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The Lebanon High football squad is seeking to strength its core, through its corps. 

IMG_7058BY JEFF FALK

LEBANON – You can only put band-aids on broken stuff for so long. After a while, you’ve just got to blow it up and start over.

Because sometimes the best way to rebuild is from the ground up.

The Lebanon football program certainly deserves credit for taking a long hard look at itself in the mirror, and being honest about what it saw peering back at it. It also took some intestinal fortitude and a level of commitment for the Cedars to come up with the decision that they did.

Lebanon is switching from its vaunted high-octane Air Raid offense to a more old-fashioned option style of offense. Or in layman’s terms, the Cedars are going from being a passing team to a running team.

IMG_6995Now that doesn’t sound like all that big of a deal. Bur more than anything, it’s a change in approach, a change in philosophy and a change in attitude.

The Cedars may not be as fun to watch this season, but the change may give them their best chance at winning.

“I’m a die-hard Phillies’ fan, and we’re doing what they did,” said Lebanon head coach Gerry Yonchiuk. “What we had to do was blow up the foundation. Over the last ten years, we had two phenomenal years. But that’s not enough. It’s like a roller coaster. We got to the top, then sank down to the bottom. I felt like it (the Air Raid) didn’t add enough aggressiveness up front, which is where we needed it.

IMG_7056“We ran the Air Raid for ten years, and when it was clicking, it was fun to watch,” continued Yonchiuk. “But it was not aggressive. What we did, we looked at it and asked, ‘What can we be best at?’ Karl (Coach Liedtka) and I have coached option football between us for 40 years. We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. We want to be a nightmare for everyone we play, Most teams in Section One (of the Lancaster-Lebanon League) will be in a two-point stance, and we’ll be in a three-point stance. You can only play the cards you’re dealt. We thought it was the way to go.”

So if you’re going to commit to a project, you’re going to need hands to get the work done. That was the next step in the Cedars’ plan: getting more student-athletes interested in the sport.

Yonchiuk and his staff went door-to-door with their cause, and the pavement pounding yielded some 50 players.

“We did home visits from December to June,” said Yonchiuk. “We had three assemblies at school. ‘Why it would be an advantage to play football?’ I felt like I was starting over with a new program. We tried to do things with our guys, to draw them in a bit to the program. The grand finale was going to the Poconos for three days. I’ve been real pleased. It’s different in a positive way.

IMG_7005“I thought about it, ‘What are we going to do?’ ” Yonchiuk continued. “We were 0-10 and the next year we had the biggest turn-around in the state. Then the year after Mark (Pyles) graduated, we dropped to where we were before. I want to be a competitive team, consistently at .500, with higher expectations. We blew it up. You know the old expression ‘less is more’. We have guys at Lebanon who play three sports and I want that. Cody’s (Kissinger) a great example. He loves sports. He loves to compete. We want to make it something cool to be a part of.”

It only seems appropriate that Lebanon will have a new quarterback running its new offense. His name is Zakee Sailsman, an athletic sophomore transfer. The idea is to surround Sailsman with experienced and quality skill people, and with seniors Kissinger, Shaquell Ortiz, Phillip Hillesheim, and juniors Luis Aquino-Rios, Josh Kauffman and Jeremiah Beckley, Lebanon has the personnel in place.

IMG_7079“There is going to be growing pains,” said Yonchiuk, now in his 11th season of fronting the Cedars, and his 33rd overall. “Maybe you’ve got to go through it for a whole season. I don’t know how good or bad we’re going to be, but we know the system. I really feel comfortable running that. Now we feel like we have answers. If there is a problem, it’ll be an easier fix.

“Our guys are drinking the Kool-Aid,” Yonchiuk added. “They’re seeing the advantages. Our guys want to be aggressive. But you just can’t talk it. We’ve gotten stronger, but we’re not where we need to be yet. We’re trying to do all the right things, the things that will help us be a better team. We’re trying to be smarter.”

With senior Khalique Washington, senior Isaiah Blauch, senior Trever Armpriester junior Keiano Stephens, junior Keon Swaby, junior Nick Bradley and junior James Apple, the Cedars do sport some meat up front. But there will be added pressure on that group to perform.

“A strength is the cohesiveness, because it started when we went away” said Yonchiuk. “In terms of being around each other and liking each other. Everything we did in the off-season, we did as a team.



“The thing that seems to be an Achilles heel is depth,” added Yonchiuk. “We have six guys at five starting offensive line positions. I’d like to have eight. My biggest concern will be depth at the offensive line. But our depth at inside linebacker is a concern too. It’s a different position. It’s the ultimate football spot, but not everyone is built for it.”

Here’s what Lebanon High might look like when it lines up defensively: Washington and Armpriester at the tackles; Swaby and Apple at the ends; Kauffman and Bradley at inside linebackers; Julian Imm, Ortiz and Beckley at the outside linebackers; Kissinger and Aquino-Rios at safeties; and Hillescheim at one of the corners. Interestingly enough, the Cedars’ offensive switch could enhance their toughness on defense as well.

IMG_7044“That was one of the reasons we went to the offense,” said Yonchiuk. “When you’re in the two-point stance, it was always retreat. Our guys were asked, ‘Do you like having your hand in the dirt?’ And their answer was ‘Absolutely.’ What Coach Liedtka does with the offensive line is amazing. Sometimes we get more out of our guys than I think maybe we should.”

A six-A program under the PIAA’s new classification system, Lebanon will compete in Section One this season as part of the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s re-alignment. Lebanon will open its 2016 campaign on Friday, September 2nd at home, against cross-town rival Cedar Crest, in the annual Cedar Bowl game.

“All we’re trying to do is team bonding,” said Yonchiuk, whose troops went 2-8 a year ago. “We’re not putting anything out there like we’ve got to be .500 or we want to have a winning season. All we talk about is the Cedar Bowl. They’ve (the Falcons) dominated us lately, they’ve worked us over physically. They beat the heck out of us last year. They knocked us around like we were their whipping boys. We want to have a fighting chance in the trenches, and if we do we’ll close the gap.

IMG_7051“It’s (the change in offense and the change in sections) more or less coincidence,” continued Yonchiuk. “But no one uses it (the option) in Section One. Most programs have a little spin off the passing offense. But to be in Section One, you’ve got to be more physical.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_7070To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com, or to view more go to www.http://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/gallery-11/.

 

2016 Lebanon High Football Schedule

DATE OPPONENT TIME LOCATION
09/02
Cedar Crest
7:00 PM Lebanon High School
09/09
@Ephrata
7:00 PM Ephrata High School
09/16
@Elizabethtown
7:00 PM Elizabethtown High School
09/23 *
Penn Manor
7:00 PM Lebanon High School
09/30 *
@Warwick
7:00 PM Warwick High School
10/07 *
@Conestoga Valley
7:00 PM Conestoga Valley High School
10/14 *
Wilson West Lawn
7:00 PM Lebanon High School
10/21 *
McCaskey
7:00 PM Lebanon High School
10/28 *
@Manheim Twp.
7:00 PM Manheim Twp. High School
11/04 *
Hempfield
7:00 PM Lebanon High School

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IMG_70212015 Lebanon Football Results

DATE OPPONENT TIME RESULT
09/04
@Cedar Crest
7:00 PM L 7-41
09/11
Northern Lebanon
7:00 PM W 2-0
09/18
@Elco
7:00 PM W 20-19
09/25 *
Cocalico
7:00 PM L 6-50
10/03 *
@Manheim Central
3:00 PM L 14-62
10/09 *
Solanco
7:00 PM L 12-42
10/16 *
@Lancaster Catholic
7:00 PM L 27-41
10/23 *
@Garden Spot
7:00 PM L 0-47
10/30 *
Lampeter-Strasburg
7:00 PM L 21-62
11/06 *
Elizabethtown
7:00 PM L 20-28

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IMG_6992Cedar Bowl History

2015 – Cedar Crest 41, Lebanon 7

2014 – Cedar Crest 38, Lebanon 24

2013 – Cedar Crest 40, Lebanon 24

2012 – Cedar Crest 67, Lebanon 0

2011 – Lebanon 47, Cedar Crest 14

2010 – Lebanon 35, Cedar Crest 7

2009 – Cedar Crest 33, Lebanon 14

2008 — Lebanon 39, Cedar Crest 7
2007 — Cedar Crest 30, Lebanon 19
2006 — Lebanon 28, Cedar Crest 7
2005 — Lebanon 14, Cedar Crest 13
2004 — Cedar Crest 34, Lebanon 7
IMG_70302003 — Lebanon 29, Cedar Crest 24
2002 — Cedar Crest 14, Lebanon 7
2001 — Cedar Crest 42, Lebanon 24
2000 — Cedar Crest 39, Lebanon 6
1999 — Cedar Crest 42, Lebanon 6
1998 — Cedar Crest 63, Lebanon 21
1997 — Cedar Crest 49, Lebanon 12
1996 — Lebanon 41, Cedar Crest 6
1995 — Cedar Crest 28, Lebanon 0
1994 — Cedar Crest 28, Lebanon 0
1993 — Cedar Crest 35, Lebanon 20
1992 — Lebanon 7, Cedar Crest 0
1991 — Cedar Crest 20, Lebanon 14
1990 — Lebanon 35, Cedar Crest 31
1989 — Lebanon 13, Cedar Crest 6
1988 — Lebanon 0, Cedar Crest 0
1987 — Cedar Crest 14, Lebanon 6
1986 — Cedar Crest 14, Lebanon 0
IMG_70321985 — Cedar Crest 28, Lebanon 23
1984 — Lebanon 23, Cedar Crest 7
1983 — Cedar Crest 14, Lebanon 7
1982 — Cedar Crest 23, Lebanon 0
1981 — Lebanon 15, Cedar Crest 9
1980 — Cedar Crest 15, Lebanon 13
1979 — Cedar Crest 34, Lebanon 0
1978 — Lebanon 14, Cedar Crest 0
1977 — Cedar Crest 20, Lebanon 8
1976 — Lebanon 14, Cedar Crest 6
1975 — Cedar Crest 32, Lebanon 14
1974 — Cedar Crest 39, Lebanon 8
IMG_70381973 — Lebanon 22, Cedar Crest 0
1972 — Cedar Crest 15, Lebanon 13

Note: Cedar Crest leads the all-time series 28-15-1

 

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