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BY JEFF FALK

ANNVILLE – The great thing about greatness is that it can be defined in so many unique ways. Depending upon one’s perspective and experiences, there is a definition of greatness to fit every occasion.

This season, the Annville-Cleona football team is defining greatness as a commitment made without an expectation of receiving anything in return.

It’s a commitment to the game, to the community, to the school, to teammates. But when it comes to the results, nothing is promised.

Currently, the Little Dutchmen are working hard, practicing and preparing for their 2021 season opener at home on August 27, versus Schuylkill Valley. But given the nature of last year’s COVID-19-shortened campaign and some key losses, Annville-Cleona doesn’t have a lot to build on right now.

“If you want to be great, you’ve got to be willing to fail,” said Annville-Cleona’s seventh-year head coach, Matt Gingrich. “If you want to be great, you have to look on it like you might fail. I want our kids to realize that they can give it their all and not get what they expect out of it. I want them to understand that the process of attaining greatness is better than the result.

“Sometimes in the real world, life isn’t fair,” added Gingrich. “The sooner you recognize that the easier life gets. Nick Saban once said, ‘The enemy of great people isn’t bad people, it’s average people’. The failure doesn’t matter. I want these kids to strive for greatness.”

Like most, this year’s greatness will have to come from within.

In 2020, Annville-Cleona compiled an overall record of 3-5 and a Lancaster-Lebanon Section Four mark of 2-3. Last season was supposed to be a building year, a learning year, but the Little Dutchmen graduated some key seniors from that squad and also had some projected starters not return.

“I remember thinking, ‘We are so young,'” said Gingrich. “Then this year rewrites what young is. We were just very happy to have a season last year. But we were one of those teams that could’ve used a preseason and a summer camp. All in all, it was a pretty good learning experience for us.

“Unfortunately, last year’s experience is not going to help this team at all,” continued Gingrich. “We do not have a lot of carry over. We lost a lot of seniors and a lot of kids who didn’t come back. We probably have ten kids from last year who are different this year.”

Annville-Cleona is hoping to make up for what it lacks in experience with athleticism and speed. Quarterback Gavin Keller has some experience and appears ready to take the next step, surrounded by skill people like Chase Maguire, Rogan Harter, Alex Correa and Ethan Missimer.

Up front on offense, the Little Dutchmen are anchored by center Ethan Shriver, guard Josh Lindsay and tight-end Brad Smith. But they’re also expecting Logan Riggenbach, Chris Nagle and Darrian Holloway to make contributions, on both sides of the ball.

“If we’re healthy, we’ve got a lot of skilled runners of the football,” said Gingrich. “We’ve got a lot of speed and interchangeable parts. I really like that about us.

“An area of concern is depth, because of a lack of kids,” Gingrich added. “Everyone was doing a great job with where they were and where they were going. Now we’re expecting kids to do things we weren’t expecting them to do before. Kids we were expecting to rotate before, now they’re starters.”

Many of the Little Dutchmen’s key contributors on the offensive side of the ball will be asked to perform similar duties on defense as well.

Missimer and Maguire will be joined in the defensive backfield by Braden Haulman and Phoenix Music, while Alex Long has been penciled in for linebacking chores. Also pushing for playing time are Cam Connelly, Cael Harter and Jayden Neely.

“We want to win the games we should,” said Gingrich. “We’ve also got to get good at our individual skills. Just the little things like knowing who we’re supposed to block and where we’re supposed to run.

“I really want to make sure we develop depth and create a cohesive unit,” Gingrich continued. “Unfortunately, at Annville we do not have kids who have each other’s back. I want these kids to leave here as a brotherhood.”

Currently, the Little Dutchmen are working with roster numbers in the mid 30s, about eight of whom are seniors.

“The big thing I’ve noticed in my seven years here is that until they show up on August 9, I don’t know who I have,” said Gingrich. “I don’t know until that first day. I went into the season with some ideas and those ideas have switched already.

“I think the big question is, ‘How do we develop depth on the offensive and defensive lines?” added Gingrich. ” ‘How do we get our skill kids touches that they’re all able to handle?’ We really don’t have that many kids and that’s in the back of our minds.”

To purchase images in this article please email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

2021 Annville-Cleona Football Schedule

DateOpponents
8/27
7:00 pm
Schuylkill Valley
at Annville-Cleona

Nonleague
9/02
7:00 pm
Annville-Cleona
at Fleetwood

Nonleague
9/10
7:00 pm
Annville-Cleona
at Littlestown

Nonleague
9/17
7:00 pm
Donegal
at Annville-Cleona

Nonleague
9/24
7:00 pm
Annville-Cleona
at Lancaster Catholic

Nonleague
10/01
7:00 pm
Annville-Cleona
at Northern Lebanon

League
10/08
7:00 pm
Pequea Valley
at Annville-Cleona

League
10/15
7:00 pm
Columbia
at Annville-Cleona

League
10/22
7:00 pm
Annville-Cleona
at Octorara

League
10/29
7:00 pm
Elco
at Annville-Cleona

League

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