Williamsburg players see positives
Juniata Valley offers chance for success
Williamsburg Community High School football players expressed a mixture of sadness and optimism this week when finding out that the school’s football program would be forming a co-op arrangement with Juniata Valley.
Seniors Lambert Palmer, Dylan Hartman and Robbie Brantner grew up in Williamsburg and hoped to play their last high school football games on the town’s Memorial Field this fall.
Instead, they will be joining forces with a Juniata Valley program that has traditionally been one of Williamsburg’s greatest football rivals.
At the same time, the merger between the two programs creates a talented team for Juniata Valley, which will continue to compete in the Inter-County Conference and at the Class 1A level.
“At first, emotions took over, and I wasn’t really all (for) it,” said Hartman, who has been a two-way starter at left guard and defensive end for Williamsburg since his sophomore year. “I didn’t want to play for (Juniata Valley), a rival team.
“But now that I’ve thought about it, this is my last year of high school football, and I think that we’ll do pretty well as a team this year, so I am excited about it.”
It may be the end of Williamsburg’s varsity program for good, which saddens its long-time players.
“They’re thinking that (varsity) football may not be coming back to Williamsburg, and that’s sad,” Hartman said.
Palmer, who would have been a three-year starter for the Williamsburg team at quarterback and cornerback this season, also saw both sides of the coin.
“We’re going to have a good team, so I’m excited about that, but it’s sad for our seniors not to be able to play on their home field in their last year,” said Palmer, who threw for 1,090 yards and nine touchdowns and also rushed for five touchdowns last season while leading Williamsburg to its first District 6 playoff win in 30 years.
“But I think that this team, with us combining with Juniata Valley, will have a chance to go to the district playoffs this year,” added Palmer.
Williamsburg had 27 players on its varsity roster last season, but was heavily hit by graduation, and the Blue Pirates had only 17 players available this year. Many of those players were young freshmen and sophomores, which, along with the team’s low numbers, created a concern for the players’ physical safety this season.
“Some of those young players may be ready to play varsity football on Friday night, but some of them aren’t,” said Bob Hearn, who is the current Williamsburg Athletic Director and also served a tenure as the football program’s head coach. “And having just 17 players available on your varsity roster isn’t conducive to playing an entire football season.”
Ryan Hileman, who has served as Williamsburg’s head football coach for the past two seasons, will help out on Juniata Valley head coach Bill Musser’s staff this season. Hileman is happy that almost every player on this year’s Williamsburg football roster has agreed to play for Juniata Valley.
The Williamsburg players will board a bus after school each day and make the short trip to Alexandria for practice.
Brantner would have been a three-year starter at linebacker for the Williamsburg team this season. He was also set to be a starting wide receiver on offense.
“I’d (prefer) to play for Williamsburg, but I’d rather play at Juniata Valley than to not play football at all,” Brantner said. “It’s unfortunate, but we just don’t have enough players (to field a team at Williamsburg).
“I think we’ll have a good team (merging with Juniata Valley),” Brantner added. “I think we can make the playoffs this year. We’ve got some talent.”