Jessen Smith, number 50 on the Penn Manor squad, recounts what it was like preparing for the upcoming season.
When Coach Mealy made the 2009 football season’s motto “Building Tradition,” it was for a reason. I would know, I’m experiencing it.
Being a senior on the football team comes with a lot of pressure as well as responsibility. Coming from two back-to-back stellar seasons, expectations are high for us and we know it. We’re aiming for tradition, alright, a tradition of winning.
As the 2010 school year was winding down, we began spring practice. For two-and-a-half weeks, three hours a day after school we learned the offense and defense. Coach Mealy expressed to us how fast the year would go and the need for us to savor every single practice, game and play. It’s amazing how much we progressed through the spring, entering the summer.
School ended abruptly on June 10, at that point football consumed my life. I personally didn’t go on a vacation all summer for this reason. Three days a week for three hours we lifted weights, and continued to learn about the game, and we conditioned ourselves. Did I mention conditioning? It was a brutal, hot summer and conditioning just added to the grocery list of stuff I had to do. It may not seem like much, but it became my life, and my main focus. This continued all summer until two-a-days began.
The two-a-days season is the most crucial part of the year. Progression is key! It now becomes a football boot camp, 8 am to 6 pm every day. As I entered practice each day, fatigued and drowsy from the day before, I still knew it will be worth it. Our team of 42, which is unusually small for high school division 4-AAAA football, made progress. At the same time, we weeded out those who were not fully committed to our goals, or as coach Mealy would say, “their hearts aren’t in it.” Our goals are to be better than we were the year before and at least win a section title, which we haven’t done ever in our history. For this to be accomplished, everyone must be on board and completely committed. As a senior, my job is to lead by example and make sure everyone is always focused and getting better.
During the two-a-day time period, we had two scrimmages. These are our “auditions” of sorts. These also are to get the kinks out before our first game, our first real test, Solanco. Everyone young and old gets a chance to prove who really wants it, and who should be starting at each position. I can’t ever be satisfied with how I perform, because I know I can always do better. Yet, I did pretty well and earned my starting spots at offensive tackle and defensive end.
The school bell rings for the first day of school on August 30, and our season begins. The first week of regular practice begins and we are also in class, which is part of our responsibility. One of our goals as football players is to not only be leaders on the field, but off the field as well. As a team rule, we must sit in the first three rows of our classes, and we have to maintain passing grades to continue to play. Having to do well in my classes as well as maintain focus on football is a real challenge.
As Friday night football approaches, the tension increases and so does the intensity. Everyone buckles down. We know we have a job to do, to win on Friday night. Every day goes by like a flash as it gets closer and closer, and soon enough it will be Friday night, my senior and last year of Penn Manor football, what I have been waiting for my entire life.
by Jessen Smith
To learn more about the team, read this story: https://www.pennpoints.net/?p=5784