Young Blood: State College High Expecting Big season with Youthful Roster
Matt Lintal couldn’t have imagined a better start to his tenure as the head football coach at State College High.
It wasn't just seeing the Little Lions beat Spring-Ford 34-20 in their opening game of the season. And it wasn’t just watching running back Jordan Misher look unstoppable all night as he rushed for 226 yards and three touchdowns.
It was seeing all of the work they put in all summer pay off.
“There’s not a whole lot that could feel better,” Lintal says. “Our kids played with great passion, enthusiasm and effort. They were great sportsmen out there.
“Our guys worked really hard in the preseason, both physically and emotionally, and it was all leading up to Friday. Our staff did a great job getting them ready."
Now that the honeymoon period is over, the true test begins. Can the Little Lions improve upon last season's 5-6 record despite graduating 40 seniors?
State College will get the chance to prove itself again on Friday against last year's Class AAA runner-up Bishop McDevitt. The Little Lions will then hit the road the following week against Martinsburg, a team that went 13-1 last season.
So far, Lintal believes that this year's squad has proved that leadership doesn't necessarily come from experience. For the Little Lions, it all starts with Friday night's star Misher, a team captain despite just being a junior.
“He’s explosive and he runs hard,” Lintal says of Misher. “He’s a captain as a junior which doesn’t happen often. It shows what kind of leader he is and what his teammates think of him.”
Misher shares the title of offensive captain with quarterback John Weakland, who despite being one the team's veterans, is new at his position.
One of the team's starting wide receivers last season, Weakland has moved over to quarterback, and was impressive in his first game against Spring-Ford, connecting on 17 of 26 passes for 141 yards and one touchdown.
“[Weakland] really executes the offense,” Lintal says. “He’s a leader out there and he did all the little things right, like taking care of the ball.”
Previously an offensive assistant on the Little Lions staff, Lintal thinks the biggest difference from last season is the camaraderie between all the players, and not just the seniors.
This year's squad has just 25 seniors, and features eight juniors on the starting defense, yet Lintal has been impressed with the poise that the group has shown.
"It's not just a close senior class," Lintal said. "It's an entire team coming together and the leadership from everyone is great. We've got sophomores playing significant time."
With all but three opponents on the schedule coming off of winning seasons, the Little Lions will have their work cut out for them. Still, the goal is to get back to capturing championships, like the district title they won in 2012.
"We want to win a state championship but there's a lot of steps along the way and that won't define if it's a successful season,"Lintal says. "We want kids to leave our program with a sense of integrity but we want to win football games."