The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 14, 2013

Harold Raker's high school football column: Selinsgrove never gave up


Daily Item

---- — I don't know about you, but I have always liked a TV series which kept you guessing until the final episode. The more plot twists, the better.

High school football seasons can be that way, too.

For example, take the Selinsgrove Seals. Coming into the season, they were young but loaded with talent and picked to contend for the Heartland Athletic Conference Division I championship.

Before the first whistle on opening night, they had lost one of the main reasons for their lofty ranking. Sophomore running back Juvon Batts was gone for the season because of a heart ailment which was to require surgery. Another promising sophomore running back, David Klinger, was lost in the preseason to a season-ending injury. Along comes sophomore Zach Adams to help carry the load, only to have an injury in the Week 5 game at Berwick bump him to the sideline for the rest of the season.

There were others, but the Seals were a hurting team.

So expectations by many of the fans plummeted lower than the combined approval rating of Congress. The season was over. Wait until next year.

Yes, many of the fans were disheartened. But not those who mattered most.

Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess said this week, as his team prepared to defend its District 4 Class AAA championship, that the expectations of the players and coaches never waned.

"We wanted to be here (in the title game). That was our goal. And when we lost all those guys, instead of getting our heads down and feeling somewhat defeated, we took the opposite approach," he said.

He said the coaches spoke to the players about how, when you lose a key person on the team, it is an opportunity for everybody to step back and reassess what they are bringing to the program and "truly bring their A game."

He said they told them, "'We worked so hard in the preseason and we can't let this team down and the guys who aren't with us anymore,' and that's been our approach all season long."

Hess said the coaches thought they lost a couple of games that they should not have lost, but "I'm happy with the fact that we have started to put it together, especially later in the season, and we ended up here."

Here is a D4 AAA home rematch with Jersey Shore, a team the Seals beat 14-6 on the road last month, but a team that has won its last three games, on the heels of that close loss, including a semifinals upset at Shikellamy.

Now they've had at least one more week of practice and at least one more game with this young team, which is loaded with sophomore talent.

In addition to the aforementioned running backs, sophomore and converted quarterback Angelo Martin has also become a major player, helping the Seals turn back Milton last week in the other semifinal, with a five-touchdown game.

"He is getting better every time out. He is really seeing the field and finding the seams right now," Hess said.

Looking ahead to 2014, Hess and his staff have a nice problem. Their backfield will be the equivalent of a basketball team with five shooting guards.

In addition to the likelihood of having all of those running backs for two more seasons, the quarterback, Isaiah Rapp, is a junior.

For now, the Seals are just trying to make it back to the state playoffs, where they would meet the winner of a game between Clearfield and Somerset, at a District 4 site to be announced.

nSports editor Harold Raker covers high school football for The Daily Item. Email comments to hraker@dailyitem.com.