Phoenixville moving past grim Day 1 of camp

They carried themselves differently than a team that went 1-9 in 2014.

For Phoenixville, the team vowed that a season like the one prior wouldn’t happen again.

The team size increased from 30 to 40 in a year span. Kids were showing up for offseason training sessions (and who wouldn’t if one trained in Phoenixville’s newly remodeled weight room?). Players from other sports were seeing that Phoenixville could be a team on the rise. They decided to take part.

On the first day of camp, the balloon met the pin.

And all the air rushed out.

“August 17th will live in my mind forever,” Evan Breisblatt, the second-year coach said.

Already decimated by injuries throughout the mid-summer months, the Phantoms lost two players destined to make an impact in 2015 … in 10 minutes.

Shyheim Abernathy went down diving for a ball. Jeff Conboy then went down after getting tackled during a drill period. Both are out with broken collarbones.

“That day will live in infamy at Phoenixville,” Breisblatt said.

It was a culmination of what had become an unsettling summer after a motivational ride in the winter and spring.

“July we lost Zeke (Ezekial) Frank-Vinson who was going to start at corner and had a great shot at starting at running back,” Breisblatt said. “He went down with an ACL injury. When we got into the heat acclimation period, Calvin Lydon, our 300-lb right tackle, broke his hand. Melvin Obando, who was our special teams player of the year last year, came in with a broken wrist and didn’t get that resolved correctly.”

Luckily for Breisblatt and Phoenixville, the Phantoms’ effort the rest of the week in camp has successfully aided in forgetting the 10-minute span on Day 1 of practice.

“We talked Tuesday morning,” Breisblatt said. “I said that I can’t promise you that you will not get hurt playing this game. Football is one of those sports. But I can promise that we have guys that can step up on this football team and guys that are going to have to step up.

“We took on that attitude the rest of the week and had a great scrimmage against Henderson. The guys were pumped, they played with enthusiasm, they played fast and they played hard. We didn’t make all the right plays but I tell you what, in just that scrimmage we did more positive things that day then we did in a lot of the time last year on offense.”

Of those players to step up, Cory Bird, who has taken on the captain role, “flourished in the scrimmage against Henderson last week,” according to Breisblatt.

Johnavin County will get the touches at tailback and has shown sparks of being lights out. Matt Garcia, Jon Miller, Mike Vargo, Ian Brown and Troy Rossman all have proven to be reliable players for the Phantoms.

“Matt Garcia, who had very limited time, is going to be a gamebreaker we feel like,” Breisblatt said. “Jon Miller, at left tackle, is only a sophomore but he plays like a senior. He played all 10 games for us last year as a freshman. He worked his butt off in the weight room and has been outstanding. Mikey Vargo, who did not play for us last year was very solid at left guard. He’s gotten physical, he got in the weightroom.”

All that of includes the Phantoms’ leading returning starter in Matt Palubinsky, who is receiving looks from Division 1’s Temple and Boston College. He’s also looking at West Chester, Bloomsburg and Lehigh.

The senior wide receiver returns after hauling in 32 receptions for 393 yards and a score in 2014, and looks for Phoenixville to be more competitive in 2015.

“On the first day we had the injuries everyone was down about it,” he said. “Right after that everybody picked it up and everybody got after it the rest of the week.

“We’re stepping up a lot from last year. We don’t have many more people but we’re coming together more as a team. We’re really picking it up and coming together as a team when something bad happens and that should only help us be more successful once we get into the season.”

On Depth

Depth was an issue for Phoenixville last season with a roster of 31 players. Monday night’s practice saw 35 kids suited up in helmets and shoulder pads but the lack of depth shouldn’t be anything new.

“We had depth at wide receiver at the beginning,” Breisblatt said. “Now we have no depth and again, if one of those guys goes down we’re in the same situation as we were in last season. We have a mindset that it is what it is and that we can’t worry about that. We can only control what we can control and go from there.”

Quarterback Situation

Troy Rossman, who was injured last season, will be taking the snaps for the Phantoms with Ian Brown shifting to wide receiver.

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