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Keep Your Eyes to the Skies

It is definitely the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. As in the Christmas classic sung by Andy Williams. I love when that song comes on the radio; it can’t help but to put some Christmas spirit in your step and a smile on your face. Give it a listen before you go shopping, to the grocery store or just plain out and about enjoying the winter wonderland we call home. That smile goes a long way in the world we live in. Please don’t be one of these Grinches that I run into way too often. They’re oblivious to their fellow man.

The Grinches to the next level are the ones that always have their heads down. Their eyes and mind are buried in that electronic device that seems to control their every move. The only time they come up for air is to take a selfie to post on ‘hatebook’ or some form of social media. Then miraculously they go from Grinch to grin and look at me, I’m filled with holiday spirit. Immediately after hitting send, their head drops back down, and they return to Scrooge mode.

Please put the cell phone in your back pocket and keep your eyes to the skies like Hall of Fame Coach John Zalonis taught me when making a tackle on the football field. See everything in this beautiful world that’s going on around you; greet everyone even if it’s just with a simple smile.

Coach Z’s teaching was intended so you kept your head up and could see what to hit and hit what you see. Then, hopefully, make a perfect form tackle. Most importantly, his teaching was and is still the safest and most effective way to play football. Never use your helmet as a tackling weapon. Not only can you injure the ball carrier, but you can also knock yourself dizzy with a concussion or much, much worse. From a football standpoint, if you drop that head, the ball carrier can make a move as your eyes are looking down. Then you end up tackling air as the ball carrier heads to the end zone. This is not only very embarrassing as a player but tends to get any coach a little upset.

Thank you to Coach Zalonis, for not only teaching me proper tackling technique but also for the verbiage that can be applied to everyday life.

In sticking with the gridiron theme — this year was a most successful season in local high school football. A tip of my Webb Weekly orange hunting cap to Coach Tom Gravish and his Jersey Shore Bulldogs who won the District IV 4A title and reached the Final Four in the State Tournament. An absolutely amazing season — the best in the history of the Orange and Black in Bulldogland.

The same tip of the cap to Muncy football Coach Sean Tetreault and his tribe of Indians. A district championship at the A level. The school’s first win in the PIAA State Tournament. A season to remember, and a program in the midst of an Indian uprising.

Last but definitely not least, a tip of my Loyalsock cap to Montoursville Head Coach JC Keefer and his Warriors. A District 3A Championship, a trip to the state quarterfinals and a 12-win season in the history books for the Blue and Gold.

Now here’s the part everyone should take great pride in. As I meet, greet and interview the coaches and players each week for Touchdowns and Tailgates, I’m always impressed. Our area is blessed with outstanding head coaches, coordinators, and coaching staff. This does not just include the varsity; it follows suit down to the Middle School level. In many programs, the head coaches have things cooking all the way down to the junior/elementary football level. That is how outstanding programs are built for long-term success.

Most importantly, I can tell you first-hand our area coaches are developing fine men, not just football players. It’s not all about winning on Friday nights; it is about teaching, developing, and coaching up young folks to win and persevere at life. Football, by nature, is a game that provides the heat to mold not only bodies but also minds. It is the ultimate team sport that requires the efforts of everyone.

Every week I’m so very impressed by the high school students I talk with. The best conversations I have are often off-camera, and not just with football players. It may be someone that supports the team by playing in the band, through cheer, or volunteers time to help out with the program.

Folks, I can tell you this, our young people get it! They are intelligent, well spoken, and have their feet firmly rooted in God’s green earth. They do the extra work to be successful in the classroom and on the athletic field. Our young men and women are raising the bar with each passing year, not just here in the West Branch Valley but across Pennsylvania and the Nation. We are so truly blessed with our amazing young people.

So as Coach Z taught me many moons ago, keep your eyes to the skies and stay focused on your target. This also includes parents, grandparents, teachers, clergy, coaches, and everyone working with our children. You are doing an outstanding job!

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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