Avery Coser summed up the first six weeks of Southern Lehigh’s 2021 season succinctly: “It sucks.”
The Spartan senior added that what happened after they started 0-6 was important for this year’s team.
“We studied and came together,” he added. “We lost a couple of seniors, but we have such chemistry this year.”
Head coach Phil Sams is counting on that chemistry, talent and experience on a healthier team to help the Spartans have their best season yet.
“Our senior leadership and underclassmen finally got it done,” Sams said of last year. “They had to put themselves in tough situations and fight through adversity to push a little bit and succeed at the end. We got the kids healthy and the schedule worked in our favor.
“They learned to win. I don’t think it’s going to be as crazy this year if they realize they can do it at the varsity level. I think some of the younger classes realized it was a little different, a little nervous. Now they’re like, “Okay, we’ll handle it.”
Southern Lehigh won four straight games to end last season and advance to the District 11 Class 5A playoffs.
The Spartans are hoping for less drama this season on their way to the postseason again.
1. New offensive leader
Koeser and sophomore Christopher Fritts are battling for the starting quarterback spot. Last season, Koeser caught 14 passes for 233 yards and one touchdown. At the youth level, he played a bit as a defender. Fritts has played quarterback since he started playing sports.
“Avery is more of a runner,” Sams said. “He’s got good size, good body. Christopher grew up playing quarterback. He is more of a thrower. Maybe both will play, or maybe one. We’re not sure yet. They both have a great relationship.”
Neither will have the burden of carrying the entire offensive play. There are many solid athletes around the Spartans.
Blaise Curry, a 1,000-yard rusher last season as a senior, and James Wisecarver, the starting quarterback who transferred to Notre Dame-GP, are gone. Neither did Ryan King, who suffered a career-ending back injury.
But there are many others. Tyler Rizzuto, who ran for 418 yards and three TDs last season, will see more time this year at wide receiver. Jack Inglis, who had 15 catches for 265 yards and two scores a season ago, is back at receiver.
Nick Ventresco is back at H-back. Cade Sawyer returns after missing half of last year due to injury. Andrew Olesh and Christian Travis are two others who gained experience last season when they were pressed to play.
“We’re pretty skilled,” Sams said. “I like our athletes. We’re not the biggest line, but we have three starters. We don’t have 6-foot-4, 280-pound monsters, but I like what we have.”
Will Knudson and Brian Tobin are tight ends.
2. Going both ways
Southern Lehigh will have plenty of two-way starters to start the season.
Guise Fooy is moving to left tackle this season. The sophomore will also play defensive line. Ryan DeMatto starts at left guard for the second year in a row and will also be on the other side. Kane Boyle is the center for the second year in a row and will be up front on defense.
Alex Carr and Michael Flack are the other starters on the offensive line. Fluck started half of last season at various spots. He can play in all forward positions.
Ventresco, Fluke and Koeser, last year’s top three players, will lead the defense.
“Ventresco, the kids respect him,” Sams said. “He’s a gym guy, a positive energy guy. Flack moves from linebacker to defensive end. He is a quiet leader.”
Knudson will also be part of the Spartans’ defensive front. Tobin and Boyle are the others getting reps. Inglis returns safely. The other safety will be Sawyer. Rizzuto and Trevis are the corners.
“We had a good team bond last year,” Koser said. “We got off to a slow start last year, but we’re coming off fast this year. We are very happy. We have many athletes.
“We have a lot of leaders who really push us.”
3. Southern Lehigh Schedule (7 p.m. unless noted)
August 26: at Quakertown
September 2: at Notre Dame GP
September 9: Bangor
September 16: at Palisades
September 23: Blue Mountain
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Oct. 1: at Wilson, 2:30 p.m
October 7: Saucon Valley
Oct. 14: Lehighton
Oct. 21: at Pottsville
October 28: Northwest
Morning Call reporter Tom Hausnick can be reached at 610-820-6651 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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