So, under what circumstaces is second best? When it’s the best you can do, and when that makes you the best of the rest.
Terry Lehman knows there’s no shame in finishing second in a section that is ruled by perpetual bully Lancaster Catholic. In fact, the veteran Annville-Cleona head football coach would take it.
“Sure, we could qualify for districts,” said Lehman. “I’ll put it this way, we have a better chance of winning districts than winning the section title, because of Lancaster Catholic. They’re heads and tails above everyone else, but we like playing them.
“Second place is a goal,” Lehman continued. “That’s everyone’s goal. Or at least it should be, as long as they’re realistic. But for us, the district playoffs is a very good possibility.”
So what would it take for the Little Dutchmen to finish second in Section Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, or qualify for the District Three Class AA tournament? Unproven players must step up, an improved defense, a more balanced offense and probably a record of 6-4 or better.
“We need to improve throwing the ball, catching the ball and defending the pass,” said Lehman, whose celebrating his silver coaching anniversary. “And we need to gell as a whole team.
“Our kids are very likeable,” Lehman added. “And they’re hard workers. We jump on them, work them hard and they respond.”
Annville-Cleona is coming off a 2010 campaign in which it went 4-6 overall. It was one that could’ve been better, given the fact that the Little Dutchmen lost four of them in the fourth quarter.
“If we won half of those games, we’d have had a winning record,” said Lehman. “And two of those losses came in the last minute. We just got to keep plugging away. We were competitive.”
The Little Dutchmen are not without pieces. They return seven starters on offense and eight on defense, most notbably senior fullback/linebacker Freddy Hess and senior quarterback Tyson Hayes.
“We have a quarterback back,” said Lehman. “Freddy is a four-year starter. We have some kids back. We’re on our normal cycle.”
Also returning for Lehman’s club are linemen Tyler Eckenrode, Nat Hughes, Austin Kramer and Jared Kramer, wide out Cody Nelson, linebackers Keith Witmer and defensive backs Taylor Prentis and Mitch Rodkey.
“We’re getting there,” said Lehman. “We have some young kids filling in, so we need the older kids to make up for their mistakes.”
Annville-Cleona is currently reaping the rewards of an off-season cooperative agreement between itself and Lebanon Catholic which has allowed for four Catholic students – a senior, a sophomore and two freshmen – to compete with the Little Dutchmen squad. Lebanon Catholic has not fielded a football team since the 1990s.
“They’re all great kids,” said Lehman of his Beavers. “They fit in perfectly. I expected a handful of kids and that’s what we have. I see things growing a little bit.
“That’s (discussing season goals) something we’ll do in a few days,” added Lehman. “My goal is, honestly with the Catholic kids and the Annville kids, to experience a good season. If I said we’re going to go 10-0, that’s not realistic.”
Annville-Cleona will open its year on Friday, Sept. 2nd with the renewal of Lebanon County’s oldest football rivalry, versus Palmyra. But sadly, it will be the last time the two neighbors will meet on the gridiron, after the A-C administration voted during the off-season to end it.
“I want to be competitive in every game, be in every game,” said Lehman, “with exception of one. I want to be competitive in the first half of the Lancaster Catholic game. We’re going to win some games and we’re going to lose some games.
“I think it’s going to be a good season in the County,” Lehman concluded. “If Palmyra would come to the Lancaster-Lebanon League it would make it a perfect season in Lebanon County.”