pay. On defense let’s bend but not break. Try to make our opponents throw the football. Great things ahead for the Lancers.

Across the river in Southside, Head Coach Chris Eiswerth has the community excited about his Mounties, and no community gets behind their athletic teams like the folks on the hillside. I know in the past coach has liked throwing the ball around, but these Mounties resemble the Blue and White of yesteryear. You remember Charlie Ackerman? Build the line and they will run. Well Coach Ackerman is back in Mountie land and boy do those Mounties run.

Oh, I forgot to mention there is also a legendary coach on the Lancer sideline – Coach Frank Girardi. Longtime Lycoming College Head Coach now wears maroon and white. I enjoy talking football with Coach ‘G’ and Coach Ackerman whenever I run into them. Our area is blessed to have these two fine men.

I’ve gotten off the Mountie path here.

Coach Eiswerth has the dedication and love of the game to make the South program solid year in and year out. I look forward to the return of South/Sock match-ups.

VanFleet and Eiswerth are back at their alma maters. Which, I believe, gives them a special sense of pride and drive for success. Chris played for legendary coach John Zalonis. Coach Z and brother Rich were the architects of the last great Mountie teams. It was during those years that South came within a whisker of a State Championship.

Justin played for Coach Ken Robbins and I know he’ll give his former coach a lot of credit for molding him into the coach he has become. Coach Robbins is the all-time wins leader coach at Sock.

I was fortunate enough to have played for both. Not enough paper to give them the credit they deserve. K.R. was my head coach and Coach Z was the Defensive Coordinator at the time. Coach Z has become a lifetime friend who I wish I saw more of. Coach Robbins left us way too early. What a great sense of humor he had.

Now back to football.

Let’s not forget the Chief of the Muncy Indians Jay Drumheller. What a great season they have put together. Small enrollment, big results. Longtime Coach Scott McClean has to be proud. Great balance on offense, a lot of tough kids playing both sides of the ball. Excellent job the past two seasons building the Indian program.

At the lower levels the Warriors had an outstanding JV team. I believe they lost just one. Coach Keefer has plenty of talent in the pipeline and Head JV Coach Mike Boughton did a great job.

At Sock Head JV Coach Denny Stopper led the young Lancers to a successful season. More importantly they played an almost full schedule – something that hasn’t been done in years past due to a low number of players.

Now to what has changed things back to the way they ought to be and what will help build every program. 9th Grade and 7th & 8th Grade (middle school) football. In years past, ninth graders went up to the JV and Varsity levels due to the elimination of a separate ninth grade team. With this coming back, players can compete against equally experienced opponents and have an extra year of coaching and physical growth before playing at the high school level. In a nutshell, more teams, more playing time and a better level of development.

At the 9th grade level Joe Mileto led his Lancers to an undefeated season. An exciting win over a very good Selinsgrove team closed the season. Joe is active in more than just football and does a great job for Lancer athletics.

Down on the 7th and 8th grade level, the resurgence on the hillside continues. Coach Jason Wein led the young Mounties to a one-loss season. A tough, hard fought 33-32 decision at the hands of Danville. I saw this team first hand and was very impressed. A well-oiled machine, the Southsiders rolled over most of their opponents.

Outstanding job by many coaches in our area. It takes a staff to build a program. I know I mentioned mostly head coaches, but to all the assistants, many of whom volunteer their time – thank you. The folks in our area appreciate good football. Good luck to all the playoff teams this weekend.

Speaking of thanks and appreciation. As we approach Veterans Day, I would like to say thank you to all of our soldiers, past and present. Without your dedication to American freedom, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the great football our area has to offer. Freedom isn’t free and I am grateful for those who have served and are currently serving to protect our great country.

Jim Webb

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