Hatboro-Horsham building on Kapusta’s foundation

HORSHAM — Building a program is not a one or two year process.

When Mike Kapusta took over at Hatboro-Horsham in 2013, he inherited a team that had gone 1-11 the year before. His first year, the Hatters went 4-8, then 3-9 last season.

While the wins haven’t come yet, by the end of last season, the Hatters looked like a different team than the one that had started the season. Now, they’re prepared to take the next step.

“The win-loss record is not what you want, but part of that can be motivation for this year’s group,” Kapusta said. “We want to build off of it and also learn from our mistakes from a year ago.”

Hatboro-Horsham returns, for all purposes, six starters on each side of the ball along with several other players who got into games last season. With players entering their second or third year starting, they’re now in position to respond to the challenges the coaching staff put in front of them.

Seemingly every position group has at least one senior in the fold and of those fourth-year players, many fit the multi-year starter bill. Quarterback Casey Walsh is in his third year under center, Phil Pagliaro and Nick Schuck are three-year starting lineman and tailback Kingsley Nworu got plenty of touches last year.

“We’re definitely aiming for an undefeated season, but that’s everybody’s goal,” Nworu said. “The faster the progress we make, the more beneficial it will be for everybody as we improve.”

One trend Kapusta is hoping to buck is the team’s precedent for slow starts, both in individual games and for the season. The Hatters have a fairly tough non-league schedule that includes Quakertown, Pennridge and Lansdale Catholic so they will be tested right away. In the Suburban One League American, Upper Dublin and Plymouth Whitemarsh again look strong with the rest of the conference trying to get into the mix.

“We plan on competing on everybody, even those top teams,” Kapusta said. “We want to be there competing with teams every week and I don’t see why that can’t happen. But it’s going to be up to our kids to get us there.”

By season’s end, the Hatters were competitive through the end of nearly every game they played, but took a few tough losses in that stretch because they weren’t ready to close the deal yet. Finding a way to put the hammer down in the fourth quarter is among the next set of steps the program needs to climb as it builds itself up.

Kapusta said one of the biggest lessons of 2014 was seeing the line between victory and defeat. Something like one series, drive or even a single play could determine the outcome of a game and the coaches have harped on players seizing those opportunities.
“A lot of times in those games we were in it for the first quarter or halftime and just fell off,” Nworu said. “We have to learn how to finish and hopefully that will change some of those L’s.

“Being in this for a third year, I think we’ve all figured each other out and chemistry is there.”

Kapusta noted the experience in his line on both sides of the ball and also pointed out the team’s tailbacks do a good job of blocking, so the Hatters will look to impose their will in the ground game. The linebackers and defensive backfield have shown playmaking abilities in the run and passing game, though both units do have some younger players taking on bigger roles.

“We’re a very close team and we’ve been getting closer every day of camp,” Pagliaro said. “We’re going to keep working hard and hopefully it shows out on the field this year.”

Kapusta was a standout at North Penn and served as an assistant with the Knights, so he’s been a part of a winning program like the one he’s trying to build at Hatboro-Horsham. Success doesn’t come overnight and if there’s one thing he’s learned in his time around the game, it’s to keep the picture as compact and relevant as possible.

“It comes down to focusing on the moment,” Kapusta said. “We’ve been telling the kids to forget about the past and don’t worry about the future. Just focus on the right now and how you can win that moment.”

Top Photo: Hatboro Horsham football players (from left) linebacker Jordan Mason,defensive end Luke Gehlhaus, quarterback Casey Walsh, center Phil Pagliaro, running back Kingsley Nworu and wide reciever Joe Lee group together for a photo after a practice at Hatboro-Horsham High School on Friday Aug. 21, 2015. (Mark C Psoras/The Reporter)

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