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9 years ago
Cougars Charged with Task of Creating New History

BY JEFF FALK

PALMYRA – After navigating uncharted waters, the Palmyra football program has emerged on the other side unscathed, yet changed forever. But where do the Cougars go from here?

After enjoying almost unprecedented success, the Cougars are now faced with transition the likes of which they may have never encountered before.

Palmyra is faced with the prospect of replacing one of the most successful classes in school history, its elevation into one of the most competitive football divisions in the Mid-Penn Conference and depleted numbers which will cause many of its starters to play on both sides of the ball. The Cougars will have to accomplish a lot with two loaves of bread and five fishes.

“We’ve talked about goals and expectations,” said Chris Pope, who’s entering his fifth season as the captain of Palmyra’s ship. “Obviously, everyone wants to have a winning season. We want to carry on what’s come before us. These guys have been part of a winning team for two years. I think they’d love to get to the playoffs.”

For the Cougars, 2011 included a 9-3 overall record, their first District Three Class AAA playoff berth in school history, an emotional 38-35 overtime victory over perennial power Manheim Central, numerous individual honors and countless memories. But with a link to that season, this year’s Palmyra squad’s job is to make that year a memory.

“We had two winning seasons in-a-row,” said Pope. “That’s impressive. We’ll see. I think they (his players) have a lot more to offer than most people think. The numbers are actually my biggest concern. We’re at 30 and that’s counting kickers. I think numbers are down everywhere, and it could be a cyclical thing. We have 30 ninth-graders. Hopefully they’ll rebound soon.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what these guys can do,” added Pope. “A lot of the wins we had last year we were supposed to get on paper. When we win this year, they’ll be well-earned, and everyone’s going to contribute to them. It’s going to be a team effort. Something special that this team has a chance to accomplish is the closeness factor. It’s an opportunity that a lot of teams don’t have. With just a few, they can become really, really close.”

With a few hold-overs from last year remaining, those players will be asked to assume leadership roles. The most notable is senior quarterback Mason Laudermilch, who is expected to do more throwing this season and less handing off than he did last year.

Palmyra’s roster features 14 seniors.

“I think he has stepped up,” said Pope of Laudermilch. “He’s been a leader. We’re going to have to be able to be more balanced this year. We’re going to have to be able to throw the football. And right now, we’re in sync.

“I’m happy about how camp has gone,” continued Pope. “I’m happy with our improvement each day. We’ve tried to structure practice around the fact that we don’t have a lot of bodies. We’re really trying to avoid injuries, and we’ve been able to get through practice unscathed.”

When Palmyra does go to the ground this season, hard-nosed senior Dino Faiola figures to garner the bulk of the carries.

“Dino has the run the ball very hard in the preseason,” said Pope. “At every scrimmage the other coaches have commented on his play. It’s a never-give-up style of play. It’s good stuff.

“We scrimmaged Elizabethtown and Elco and I think we’ve gotten better each one,” Pope continued. “I told the guys that effort is not going to be good enough. We have to work hard to get to the point where we can compete with Northern York (in the season and home opener Aug. 31).”

With Laudermilch and Faiola showing the way, the Cougars are seeking key contributions from a variety of sources, most notably Рbut not exclusively Рfrom senior receiver Alex Graybill,  talented sophomore Mitchell Cooper, senior back Chris Mercado, senior John Binner, senior Joe Hall, senior Alex Slobozien, senior Sam Beecher, and  senior Jamison Barker, junior Joey Hess, senior Tyler Rivera and senior Anthony Downey.

Barker, Hess, Rivera and Downey will form the nucleus and foundation of a Palmyra line that could hold the key to its fortunes.

“Our line has consistently been our strength all preseason,” said Pope. “We’ve got to have a solid, consistent effort up front.”

League-wise, Palmyra has gone from being one of the largest schools in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference to one of the smallest in the Capital Division. Replacing the likes of Camp Hill, Middletown and Boiling Springs on the Cougars’ docket are the likes of Bishop McDevitt, Susquehanna Township and Cedar Cliff.

“There are good teams in the Keystone division for sure,” said Pope. “But in general, the competition in the Capital is upgraded. You’re talking about the bigger Class AAA schools in the league and three AAAA schools. For high school kids, it’s hard to compete at a high level every week. It takes a certain level of maturity. From week-to-week, there’s not going to be a dip in the schedule.”

Another thing that the Cougars have going for them is the presence of one of the most experienced assistant coaches in central Pennsylvania in the person of Robert ‘Gump’ May. The long-time Hershey head coach brings a wealth of wisdom and know-how to the table.

“He’s helped in every facet of our team,” said Pope. “It’s Coach May. He’s helped in the weight room, during the off-season, on special teams. He brings a lot of knowledge. It’s nice for me to have someone to bounce your thoughts off of, and use it as a springboard.”

While it will be important for the Cougars to remain focused on the here and now, they can’t lose sight of the big picture. Palmyra sees to be in touch with where it’s been, as well as where it’s going.

“When I look where we started,” said Pope, “we have elevated the program in every facet. The athletes we’re producing, the young men we’re producing, we’re very happy with. I think there’s a lot of people experiencing low numbers. Overall I’m pleased with the direction the program is heading.”

 

NO. Name POS
37 Joel Lohr
Joe Hall
Tylr Kreiser
54 Tyler Rivera
63 Joseph Hess
81 Cole Mase
68 Jamison Barker
32 Anthony Faiola
61 Anthony Downey
50 John (Jack) Horn
Noah Martin
76 Daulton Weaber
29 Thomas Wieder
19 Brad Miller
2 Chris Mercado
59 Adam Wimmer
Ruben Irizarry
85 Marcos Tena
82 John Binner Jr.
Daniel Sweeney
Jeffrey Boucher
62 Ki-Jana Williams
30 Dino Faiola
15 Michael Lewis
89 Jordan Klingler
6 Alex Slobozien
Ryan Monk
12 Mason Laudermilch
Sam Beecher
86 Zach Miller
8 Alex Graybill
87 Mitchell Cooper
Cole Bowman
Adam Kennedy
Devon Foust

 

2012 Palmyra Cougar Football Schedule

Fri Aug/31

7:00 pm
vs. Northern HS/MS

Fri Sep/07

7:00 pm
vs. Muhlenberg High School

Fri Sep/14

7:30 pm
vs. Donegal Senior High School

Fri Sep/21

7:00 pm
@ Susquehanna Twp HS

Fri Sep/28

7:00 pm
vs. Hershey High School

Fri Oct/05

7:00 pm
@ Cedar Cliff High School

Fri Oct/12

7:00 pm
@ Red Land Senior High School

Fri Oct/19

7:00 pm
@ Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School

Fri Oct/19

7:00 pm
@ Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School

Fri Oct/26

7:00 pm
vs. Lower Dauphin High School

Fri Nov/02

7:00 pm
@ Bishop McDevitt HS (Harrisburg)

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