UPPER DUBLIN >> The old saying goes, “Folks don’t want to hear about the labor pains, they just want to see the baby.”
So far this season, the Upper Dublin football team is showing off its newborn stuff.
To the Cardinals, it doesn’t seem to matter that the combined record of their opponents has been 5-24, the team is 5-0, has allowed just two touchdowns all year and is on pace to make yet another appearance in the postseason.
After last year’s district-title-winning season, Upper Dublin’s fans are likely a mite spoiled, so they’re willing to overlook such trivialities as opponents’ records and the fact that the team has been sloppier (11 penalties in Friday’s win over Wissahickon) and a little less efficient (the team has missed six extra-point attempts in the past two weeks), they’re six weeks into the season with a “0” in the “L” column.
The players are no less excited.
“Last year we lost a lot of good players, but we’ve had a lot people step up,” said linebacker Max Winebrake, “but the kids who were behind them last year have really stepped up.
“Last year, the seniors changed the mentality of the whole program.”
“After last year, we knew there’d be a bulls eye on our backs,” added two-way back Malik Bookman, “but we’ve come in here this year and said, ‘So what.’”
For head coach Bret Stover, the challenge in the off-season was shuffling personnel.
With so many players from last year’s dream team gone, there had to be a major shuffling of the deck.
“We went into the season saying that all we can control is what’s if front of us,” the coach said. “I think the players here now learned a lot from last year’s team, but they want their own identity.
“We had to move a lot of kids around and get them in the right positions. And we’re not able to go out and recruit the players we need, we have to coach the kids we have.”
Another major plus has been the play of quarterback Justin Horn, who has confidently filled the shoes of last year’s senior quarterback Ryan Stover, with little drop in production.
“I think we have three or four of the best athletes in the conference, so we’re hard to stop,” Horn said. “We were deeper than most teams last year, we had a lot of those players as our returning players this year, so we were confident.”
Horn agreed this team still has a long ways to go to even be mentioned in the same breath as last year’s, but they’re off to a good start.
“We have to stop the stupid penalties,” Horn said. “It hasn’t been as clean as we would like it to be, but we have time to improve.”
The Cardinals defense, while not playing against the likes of North Penn and Pennsbury, as last year’s did, has been the team’s overwhelming strongest unit.
“Our defense has been very good,” Bookman said. “We’ve been playing great defense.”
But the team has to round into some semblance of shape if the end of this year has any chance of resembling the end of last year.
“There are enough pieces here,” Stover said. “And trying to put them in the position to win is what makes coaching fun.”