MYERSTOWN – It’s important to be united. Especially in a world that’s divided.
It’s imperative to live in the moment. Especially in uncertain times.
It’s crucial to be empathetic. Especially in the face of social injustice.
Elco continues to preach, teach and learn important life lessons through its football program, even going so far as to place those messages ahead of winning. Now those timeless and universal messages are taking on an even greater meaning.
Some programs adopt a new slogan each year, supposedly to reflect that team’s individual personality and goals. But over the last three seasons, the Raiders’ mission of team unity, accountability and urgency has remained consistent, and constant.
And a funny thing has happened on the way to making the Raiders better young men – they started winning more.
“Our first goal, especially after the shut down, is just to have fun, by living every single day,” said Elco head coach Bob Miller. “You never know when it’s going to end. We want to continue this team bond that brought us success last year. We want to give these kids the best experience possible. We don’t talk about wins.
“It’s a day-to-day approach,” added Miller. “Today matters more than tomorrow. Enjoy today. Take what you can get.”
The origins of Elco’s cultural transformation can be traced to a 2017 season when high expectations produced a disappointing 2-8 campaign. The following year, the Raiders cultivated a complete pivot, going 8-2 and qualifying for the District Three playoffs.
Last year, Elco’s resolve was tested, as it ripped off seven straight victories after an 0-3 start, to make the postseason again. Now the Raiders appear poised for more of the same.
“That year’s juniors were 2-8, and they got killed,” said Miller, of 2017. “We’ve always talked about team and culture. It wasn’t until we really got smacked that we realized that was the missing ingredient. It was because of that selfishness that we changed some things around.
“The most important thing is the special bond these kids have,” Miller added. “It’s their ability to stay focused on having fun. Enjoying the team is the most important thing.”
Adversity in high school sports is a given. And this season that adversity will be heightened by an on-going pandemic, as well as other external factors.
It has been proven that the best way to combat adversity is through team unity and togetherness. In 2019, Elco’s adversity came in the form of its 0-3 start.
“What I remember about last year is the resiliency born out of the team culture,” said Miller. “To go 0-3 and then rattle off seven straight wins, that showed our resilency. If we had lost that fourth game, we wouldn’t have gotten into the playoffs. But those guys bonded.
“Every team is different,” continued Miller. “Every group of leadership is different. As a coach, you find yourself emphasizing the same things every year, like being prompt to practice.”
The Raiders’ prospects for continuing that team culture this season appear bright.
Elco is spearheded by athletically gifted senior quarterback/safety Braden Bohannon, who possesses the ability to single-handedly affect the course of an outcome. The Raiders have assembled a talented group of complimentary pieces around Bohannon, one that features junior running back/linebacker Luke Williams.
“We’re doing fantastic,” said Miller. “These guys are really a fun group to coach. They know when to have fun, and when they flip the switch, the intensity comes out.
“I think the unique thing about them is the togetherness they came into camp with, despite the fact that they hadn’t been together for six months,” Miller continued. “They’re competing, but they’re also helping each other out. That’s the mark of a team that puts others first.”
Despite a bit of rebuilding, Elco appears solid along the offensive front, with senior Logan Tice, senior Ben Wargo and junior Cody Sky, as well as senior tight-end Owen Kahl. The Raiders are well-equipped at the skill positions too, with junior Cole Thomas, junior Cameron Martin, senior R.J. Peiffer, sophomore Calvin Blatt and freshman Jake Williams.
Junior Rheece Shuey is an accomplished place-kicker.
“We don’t have that many guys out here to test,” said Miller of his roster of 34 student-athletes. “It seems we’re always thin in the defensive backfield. But it’s true in all years and all sports, I’m comfortable going into battle with guys who come to compete. We have 34 guys who want to battle.
“We always look at the talent we have and how to utilize them,” added Miller. “One of the big things we’ve got to avoid is making silly mistakes.”
The Raiders welcomed back five starters on offense and six on the defensive side of the ball. Elco will open its 2020 campaign on Friday, September 18th with a non-league test at Ephrata.
“Everything’s a challenge, every year,” said Miller, who has gone 41-40 overall in his eight previous seasons at Elco. “But there are more outside factors this year. You just have to control what you can control.
“There’s nothing normal about this year,” concluded Miller. “When we were allowed to get started, it was neat to see the excitement that these guys showed just being together.”
at Northern Lebanon
|Lebron Muniz, Ricardo||58||10||5’6″||205||OL/DL|
|Robert Miller||Head Coach|
|Robert Williams||Asst. Coach|
|Skeeter Thomas||Asst. Coach|
|John Carley||Asst. Coach|
|Wyatt Hall||Asst. Coach|
|Warren Zimmerman||JH Coach|
|Chad Miller||JH Coach|
|Derek Thomas||JH Coach|