Sometimes, disappointment and pain can be the greatest teachers.
Bellwood-Antis High School senior Ian O'Shea knows all about it, after being part of a Blue Devils' team that reached the District 6-A football championship game at Mansion Park last November, but lost in eye-opening fashion to a very talented Penns Manor squad, 40-14.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound O'Shea, who will be a two-year starter at tight end and outside linebacker for Bellwood, is determined not to experience that type of letdown again.
"It was probably one of the worst games of my life,'' O'Shea said. "We came in there and just thought we were going to win the district title. But they had a lot of talent, and we just didn't know about it. We know what it feels like to be there now, and we have a lot better understanding of what needs to be done.''
The Blue Devils lost just two of 13 games last year - the district championship matchup and a 17-6 setback to archrival Tyrone in the season opener. Bellwood will host Tyrone to kick off the 2012 season on Friday night, Aug. 31.
The annual Bellwood-Tyrone showdown figures to be another good one this year.
"Tyrone is always a big game for us,'' O'Shea said. "We just want to come out, not let the nerves get to us, and use [emotion] to our advantage. We have a lot of high expectations for this year.''
Veteran Bellwood coach John Hayes believes that O'Shea will be a key factor in whether the Blue Devils can fulfill those high expectations.
"He's going to contribute on both sides of the ball,'' Hayes said. "He's a regular in everything we do, including our offseason conditioning workouts. He's a pretty good player, but more important than that is his leadership and commitment to doing things off the field to make the program better.''
O'Shea - who is also a veteran member of Bellwood's track and field squad - has embraced the team concept.
"We're all a team, and we can't have any lasting disagreements or arguments,'' he said. "Basically, I just want to lead by example, especially when it comes to the younger kids on the team.''