BY JEFF FALK
SOUTH LEBANON – We all know that it can become habit forming, but can losing tug at your soul?
Does it possess the power to affect one’s self-confidence?
Could it possibly stunt the growth of maturing personalities?
On Friday night at Earl Boltz Stadium, the Cedar Crest football team dropped its 2011 season finale to Penn Manor, 42-7. It was the Falcons’ ninth loss out of ten games this year.
It was also the second straight 1-9 season for the CC football program.
“If you’re going to turn the scoreboard on, it’s important,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Waranavage of winning. “It’s not intramurals. There’s a lot of ways to measure success. If we would’ve finished the season 13-1, we’d still want to win more. We’ve got to take baby steps. It takes time. We just need time.
“We need confidence,” Waranavage continued. “Athletics is about confidence. It’s high school athletics, it’s not rocket science.”
On this particular evening, the Falcons engaged in a bit of a role reversal. For a time, their maligned defense kept them in the game, while their usually potent offense struggled.
It was just 7-0 Comets at halftime, thanks to a seven-play, 85-yard drive in the first quarter. But Penn Manor, which improved to 6-4, used short fields to score on its first two possessions of the second half and open a 21-0 lead.
On a cold night, that seemed to leave the air out of the Falcons’ intensity.
“As tough as our defense hung for a while, we couldn’t put anything together offensively,” said Waranavage. “Penn Manor is a good football team. They’re sound fundamentally.
“We were in it at halftime and then Penn Manor went and did what they do,” added Waranavage. “And we just couldn’t get into a real good rhythm on offense. You’ve got to execute when you opportunities.”
The Comets’ advantage would ultimately reach 42-0. Cedar Crest scored with 1:37 remaining when senior quarterback Garrett Levengood connected with Daulton Ritter on a 45-yard ‘fly pattern’ down the right sideline.
Penn Manor out gained the Falcons 428 total yards to 143. The Comets’ yardage output and points scored were right around the averages Cedar Crest had been surrendering this season.
Falcon tailback Rich Ellinger produced 52 yards on 17 totes of the pigskin.
“Penn Manor’s program was where we are now,” said Waranavage. “They turned it around. We just have to stay the course and do things the right way.
“It’s very simple,” added Waranavage. “I want us to play hard every game. I’d like us to play smart football, and for us to put ourselves in positions to be successful.”
When asked if his troops performed poorly, Waranavage responded: “I don’t even know how to answer that question.”
What seems unclear is whether the difficulties the Falcons experienced on the field this season were an anomoly or the result of structural damages within the program.
In its three years under Waranavage, Cedar Crest has gone a combined 6-24. But Waranavage’s predecessor, Mike Robinson, didn’t fare much better on the field.
“I love the kids we have,” said Waranavage. “Our kids have worked hard. No one wants to go through a season 1-9. You never start a sesason saying you want to win one game. There’s not a lot to say right now. We’ve got to get better.
“Obviously this wasn’t the way we wanted a difficult season to end,” Waranavage continued. “But I think we can take some life lessons from this.”
Cedar Crest, the biggest school district in Lebanon County, plays in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, one of the most competitive circuits in central Pennsylvania. In Section One, there are five or six schools with larger enrollments than Cedar Crest.
“When you go through a season like this it’s tough,” said Waranavage. “But when you’ve not been in certain situations you don’t know how to react. You’ve got to get into a situtation to learn from that situation, if that makes any sense. Then when you get in that situation again, you react.
“The kids are great kids,” continued Waranavage. “I’ve said that from Day One. I told the seniors tonight, ‘I wouldn’t trade you for any group in the world’. These kids will be successful, no matter what they choose to do.”
While Waranavage was mostly candid and responded with poise through what must’ve been a difficult post-game interview, there were some questions he declined to answer. Most of those question revolved around the overall health of the program.
Waranavage did say he remains committed to the Cedar Crest football program.
“I live here,” said Waranavage. “My daughter is in second grade and goes to school in this district. We live very close to one of the elementary schools. We want to be here. It’s where our family is. I don’t know if I could get more vested than that.”