Bill Iezzi: Anticipation Great for PA Football Coaches, Players

            For Downingtown East football coach Mike Matta it’s the smell of early-August grass that triggers the excitement. For his quarterback, Trey Lauletta, it’s a photo on his bedroom wall that keeps the adrenaline flowing.

            The opening day of football camp is nearing and Matta, Lauletta and hundreds of other coaches and players throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania are starting feel the excitement that leads up to Aug. 16, the first day that the sound of shoulder pads slamming into each other fills the air for the upcoming season.

            “I’m very excited,” Matta said. “Every year since the sixth grade, you smell the fresh-cut grass in August and the first thing you think about is football. The kids come together [at training camp], you see how much they’ve grown and the dividends that pay off from the weight room.

            “It’s a great time of year.”

            The Cougars last year finished with a record of 10-3 when Ridley ended their season with a 20-7 win in a District 1 semifinal game.

            This year they come back with seven returning starters on offense and four on defense. All of which lifts the spirits of Lauletta, a senior, three-year starter at quarterback.

            “I have a picture from after the [Bishop] Shanahan game last year,” Lauletta said. “It shows me walking off the field. Every morning I walk by it. It was a big win in the middle of the season.

            “We’ve worked in the weight room and on the practice field [since the season ended] but until that date [Aug. 16] you can’t put on the pads and hit. It’s an exciting day for everybody.”

            Lauletta can hand the ball to Drew Harris, who accumulated more than 2,000 yards rushing last season as a sophomore. Or he can throw to tight end Tyler Kroft, who has committed to Rutgers.

            LaSalle’s Joe Naji described the anticipation for the first day of training camp best when he said: “We start in January with seven-on-seven workouts and it’s a buildup that continues throughout the summer and on the first day you can feel the excitement of the entire team.

            “This is what you’ve been working for the past eight months. It’s time to get going.”

            LaSalle coach Drew Gordon said the excitement comes when the players transfer their off-season hard work to the practice field on opening day. That’s when they see what they’ve got.

            Gordon is pleased to note that 10 starters are back from last year’s 14-1 team that won the PIAA state Class AAAA championship.                          

            This season will be more challenging with a new quarterback and receivers; however, LaSalle has Jamal Abdur-Rahman and Tim Wade returning to the backfield to keep the electricity in the air.

            North Penn coach Dick Beck has named his new quarterback, Corey Ernst, a junior, and he says that the anticipation of the first day of training camp is more with the players than the coaches.

            Ernst is the only non-returning starter in a talented backfield that helped to lead the Knights to the District 1 Class AAAA title and the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.

            Neshaminy coach Mark Schmidt, on the other hand, feels the excitement.

            “It’s like Christmas morning,” Schmidt said about the first day of camp. “Sunday night [the night before] is like Christmas eve. You have an idea of what you might get, but you’re not sure until Christmas.”

            With 11 returning starters from last year’s 9-3 team, Schmidt is sure to get a good feeling.

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