BIRDSBORO >> They’ve been throwing their weight around.
The members of Daniel Boone’s football team, like many others, have been logging time in the weight room during the offseason. The Blazers have been performing that task quite well … well enough, in fact, to give their head coach a good feeling for the 2017 season.
“The team has been working hard since the offseason. They’re breaking records in the weight room,” Boone grid boss Bill Parks said.
Players like seniors Josh Ehst and Spencer McIntosh, along with junior John Boraten, have headed the team’s iron-pumping effort. Parks hopes those achievements in the weight room will set the tone for the Blazers as they work to improve on last year’s 3-7 record (2-4 in Berks Section 1).
“That translates to the field,” Parks said. “It can build a positive attitude.
“In football, there’s an old saying that games are won in the offseason,” he added. “The guys really came together in the offseason, putting in the work. They set goals, achieved them and set them higher.”
The first test of their prowess comes Friday, when Boone hosts Northeastern. The game carries an added impetus for the Blazers, who were handled 60-6 in last year’s opener.
“We went out and got a rude awakening,” Parks recalled. “We want to be sure we’re ready for it.”
The belief is Boone will be improved in the areas of offense, defense and special teams. It also figures the weight-lifting regimen will help improve the players’ durability for the season.
“I see a definite correlation between physically-consistent workouts and the rate of injuries,” Parks said. “We want to make it through the season, and try to do everything comprehensively. We have more returning players this year than we ever have in my time.”
Ehst (quarterback) and McIntosh (running back) return to further solidify Boone’s offensive backfield. Ehst was a leader in passing yards and touchdowns, and McIntosh was feted as a two-way Player of the Year.
“He’s making faster decisions and knows the players around him,” Parks said of Ehst. “Spencer is fundamentally sound, with a great knowledge of the game and can make hard blocks to open holes. He holds the squat record for our running backs.”
Chase Lacey, an H-back and team captain alongside Ehst, is acclaimed by Parks for his running skills. The receiving corps also features Tommy Buchert, a junior who made the switch to wide receiver from quarterback.
“Chase is one of our best receivers to understand the system,” Parks said. “He has good spatial awareness … he sees things developing.”
Another senior and returning starter, Tavian Moyer, will anchor Boone’s offensive line at the center spot. Dylan Walker, a starter his freshman year, is part of a tight-end mix that includes senior Sean Zamichieli and junior Anthony Zabala
The Boone defense has McIntosh, Lacey and Buchert as prominent figures in the secondary: McIntosh at linebacker, Lacey at cornerback and Buchert at safety.
“He does everything right, making calls,” Parks said of McIntosh. “Lacey hardly ever misses a tackle, and Buchert gets to the ball well and tackles.”
Moyer is the linchpin of the Blazer defensive line at the tackle slot. Walker and Boraten will work at defensive end, with senior Brett Goodrich and Zamichieli also at linebacker.
“The defensive line is getting stronger,” Parks noted. “The big challenge will be to get all these guys on the field.”
The kicking game is well-stocked with Walker, who kicked as a freshman, and Zabala. Ehst has emerged as another punter.
“Overall, we have good kids,” Parks said. “They’re good students who love to play the game, and they care about each other.”
The hope is the players who endured successive 3-7 seasons the past two years — including an 0-6 record in Berks play in 2015 — will turn the program’s fortunes around.
“Two years ago, some of these guys started their first games,” Parks said. “It was like starting a junior-varsity team. In preparing for Friday nights, that kind of experience is important.”
Taking a roster of approximately 40 players into the campaign, concerns about depth exist.
“Depth is always tough,” Parks said. “But we have guys who are not in the first group pushing to get in the first group. That makes everyone prepared.”