Blue Pirates look to put losing in the past
The Mirror will preview a high school football team each day until Aug. 22. For a complete rundown of all of the teams in the region, pick up a copy of “Blitz” at area newstands.
Wednesday: Juniata Valley
Williamsburg, one of, if not the smallest schools in Pennsylvania to field a high school football team has a proud history.
But the Blue Pirates haven’t had much to smile about the past two years and head into the 2020 season coming off back-to-back 0-10 campaigns.
Williamsburg coach Ryan Hileman said the school’s 20-game losing streak isn’t something the team worries about, but it’s clear winning matters to the program.
“It’s pretty important with me being a senior,” Blue Pirates wideout and linebacker Wes McCall said. “I don’t want that to go down as all we were. I don’t want us to be known for the big losing streak we had. We see in magazines other coaches saying we aren’t going to be any good and picking us last, so it’s important to prove them wrong.”
Hileman said to do that the team is focusing on the positives from last season and attempting to build on those.
“We definitely showed an ability to move the ball a little better,” Hileman said. “Obviously we were able to put up a little more offense than in years past, but we had some injuries to some of our key players. Keeping them healthy this year would bode well for us, because those players who were injured were important parts of our offense that missed a few games here and there.”
Williamsburg senior Shane Brantner, who plays on the offensive and defensive line along with seeing some time at tight end, is one of the players the Blue Pirates will need to keep healthy to find success.
“We’re doing a lot of conditioning for legs this year, because we had a lot of leg and ankle injuries last year,” Brantner said. “So, we’ve been doing a lot of leg workouts and working those muscles.”
When an inevitable injury does pop up, the Blue Pirates seem more likely to be able to get through the setback this season.
“You always want everyone to stay healthy,” McCall said. “But we have a lot of younger players coming out this year too, which is going to make us deeper. As a whole team, I think we’ll be pretty well rounded.”
In addition to being in better condition to avoid injuries, Williamsburg’s players and coaches know the team must avoid disaster plays that have haunted the team recently.
“The biggest thing for us is eliminating negative plays,” Hileman said. “Whether it be penalties at certain times, botched snaps or turnovers, stopping that has been the biggest thing we have been focusing on. It was a problem in previous years, and it was a problem last year. We would be moving the ball and still in games, and then we’d have a turnover that killed the drive and turned the momentum of the game.”
A year ago, Glendale entered its season in the Inter-County Conference coming off a one-win season and with low expectations from people outside the program. The Vikings impressed many and qualified for the District 6 playoffs.
“When you see another team that’s a similar-sized school as you in the same conference have some success, that can give any school hope and think if they can do it, we can do it,” Hileman said. “The boys have positive attitudes coming into the season, and they are looking forward to being able to go out and play.”
Some of the players on the football team were members of Williamsburg’s basketball team that made it to the District 6 Class 1A title game and qualified for the state playoffs in spring.
“It helps with our motivation, because we know what it feels like to win,” Brantner said. “We know we can get this on the right track and get back to winning.”
Interestingly, Williamsburg opens at home on Aug. 28 against Moshannon Valley, the last team the Blue Pirates defeated in the last game of the 2017 season.
“We have 10 seniors right now, and if we play the way we can along with some of the newer players, we should be better,” Brantner said. “We definitely want to get that ‘W.”