BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – When the storm winds blow, which is more apt to be toppled and uprooted, the big tall oak or the supple sapling? Why the oak, of course.
That’s because there’s more strength in flexibility than there is in rigidity.
Anthony Pletz is both flexible and versatile – in life in general, and on the football field, specifically. It is not his only strength, but one of his biggest.
Flexibility is a big reason why Pletz is playing football for Annville-Cleona this season, and it exemplifies how he performs on the field for the Little Dutchmen.
“I’m not really sure what my role is,” said Pletz. “Wherever the coaches put me, I’ll do my best. My role is to help this football team. Wherever they need me, I’m going to play. And I’m going to play my heart out.”
In July, literally weeks before the start of training camp, Pletz’s family decided to move out of the Elco school district and into the city of Lebanon. Last year as a sophomore, Pletz had started every game at quarterback for the Raiders.
At that time, and because of the upheaval, Pletz, who attends Lebanon Catholic school, wasn’t even sure if he was going to play football this season. The fact that Annville-Cleona and Lebanon Catholic have a co-operative agreement that allows LC students to play football for the Little Dutchmen provided Pletz with an opportunity – an opportunity he eventually took advantage of.
“It was short notice,” said Pletz of his family’s decision to move. “Right before the season started, before two-a-days. At first I was planning on not playing at all. But I really thought about it and I figured you really got to play this game when you get a chance. Take it all in.
“I’ve been playing it (football) for a very long time,” Pletz added. “I didn’t want to end it that way. I knew they (Annville-Cleona and Lebanon Catholic) had it (a co-op) last year, when they actually started it.”
“During football games, he’s not a kid,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Terry Lehman of Pletz. “He’s a very football-savvy player. He comes up with plays on the sidelines. His adjustment? I don’t see it because he’s done such a great job with it.”
The fact that the current Little Dutchmen welcomed Pletz with open arms certainly made the transition to his new team easier. Or it could’ve been that Pletz’s flexibility just made him easier to accept.
“At first, I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it,” said Pletz. “I only knew a couple of the kids on the team. But they’ve been my buddies from the start. Even though I don’t go to this school, I feel like one of the guys.”
“I can’t separate him (Pletz) from the other Catholic kids, because all of the Catholic kids are accepted,” said Lehman. “Everyone gets along. He (Pletz) has good friends on the team. He’s such a likeable kid. It’s almost like if you don’t like him there’s something wrong with you.”
The prototypical drop-back passer, Pletz has lined up at three positions for the Little Dutchmen this season, quarterback, wide receiver and cornerback. He has provided a nice change of pace for junior Mitch Rodkey, who is well suited for Lehman’s option-oriented, read-the-defense attack.
“When I first talked to Coach (Lehman) he said they had a starting quarterback and that was Mitch,” said Pletz. “He said they had a cornerback and wide receiver spot open. I never played wide receiver before, and it turns out I’m pretty good. At least that’s what they tell me.
“Being a wide receiver is not as difficult,” Pletz continued. “The quarterback needs to know everyone’s route, everyone’s blocking scheme, and just know the entire offense.”
Pletz has actually been on the other side of touchdown passes this season, having caught a couple from Rodkey.
“It’s going pretty well,” said Pletz. “I like wide receiver. I like it a lot. Playing quarterback, I’ve been doing it all my life. It’s natural to me. It’s second nature.
“Pretty much whenever we need to pass the ball, they’ll put me at quarterback,” Pletz added. “Not all the time. If it’s third down and long, I’ll go to quarterback. Most of the time it’s Mitch doing the quick game.”
“We’re still looking for the best situation,” said Lehman. “We have three packages. Mitch is part of all three and Anthony is part of all three. Anthony throws a real nice ball. One of the reasons he’s not at quarterback is because he’s such a good wideout. At quarterback, he’s so smooth. But I don’t think he or Mitch cares who’s at quarterback and who’s at wideout.”
Familiarity breeds comfort. Given a choice, Pletz would prefer to play quarterback. But ultimately his favorite position is the one that gives Annville-Cleona the best chance to win.
“Yeah, I love playing quarterback,” said Pletz. “Being a quarterback is a good way to put out your leadership qualities. I like being in charge of the huddle, having people look up to me and being a leader.”
Pletz may not have known how the season was going to play out from the start. But at this point, he really has no regrets.
“The way the season has turned out, I’m just having a good time,” said Pletz. “I’ve met new people and made new friends. It’s always different playing on a new team. But I like it.”