By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
MANDATA -- The start of the high school football season is a little less than a month away, but its familiar sounds of the game were echoing throughout the Line Mountain High School practice field on Saturday with the first-ever Line Mountain Linemen Challenge sponsored by the Line Mountain football boosters.
Eagles line coach Brian Wetzel was the brainchild behind the event after taking his kids to other schools' events over the past few years.
"I've been wanting to have this for a few years but due mainly to conflicts, we just couldn't make it work," Wetzel said. "I spoke with our head coach, Rodney Knock, and he said that if I could organize it, it would be my baby to make happen."
Wetzel has been taking kids to these challenges since 2002. He's been a coach at Line Mountain since 2001.
"We have a blast at it and even if we don't do well, we still have a good time," he said.
Milton, Pine Grove, Newport and two teams from Line Mountain participated in 11 different events ranging from a 300-pound tire toss relay to an obstacle course and ending with a single-elimination Tug of War competition.
Milton, with 19 points, won the overall competition and the Tug of War. Points were awarded from one point for a team win to five points for fifth place.
Line Mountain No. 1 finished second with 23 points followed by Pine Grove, 26; Newport, 37; and Line Mountain No. 2, with 42.
Ryan Martin of Pine Grove was the lone individual winner of the competition, benching 185 pounds, 24 times.
The Black Panthers, who finished 7-5 overall last year, won six of the 11 events. The Line Mountain No. 1 team took a brief lead late in the competition, but Milton won three of the final four events, including the Tug of War.
"It was a lot of fun, we had a good time," said senior lineman Travis Krall from Milton. "We've been working hard in the weight room all off-season and working on our speed agility as well."
Krall, at 6-foot-5, 280-pounds, is looking at the universities of Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Bloomsburg as possible colleges to play football, while looking into athletic training and-or physical therapy for a major.
"I think we're going to have a good year," he said. "We have a lot of seniors who are working to make their last year count."
Richard Snyder, who was the line coach at Milton from 1998-2002, is back with the team this year and was pleased with the outcome.
"The kids have worked hard and they've had a good summer," he said. "We expect solid line play from them this year where we can put drives together and stop the other team as well."
After watching his daughter play softball, Panthers head coach George Goodwin arrived in time to see the final few events.
"This is awesome, it was a good day for the kids," he said on winning the first-ever challenge. "I think we are on the right track this year."
Line Mountain senior Rayce Boyer was happy to have another linemen challenge.
"We haven't been to one since my sophomore year and it feels like we did put a lot of good effort into the challenge today," he said. "We would have like to have finished better, but, we are ready for the season."
Boyer, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound middle linebacker and guard, noted the team's goal for this year is to make the District 4 Class A finals again.
"I feels like we have a good team this year and that we are going to have a good season," he said.
Boyer is looking at Lycoming College with a major in history and a minor in business.
"Overall it was a great day and things ran smoothly, thanks in large part to some of the Line Mountain alumni players who helped out," Wetzel said. "We're going to talk to some of the coaches and maybe have next year's event at a different time of the year."