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11 years ago
Fast-Playing Cedars Want to Grow Up in a Hurry


 Do blondes really have more fun? And what’s the deal with trees?

If Cedars change the hue of their foliage can they enjoy more success? You might not have realized that coloring had that kind of  influence on performance.

It’s not that the Cedars didn’t like their varying shades of God-given green. They just thought that looking alike might put them on the same page.

Yes, the Lebanon High football team has gone blonde. Many members of the team recently dyed their hair the same color in an effort to cause cohesion, create team unity and conjour up chemistry.

Not a bad idea for a team trying to mature and discover exactly who it is.

“Our success will depend on how fast they grow to the speed of the game,” said Lebanon High head coach Gerry Yonchiuk. “Can the older guys lead them in the beginning? That’s where as a younger team you want to grow up in a hurry. It bodes well for the future, but no one wants to hear about growing pains. The character is so good, and that’s huge to me.

“I’m hoping these kids are going to become better young men as they grow up,” Yonchiuk continued. “We want to be firm and fair. And we’re going to be demanding. The thing I like is that we’re always the underdog. We’ll always be the underdog. You’ve still got to play the game. I know there’s teams that don’t like to play us. It’s not that they’re afraid of us, they just don’t like to prepare for the ‘Air Raid’ (offense).”

Lebanon returns just four starters on each side of the ball, that from a team that opened 2011 with two wins, before reeling off seven straight setbacks. This year’s version of the Cedars features a mere eight seniors, but a strong junior class.

“We started off the season on fire,” recalled Yonchiuk. “I don’t want to say we fell apart or lost our focus, but we under-achieved. Why it happened I can’t put my finger on it. They were great kids, but there’s no freebies in this world. The loss to Elco (in Week 3) was huge and it spiraled away from us after that.

“I think things are going well to this point,” Yonchiuk added. “We had a few injuries. But now our numbers are approaching 40, and we’re getting a lot of work done. And now we’ve been able to develop some depth.”

For the Cedars to enjoy success on the scoreboard and in the win column, athletic junior quarterback Mark Pyles will be asked to shoulder much of the load. In Lebanon’s Air Raid attack, Pyles will throw, run, make reads and quick decisions and take what opposing defenses give him.

Last season while splitting time with Alex Trautman at the QB spot, Pyles, who’s also an accomplished defensive player, ran for 11 touchdowns and threw for seven others. This year it’s all his show.

“He’s grown and developed, and he’s undoubtedly our leader,” said Yonchiuk of Pyles. “Everyone looks up to him. He’s a born leader. Mark doesn’t say a lot, but he works hard and everyone follows his example. He has that presence about him. But he’s probably a better defensive player than an offensive player. He likes to hit more than be hit.

“You can see how fast we want to play,” added Yonchiuk. “We’re trying not to allow the (opposing) defense to get set. But if you’re tiring yourself out, it can be counter-productive. We want to play as quickly as possible, and not wait for the defense. I feel like it’s an advantage. We’re going to continue to play as fast as we can, plus there’s less boredom. There’s not too much standing around at practice. For these younger guys, it’s about learning. Alignment, assignment, reaction. For the younger players, it’s a work in progress.”

Versatile junior Jeremy De La Cruz will serve as Lebanon High’s featured tailback. Also garnering touches will be senior receiver Zac Norman and Patrick Reed, senior Jose Gonzalez, junior Taj Cintron, junior Malik Esbri, sophomore Jeronimo Rodriguez and sophomore Nick Negron.

“The thing that stands out the most to me is the run game,” said Yonchiuk, who’s in his seventh year of being ‘The Big Cedar’. “That’s been our strength. There’s a new commitment to the run game. I’m a little disappointed that the passing game isn’t up to speed yet. The attitude’s been good too. These guys want to learn. They want to do it.

“As bizarre as this may sound,” Yonchiuk continued, “last year we set all those goals and none of them happened. We haven’t talked about goals for this year. We haven’t talked about the league (Section Two of the Lancaster-Lebanon League). We’re taking care of this Lebanon Cedar team. We may set goals week-to-week. I’m not going to throw out all these unrealistic goals.”

At the point of contact, Lebanon High has some ‘mashers’. Junior Nathan Tobias, a 6-6 405-pound guard, might be the biggest person to ever play football in Lebanon County, senior Jorge Acasio is a physical leader at center and junior Darius Ramsey is athletic for his 5-10, 270-pound frame.

Senior Michael Calini, senior Alex Cabinaw, senior Jalen Brown, sophomore Connor Cummings and freshman Lucas Imm have also been charged with the task of keeping people off the LHS skill guys.

During the past two seasons, Lebanon has experienced difficulties stopping the run and with the competitive nature of Section Two in the L-L.

“It’s frustrating, but it’s not off base,” said Yonchiuk. “I’d rather win 7-6 than score 38 points and give up 42. When we get beat up a little bit, with our depth, we wear out. I think the wear and tear of the season catches up to us. We don’t want to bend. We don’t want to break.

“Our guys like the style of offense we play,” continued Yonchiuk. “I’m hoping with our offense that we’re ahead of the curve. If it was cut and dry and I could change it, I would.”

In 2012, the Cedars have adopted the motto, ‘Start fast. Finish strong.’

“I don’t see major strides in the program,” Yonchiuk said. “I see all the enthusiasm  and the kids buying in. But I’d like to say we’re a team that’s going to be .500 or better every year. I’m disappointed with that. The numbers in the junior high are good.

“If they give us everything they have, that’s all we can ask,” Yonchiuk added. “Our coaches are outstanding. We’ve got knowledge across the board. I’m blessed to be able to work with them.”

Yonchiuk and his staff may be a big reason why Lebanon has won five of the last seven Cedar Bowls. The Cedars and Falcons will  do battle for the 40th time, on Friday, August 31st at Lebanon’s Alumni Stadium.

“We know a little bit about them,” said Yonchiuk of the Falcons. “I know that (QB) Nick Cascarino is a great person. I feel like I know Nick as well as I do any of my players. I’ve gotten to know Coach (Tom) Waranavage for a few years. I know there’s some familiarity there. But it’s a big rivalry game as well. This week we kind of stay out of each other’s hair.

“I think part of it is that when teams know our offense they catch up to it during the season,” continued Yonchiuk. “I think it helps that it (the Cedar Bowl) is the first game and we’re healthy. If we can move the ball, we like our chances. We’ve been able to come out of the box well and we’ve had a good run of quarterbacks. The games we’ve won, our quarterbacks played well.

“I think this year is a complete toss-up. I was impressed with their (the Falcons’) scrimmages, and we didn’t move the ball all that well in our’s. I think the team that doesn’t turn the ball over will win it.”


2012 Lebanon Cedars Football Squad

Head Varsity Coach: Yonchiuk, Gerry Assistant Coach: Isenberg, Frank
Assistant Coach: Getz, Bud (Harold) Assistant Coach: Liedtka, Karl
Assistant Coach: Watt, Nicholas
Home# Away# Name Position Class Height Weight
2 2 Norman, Zacariah WR−S Senior 5’9″ 155
3 3 Peiffer, Kyle WR−DB Sophomore 5’5″ 120
4 4 Negron, Nicholas WR−DB Sophomore 5’8″ 145
5 5 Pyles, Mark QB−LB Junior 6’0″ 200
6 6 Quiero, Antonio WR−DB Senior 5’11” 143
7 7 Meade, Jonathan K Junior 5’11” 150
8 8 Gates, Holden WR−LB Sophomore 5’9″ 140
9 9 Rothgaber, Brandon WR−DB Sophomore 5’7″ 110
10 10 Baez, Xavier WR−DB Sophomore 5’9″ 146
11 11 De La Cruz, Jeremy RB−DB Junior 5’10” 160
12 12 Martin, Justin QB−DB Sophomore 5’9″ 125
14 14 Castrillon, Jacob RB−LB Junior 5’7″ 191
15 15 Rodriguez, Jeronimo WR−DB Sophomore 5’9″ 130
16 16 Seabrook, Demond WR−DB Sophomore 5’7″ 170
17 17 Cintron, Taj WR−DB Junior 5’9″ 152
19 19 Quiero, De’Andre WR−DB Sophomore 5’9″ 130
21 21 Jimenez, Heisler WR−LB Junior 5’10” 185
22 22 Peiffer, Erik WR−DB Sophomore 5’6″ 126
23 23 Rivera, Michael A. WR−LB Sophomore 5’9″ 169
24 24 Reed, Patrick WR−LB Senior 5’8″ 180
25 25 Navarro, Elijah WR−LB Sophomore 5’9″ 160
32 32 Esbri, Malik WR−DB Junior 5’7″ 141
33 33 Del Rio, David WR−DB Junior 5’5″ 125
34 34 Gonzalez, Jose WR−LB Senior 6’1″ 180
44 44 Smoak, Gene WR−DB Sophomore 5’5″ 150
45 45 Ostolaza, Nahaliel WR−LB Junior 5’9″ 150
50 50 Rupponer, Joseph OL−DL Junior 5’8″ 190

51 51 McQueen, Dwayne OL−DL Sophomore 5’7″ 170
52 52 Pena, Jim OL−DL Freshman 5’9″ 186
54 54 Miller, Zachary OL−DL Sophomore 5’10” 210
55 55 Brown, Jaylen OL/LB Senior 5’11” 210
56 56 Dent, Travis OL−DL Senior 5’7″ 200
58 58 Cabinaw, Alexander OL−DL Senior 5’10” 180
59 59 Ramsey, Darius OL−DL Junior 5’9″ 270
61 61 Calini, Michael OL−DL Senior 5’10” 210
64 64 Cummins, Connor OL−DL Sophomore 6’1″ 255
65 65 Imm, Lucas OL−DL Freshman 6’0″ 260
67 67 Krewson, Lance OL−DL Junior 5’7″ 175
68 68 Ocasio, Jorge OL−DL Senior 5’10” 230
75 75 Malcolm−Francis, Nicholas OL−DL Senior 5’9″ 260
79 79 Tobias, Nathan OL−DL Junior 6’6″ 405
81 81 Newkirk, Khaleem WR−DB Sophomore 5’7″ 127
88 88 Heidebrecht, William WR−DB Junior 5’10” 130



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