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IMG_9509BY JEFF FALK

LEBANON – The Lebanon Cedars are who they are. But no matter the outcome, Lebanon has always tried hard and done the best that it could.

Since qualifying for the District Three big-school postseason in Mark Pyles’ senior season of 2013, Lebanon has endured three tough seasons in-a-row. The Cedars have gone a combined 6-24 over the last three years – including a 1-9 campaign a year ago – and some of those losses have been lopsided on the scoreboard.

There is also the matter of five straight setbacks to rival Cedar Crest in the season-opening Cedar Bowl. Next season, Lebanon High will drop from Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League to Section Three, a program first.

IMG_9517Yet through their recent struggles, the Cedars have always maintained their pride. They’ve always but forth a supreme effort. They’ve never given up hope.

“They’ll never quit,” said Gerry Yonchiuk, Lebanon’s always optimistic head coach of his troops. “They will play to the final whistle. They’ll give you everything they have. We’re very tight. The respect is there, and they know how much we (the coaching staff) care about them. The staff, they all care. That’s why they play hard for us.

“I’d like to win the Cedar Bowl,” Yonchiuk continued. “We’ve lost five in-a-row, that stings and they’ve (Cedar Crest) handed it to us. They’ve been very physical with us, but we should be able to compete with them. That has to be a goal. And now we’d like to make some noise in our other non-league game games because of the difficulty of Section One. We didn’t win a game in Section One, so a goal is to win that first one. If we stay healthy, I feel like we have a good core and some talented kids. We have a good group out there.”

IMG_9420This season, the Cedars are pinning their hopes on a massive offensive line, an athletic junior quarterback, a flip-flop of coaching assignments and a solid group of 14 seniors. On paper, it all makes sense.

“Last year, our lack of depth hurt us,” said Yonchiuk, who’s in his 12th year as the head man, and his 34th overall. “The lack of numbers was so frustrating. It’s not an excuse. It’s reality. But it’s hard to overcome that.

“Last year matters for our seniors, many of whom have been three-year starters,” Yonchiuk continued. “They also realize what they can’t do. We want to be better than 1-9. Are we better? Yes. Are we going to have a better record than 1-9? I don’t know.”

Along the offensive line, the Cedars will be as big as anyone they face this season. But they’ll have to be more physical and stronger than they’ve been in the past.

It all revolves around senior leader and right tackle Keon Swaby. Right guard Keiano Stephens is almost athletic, while senior center Nick Bradley, left guard Jordan Torres and left tackle Roberto Castillo have shown signs of coming together as a unit.

“I expect them to kind of carry us,” said Yonchiuk of his men up front. “If we run the football, it’ll be due to them, and that’ll keep us out of third-and-long situations and the defense off the field. That’s a great start. We haven’t had guys that big here.

IMG_9379“We have a change on defense,” added Yonchiuk. “I’m going to coach the defensive side of the ball and Coach (Karl) Liedtka is running the offense. We flipped sides of the ball. I wanted to do that.”

Just a little room to operate is all that athletic junior quarterback Zakee Sailsman needs to make things happen. Both a runner and a thrower, it is his quick feet that makes Sailsman so dangerous.

The Cedars’ stable of backs is strong, rugged and fleet. Josh Kauffman, last year’s starter, should see the majority of touches, but juniors Leighton Rivera, DZaire Hill, Jahlil Young and Christian Manzolillo will all get their shots.

“We have to run the football more,” said Yonchiuk. “When you’re an offensive line guy (like Liedtka is), it’s in your make-up, it’s part of your DNA. Now we’re in the three-point stance all the time. He brings that physicality. Running the football against better competition has been a weakness of our’s.

“Our offense is certainly ahead of our defense,” Yonchiuk added. “The change in philosophies is taking a little more time. But Zakee has another year of maturity and he’s ten pounds heavier. He’s a play maker. Every time he has the ball, something can happen.”

IMG_9389With senior receives Luis Aquino-Rios and Jeremiah Beckley showing the way, the Cedars have the flanks covered as well.

“Nick Bradley, Josh Kauffman and Keon Swaby, they’re leaders by their actions,” said Yonchiuk. “They are not satisfied with practices and performances which are under par. To me, those leadership things can out weigh other things. We’ll be a tough out. I believe that sincerely.

“We had some stuff we had to iron out,” continued Yonchiuk. “But I am so impressed by the volume of leadership. They expect to be successful. They don’t want to lose. They’re a little angry inside in that they haven’t been able to produce. Winners know how to lead.”

Among the Cedars’ 42-man roster, 14 are seniors.

“You’ve got to have at least 40 players when you’re playing in Section One or Section Two,” said Yonchiuk. “Our depth, numbers and getting off to a good start will be keys. Winning is so contagious, and so is losing. It’s the old show-me-don’t-tell-me routine. They were talented in junior high. We were looking forward to them coming up.

IMG_9523“It (next year’s move to Section Three) really doesn’t affect us,” Yonchiuk continued. “That’s a whole other discussion. We don’t event talk about it. There’s no reason to. We’ve just got to get ready for what’s in front of us.”

This season’s Cedar Bowl will be played at Earl Boltz Stadium in South Lebanon on Friday, September 1.

 

 

 

 

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To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com, or to view more go to https://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/photo-gallery/.

 

 

 

 

 

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2017 Lebanon High Football Schedule

DATE OPPONENT TIME LOCATION
09/01
@Cedar Crest
7:00 PM Cedar Crest High School
09/08
@Ephrata
7:00 PM Lebanon High School
09/15
@Elizabethtown
7:00 PM Lebanon High School
09/22 *
Penn Manor
7:00 PM Penn Manor High School
09/29 *
Warwick
7:00 PM Lebanon High School
10/06 *
@Conestoga Valley
7:00 PM Lebanon High School
10/13 *
Wilson West Lawn
7:00 PM Wilson West Lawn High School
10/20 *
McCaskey
7:00 PM McCaskey High School
10/27 *
Manheim Twp.
7:00 PM Lebanon High School
11/03 *
@Hempfield
7:00 PM Hempfield High School

 

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2017 Lebanon Football Roster

# Name Positions Gr. Ht Wt  
2 Zakee Sailsman QB, CB Jr. 6-0 170
6 Leighton Rivera MLB, RB Jr. 5-10 180
9 Josh Kauffman MLB, RB Sr. 5-8 200
10 James Apple TE, DE Sr. 5-10 180
12 Ryan Brown QB, OLB Jr. 5-10 180
19 Christian Galvez WR, TE Jr. 6-1 165
21 Andrew Bowers MLB, FB
22 Jommo Gathara FS, SS Sr. 5-9 145
23 Luis Aquino-rios Sr. 6-0 187
26 Christian Manzolillo RB, CB Jr. 5-4 140
32 Marco Capretti OLB, TE Jr. 6-0 170
33 Jeremiah Beckley WR, CB Sr. 6-2 175
51 Keon Swaby T, DE Sr. 6-0 225
54 Nick Bradley MLB, G Sr. 5-10 187
57 Julio Pabon Jr.
Andy Klebaur 5-8 160
Anthony Lucinski
Brayant Plaza Sr.
Donovan Cornelius 6-0 247
Jared Hoover
Jayson Bowman WR, CB Sr.
Jeremiah Beckley WR, OLB Sr.
Johnny Parks
Josh Bowman RB, MLB, DT Sr.
Keiano Stephens Sr.
Kevon Bell 5-8
Miguel Mendez Jr.
Terrell Ford 6-0 180
Vinny Deloreto
Zane Howard

 

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