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JOHNSONBURG â€“ After a winless 2011 season, second-year head coach Jesse Schreiber and the Johnsonburg Rams are looking to turn the page in what they hope will be a successful year on the football field.
The Rams came close last season; they nearly defeated Cameron County on the road but succumbed in overtime. At the end of the season, they found themselves in a tight game against Keystone but a second half letdown expunged the team to a winless season. Some forfeit losses also plagued the team.
But a year later and a year wiser, Schreiber said he looks to build on lessons learned.
â€śI think I learned a lot of patience last year and I think Iâ€™ve learned to let my staff do a lot more work than just me doing it,â€ť Schreiber said. â€śObviously as a head coach you have to oversee everything but I think I maybe did a little bit too much last year and I may have been spread a little thin.
â€śThis year Iâ€™ve allowed my assistant coaches, especially Eric Iorfido and Beau Iorfido, to step in. Eric is in charge of the offense and did a great job in the offseason. Beau has been handling the defense and theyâ€™ve been doing a great job.â€ť
In addition, assistant coach Mike Votano is in charge of conditioning and special teams, two areas that Schreiber is particularly pleased with.
â€śDon Lee Wenner has worked with Beau on the defense as well so Iâ€™ve allowed those guys to have more responsibility with day-to-day operations on both sides of the football,â€ť Schreiber said. â€śIt helps me mentality and physically as well, and it helps the other coaches feel their ownership as well, and it makes them feel more like a part of this program.â€ť
Despite a small number of players on the team, an issue that has plagued the football program recently, Schreiber says the turnout has actually increased.
â€śOur numbers are a little bit better at 23 players [as of Aug. 23] when we were at 19 last year at this time,â€ť Schreiber said.
The new season also brings a new quarterback as senior Frank Kocjancic, previously a wide receiver, will step in behind the center and guide the offense.
â€śWeâ€™re looking for great things from Frank Kocjancic and [in a scrimmage] against Otto-Eldred he did a great job and I think we had maybe close to 200 to 250 yards of total offense, and I think we ran the football once,â€ť Schreiber said. â€śWeâ€™re spreading out the football this year because we have to and our offensive line is one of our weak spots, and we all know that. We decided in the offseason that weâ€™d have to spread the ball around in the offseason and let it go.
â€śFrank [Kocjancic] stepped in as our quarterback and heâ€™s done a great job. It might be his first year at quarterback but heâ€™s a great athlete and heâ€™s already showed great leadership. He was a leader last year on the field [as a wide receiver] and heâ€™ll be a leader this year as well. Itâ€™s his first year as quarterback but he is one of the better athletes on the field.â€ť
Kocjancic will have plenty of options at wide receiver with several big targets including seniors David Redmond, Kyle Sheldon, Caleb Garvey, John Hummel, and Mitchell Holmberg.
Holmberg suffered an injury during his sophomore season and sat out his junior year before returning for the 2012 season.
â€śItâ€™s great to have [Holmberg] back and it means the world,â€ť Schreiber said. â€śIt gives us another athlete to put on the football field and him and Frank [Kocjancic] can possibly team up. With those two on the football, we can spread things out, disguise [Holmberg] and get him the football.
â€śWe have a lot of athletes who can do something with the football. Every athlete added to the football team at this level will result in a better team.â€ť
However, one consistent problem for the Rams is their ineffectiveness on the offensive and defensive lines.
â€śI know weâ€™re going to have a tough time with the offensive line but weâ€™ve been telling our players that we need four seconds to pass the football, then hopefully we can disguise the run and get it up the middle,â€ť Schreiber said. â€śWe looked at things in the offensive and saw that running up the middle is just not going to work for us. Weâ€™re not Curwensville, weâ€™re not that football team. Weâ€™re going to do what we have to do to move the football.â€ť
Only four players listed on the teamâ€™s roster are reported as 200 pounds or more.
â€śIt was tough last year right off the bat with it being my first year but the team chemistry and all, we only had a few strong key athletes on that team,â€ť Schreiber said. â€śIt was a lot of different factors but I do think weâ€™re a different football team now. We have some strong athletes, we have [junior] Eric Bevacqua moving from fullback to the line, and he can move his feet.
â€ś[Senior] Mitchell Schloder did a decent job for us last year and [junior] Justin Haupright will be right there. Weâ€™re looking at [senior] Shane Bickford to do a lot of the running for us.â€ť
On the defensive line, the team lacked the ability to get penetration last season, a problem that in turn gave the opposing quarterback ample time to release an accurate pass.
â€śWe didnâ€™t get a lot of penetration last season and we had a summer workout program with about eight players showing up on a daily basis, and I wish we wouldâ€™ve had more but the [Wilcox] Legion baseball team started up and that took off a bit,â€ť Schreiber said. â€śI understood they couldnâ€™t make it because of that, and thatâ€™s a lot on their plate but I was encouraged by the athletes who were able to show up on a daily basis. As a coach though, you always want more.â€ť