The expectations are usually sky-high for the Abington Heights High School football team.
This year is no different, despite heavy graduation losses.
Head coach Joe Repshis understands that for all of his previous success, none of that means anything to this year’s group of Comets. It’s time to play.
“Our expectations will always be high,” Repshis said. “One thing our upperclassmen have always done a great job of doing is preparing the young players coming into the program. They kind of see what it takes to go out and be successful from a work-ethic perspective, from commitment and dedication. With our returning upperclassmen and incoming players, we’re very excited about the 2014 season. Obviously we have big holes to fill, but the great thing about coaching is seeing the young players step up and compete and that’s something I know will happen.”
The biggest loss to graduation may have been J.C. Show, who has taken his basketball talents to Bucknell University after a stellar season as the Comets quarterback who was picked for the Times-Tribune All-Region team.
But as Abington Heights usually reloads and never rebuilds, this year appears to be no different. Questions always seem to get answered, as the talent flow continues to supply the varsity team with an endless wave of players.
“We have some players, obviously, that we graduated, four-year starters, three-year starters, two-year starters, one-year starters, that’s something that every year, going into the season, is going to present plenty of opportunities,” Repshis said. “Going into the season this year, there’s going to be competition right from the beginning at all positions, in all three phases of the game. It’s a matter of going in and competing, as camp goes along, that will kind of work its way out.”
It’s a long process that began over the winter in the weight room and continued through summer conditioning before the players even got to two-a-day practices that began on Monday, Aug. 11. Every step builds upon the step that preceded it, and sets the stage for the step that follows.
The fewer distractions they have, the better off it is for the Comets.
“Our key is to continue to work hard and grow together as a team as the season progresses,” Repshis said. “Improve every day, whether it’s in the weight room, in the film room, or on the practice field, one rep [repetition] at a time, to control the things we can control, which are work ethic and attitude, kind of the same things that we focus on entering each and every season. That’s what we want to emphasize, having the foundation for our program, and that’s what we’re going to try to do at the start of the 2014 season as well.”
Two of the building blocks that Repshis is going to count on this season are seniors Chase Wickenheiser and Joe Arcangelo, a pair of two-way returning starters. Arcangelo is slated to be back at tight end and defensive end while Wickenheiser will man key spots on both sides of the line. They will be instrumental on how well the Comets perform, particularly on offense where they are the lone returning starters.
The defense will have a few more returning starters as Ed Goff and Nathan Langan are experienced at linebacker while fellow senior John Czubek is back in the secondary.
“Our mindset has to be, to be sound and effective in all three phases of the game,” Repshis said. “We want to be productive on the offensive side of the ball, the defensive side of the ball, and on special teams. Our emphasis is to improve in all three phases of the game, that they all can have an impact through the course of the game.”
Abington Heights does maintain one of its typical advantages as Repshis listed 64 players on his first roster of the season. Having such a large number of players available gives Repshis the flexibility to move players in and out of the lineup at a variety of positions, trying to find the best combination of players without taxing any single one of them too much.
Despite the relative lack of returning starters, there are many players who saw time coming off the bench and who will be ready for the season.
“I felt we had a very productive off-season in the weight room and in our summer conditioning, and saw a lot of great things,” Repshis said.
Repshis expects that work ethic will continue to push the Comets hard once again, as they try to reach the District 2 Class AAA championship game for a third straight year.