First year head coach Tom McCarroll and the Lehighton football team did not get off to the start they wanted.
The Indians lost their first four games of the year, but as they say in the sports world it's not how you start it's how you finish. The young Indians bunch finished well, winning two out of three to end the season. They upset District 11 AAAA qualifier East Stroudsburg South, lost a two-point heartbreaker to Pocono Mountain West, and then shut down Jim Thorpe's powerful offense to defeat the Olympians last week by 21 points.
Everyone knows football is a team sport, but the Indians success over the last three weeks has a lot to do with senior captain Jacen Nalesnik.
Nalesnik pounded and grinded for 156 yards and two scores against the Olympians a week ago and his performance has earned him the week 10 TIMES NEWS Player of the Week award.
Ever since McCarroll has handed the reigns to Nalesnik, moving him from the wideout position to the wildcat quarterback spot, the Indians have transformed. Nalesnik has put up some pretty impressive numbers in that stint, rushing for 483 yards and four touchdowns in his last three ball games. Not a bad way to end your senior season is it?
"Jacen being part of this football program has been invaluable to us coaches," said McCarroll. "As a coaching staff we look back at this season and we laugh at ourselves because we wish we would have moved him to this position earlier. There's a learning process there for all of us. We have a young team and a young staff and we're trying to start this program up again. We knew we wanted to put the ball in Jacen's hands as much as we could. We thought that would be at receiver because he' so gifted at that spot, but as it turned out we were more successful with him taking the snaps. Either way he's been such a great kid and a big part of the success of this football team."
After a 42-0 pounding of Dieruff the Indians looked to be primed to defeat an Allen team that was struggling. Unfortunately, the Indians could not come up with a victory over the Canaries, losing 26-14. The loss against Allen was a motivator for the Indians and fueled their much improved play for the rest of the season.
"The Allen game was a big let down for us, but after that we kind of got on a little roll there. We were playing well," said Nalesnik. "I really welcomed my new role with open arms. I loved getting the ball as much as I did over the last couple weeks and I just wanted to do anything I could to help our team win."
Nalesnik did do a lot of damage to the opposition on the ground this season, rushing for 728 yards and nine touchdowns, but his natural position is no doubt at the receiver spot. Although he carried the ball 146 times this season he still found time to finish second in the TIMES NEWS area with 34 receptions. Once again showing the type of versatility that Nalesnik brought to the table everytime the Indians hit the field.
"In football a lot of times kids are fitted into a mold. Quarterbacks are quarterbacks, lineman are lineman, and so on. Jacen is a kid that everywhere we put him on the field whether it be on offense, defense, special teams, you name it, he did everything we asked and he did it well," said McCarrol. "I just can't say enough about how valuable he is to this team and this program. I said to a reporter on Friday night that if you know someone who is more valuable to a team let me know who it is, because we got that guy."