Wildcats hope to turn the corner

August 31, 2010|By MARK KELLER
  • Alex Fridley

WILLIAMSPORT -- Three moments that haunted the Williamsport football team in 2009 were placed front and center as the team began preparations for the 2010 season.

The reminders are meant to inspire and motivate a Wildcats team that, though improved, still has work to do.

"I think last year we got to the corner (as a program), but didn't quite turn the corner," said second-year head coach Randy Longnecker. "We learned how to compete last year, but we had some lapses and lost some games in the end that good teams don't lose."

In many ways, 2009 was a transition year for Williamsport. In their first season under Longnecker, the Wildcats went 5-5, their first non-losing season in 10 years.

The 5-5 record made it seem more like a transition year, but if those three haunting moments had gone differently, the transition instead might have been a full-blown turnaround.

· The Wildcats gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown, then played North Carroll about even the rest of the way in a 26-20 loss on the road in their season opener.


· In Week 6, Boonsboro recovered its own punt deep in Williamsport territory after the ball hit a Wildcats player, sparking the Warriors' 16-point rally in a 28-21 win.

· In Week 9, after the Wildcats took a one-point lead with a touchdown and two-point conversion with less than 30 seconds remaining, Smithsburg scored on the final play of the game for a 26-21 victory.

"There's a bitter taste to some of those defeats," Longnecker said. "You get a team right where you want them and then they slip away. That's frustrating, but you learn from it. They have to have the hunger to win those games."

Longnecker said he liked the hunger that he did see from his returning players this summer. The Wildcats averaged about 50 players in the weight room during conditioning.

They saw the results of their work, too, Longnecker said. Lifting totals increased, while 40-meter dash times decreased.

"I'm really happy with the work that they put in," Longnecker said. "We can talk about it, but they're the ones who have to have the fight in them."

The Wildcats should regain some balance offensively this season after relying heavily on the passing game in 2009, when senior quarterback Casey McKenrick -- in his only season of high school football --broke most of Williamsport's career passing records.

With McKenrick graduated, the Wildcats will turn either to senior Kemper Baker or junior Tyler Wise to run the offense. No matter who gets the call, Longnecker doesn't expect to be as pass-happy as he was a year ago.

"That went against everything I was ever taught. My mentors were probably horrified," Longnecker said with a laugh. "But that was our strength, and that's what I like about our offense. It allows us to be flexible."

A return to the running game will mean additional carries for senior Reggie Russ, who enters his third varsity season bigger and stronger than last year. He'll also be running behind a bigger and stronger offensive line.

"We basically have two sets of linemen, so we should be able to keep them pretty fresh," Longnecker said.

Defensively, Longnecker is excited about the play of senior end Nate Willis and junior lineman Alex Friedley.

Friedley was an All-County second team pick last year and Longnecker said he was the best sophomore he saw last season.

"He barely played in our Blue-White scrimmage because we couldn't keep him out of the backfield," Longnecker said.

The Wildcats also are spending extensive time on special teams. Most Williamsport practices begin with special teams work, and Longnecker need only remind his players of those haunting moments from a year ago to get his point across.

"It's an integral third of the game. They've seen how impactful special teams can be, both good and bad," Longnecker said.

Williamsport Wildcats roster

Head Coach: Randy Longnecker

No., Name, Yr., Pos., Ht., Wt.

5, Tyler Shank, Sr., WR-DB, 5-10, 160

8, Kemper Baker, Sr., WR-DB, 5-9, 165

12, Garrett Davis, Jr., WR-DB, 5-8, 145

17, Tyler Wise, Jr., QB-DB, 6-1, 175

18, Ty Shulte, Sr., WR-DB, 5-9, 130

20, Bobby Ardinger, Sr., WR-DB, 5-7, 157

22, Killian Baker, Jr., RB-LB, 5-6, 144

23, Eric Davis, Sr., RB-DB, 5-10, 165

27, C.J. Ezidinma, Sr., RB-DB, 5-11, 139

30, Jerome Thomas, Jr., WR-DB, 5-8, 135

33, Jake VanBrock, Sr., RB-LB, 5-7, 175

34, Reggie Russ, Sr., RB-LB, 5-9, 179

35, John Burgess, Jr., RB-DB, 5-7, 140

40, Seth Gross, Jr., TE-DE, 6-0, 169

42, Devon Runkles, Jr., WR-LB, 5-11, 170

45, Alex Fridley, Jr., RB-DL, 5-11, 245

50, Antonio Murphy, Jr., OL-DL, 6-0, 234

52, Nate Downs, Jr., OL-LB, 5-10, 215

54, T.J. Fear, Sr., OL-DL, 5-11, 205

55, Tyler Myers, Sr., RB-LB, 6-0, 210

57, Matt Cody, Sr., OL-DL, 5-8, 240

60, Zach Nalley, Jr., OL-DL, 5-11, 230

62, Patrick Mitchell, Sr., OL-DL, 5-11, 229

63, Ryan Adams, Jr., OL-DL, 5-10, 194

64, Domenic Allemen, Sr., OL-DL, 5-11, 182

65, Muneeb Khan, Sr., OL-DL, 6-0, 292

66, Chad Bean, Sr., OL-DL, 5-10, 285

67, Matt McKenzie, Jr., OL-DL, 5-11, 225

68, John Huckabee, Jr., OL-DL, 5-8, 205

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