After years of struggles, the Cambria Heights football program attained a type of epiphany last season under first-year coach Jarrod Lewis, posting a 5-5 overall record and a respectable 3-2 mark in Section I play in the rugged Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference.
"Week in and week out, you're in for a battle,'' Lewis said of the competition in the Laurel Highlands circuit. "That's what I think separates the Laurel Highlands Conference from other conferences. A lot of conferences have good teams, but I think the Laurel Highlands has great teams week in and week out.''
Prior to last season, the conference had been chewing up the Highlanders - who had a combined record of just 3-37 from the 2007 through 2010 campaigns. Last year, Heights attained respectability, and bullish running back-linebacker Ben Myers was a big reason why.
Cambria Heights coach Jarrod Lewis
The 5-foot-9, 205-pound Myers combined bruising inside power running with breakaway speed in the open field to rush for 535 yards on 95 carries - a 5.6 yards-per-carry average - and six touchdowns. He's started in both the offensive backfield and at linebacker for the Highlanders since his sophomore year.
"Ben's kind of our guy who sets the table and does everything for us on offense,'' Lewis said of Myers, who has also seen some playing time at wide receiver. "He can run the ball, catch the ball, and throw the ball. We move Ben around a lot in our offense and use him in a lot of different ways. He sets the tone for us.''
On both sides of the football.
"Defensively, he's like a coach on the field,'' Lewis said. "He kind of gets our guys into the right spots, and he's one of the smartest players I've ever been around. He also works extremely hard. He's a kid who someday will make a great coach. He's excited to start his senior season.''
Myers looks for continued improvement from the Highlanders this year.
"I think we're looking pretty good,'' said Myers, who is planning to play football in college and study for a career in physical therapy. "We have a lot of guys stepping up, as well as a lot of returning starters. I think we're going to be set for a good year.''
Heights fell short of a playoff berth last year. Myers is hoping that he can lead the team into the postseason as a senior this fall.
"We did pretty well last year, a lot better than in the previous years,'' he said. "I expect us to be real competitive this year. If everything works out right, we're going to try to make a playoff push this year.''