Olympians get back to basics
A year ago, Jim Thorpe suffered its first-ever losing season under the guidance of head coach Mark Rosenberger.
Rosenberger said that this year's squad knows what happened last season and is in the process of taking the right steps in getting back to its usual winning ways.
"It comes down to - first of all - to learn from the mistakes of last year," said Rosenberger, who holds a career record of 80-46 with the Olympians in 12 seasons. "I think this year our seniors have shown some great leadership.
"The work ethic has been super. I think we're on the right track with these kids."
Rosenberger said the leadership has been superb, especially from the individual who will be filling in the biggest void left behind from last season.
After lining up as a receiver for the last two years, senior Terry Moll will step behind center to handle the role left behind by the graduation of three-year starting quarterback Corey Cinicola.
It's won't be an easy task to fill those cleats however, especially when Cinicola led the Olympians in rushing with 506 yards on 127 carries and in passing, completing 90 of 182 passes for 1,205 yards on the season.
Moll, who hauled in 24 passes for 327 yards a year ago, will now be in charge of distributing the pigskin.
While Cinicola had three years to get comfortable with the position as the Olympians' signal-caller, Rosenberger feels Moll has the ability to get the job done despite having far less experience.
"Terry's a natural leader - that's the type of person he is," Rosenberger said. "that's an important component you need to be a quarterback. The leadership quality that he possesses is excellent for that position. He's worked extremely hard this off-season to prepare himself for the quarterback spot.
"Losing Corey Cinicola is not going to be an easy replacement and expectations are going to be different for certain areas, but we think he (Moll) can be a great leader for us. We think he can throw a good ball for us. We think he has the ability to be an excellent runner for us from that spot. So, overall, I think he's on the right track and he's working extremely hard. The leadership is there. It's not going to be easy, but he's up for the challenge."
While all eyes may be on Moll in the pocket, there will be a few instances those eyes will sway towards the other returning individuals, who Rosenberger stated are up for the challenge of getting the Olympians on the right track again.
"We do have people coming back," Rosenberger said. "We have two kids who carried the ball for us last year that return. Shane Edwards was a starting tailback the last couple of games for us last year and won the TIMES NEWS Player of the Week award against Lehighton in Week 10. So, he had a solid ending last year and he's picking up at that same point this year. PJ Johnson is another kid who started at receiver and ran some running back for us last year as well.
"Our receivers are pretty much in tact from last year as well with Sean Green leading the way and newcomer Khaaliq Lynch having a heck of a camp for us so far. So, we have some players that we have back in the skill positions that we're pretty excited about."
While the offense returns a number of experiences players, Rosenberger is concerned about the opposite side of the ball, which was a reason for the Olympians fall a year.
"We sure hope so," said Rosenberger about a possible return of the Olympians' touted 'Red Swarm' defense. "Last year was pretty tough. We had a not so Jim Thorpe style of defense last year. We made a lot of mistakes. Fundamentally, we have got to be more sound. We have been working on the basics. We're not worrying about blitzing and everything else right now.
"We're just worried about preparing and learning how to play basic defense, running to the football and tackling the ballcarrier. We were really poor last year in tackling a lot of times. We got to work on that part of the game. So, it's a lot of hard work going into, but right now the players' attitudes have been excellent."
The Olympians were able to average of 23.8 points per game in 2009, but allowed 28.1 points per game to the opposition. The trick this season will be to maintain the offensive production and improve on the defensive end.
"The kids are having fun right now," Rosenberger said. "They're enjoying playing football. So, that's what it's all about. We're excited about that opportunity coming up. We think we can be a really good football team.
"At the same time, if we don't do things right fundamentally and take care of the little things, it could be a tough season. It just goes back to basics. Let's do basic stuff. Make sure we block, get off blocks and make tackles. We're looking forward to that challenge."