Truman seniors looking to fine-tune the Tigers in 2015

BRISTOL TWP. – The difference between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat can be razor thin sometimes. Just ask the members of the Harry S Truman football team, which dropped five games by a total of 14 points last season.

Tigers head coach Jon Craig says a dozen plays cost his team dearly last year. He’s showed those plays to his Truman team several times in the preseason.

“A lot of games come down to three or four plays where if we make a mistake and the other team capitalizes, we wind up on the wrong side of the scoreboard,” said Craig. “If these 12 plays go the other way, then we win.”

“It’s about the attention to detail – you take a play off, you miss a block, you don’t step the right way – it could be a big play in the end.”

The Tigers finished 7-5, overall, last season (4-3 in the SOL), their fate sealed with a late-season 2-point loss to Norristown. Just three weeks earlier, Truman celebrated the first of three straight wins when it held off a late surge by SOL Continental Conference rival Council Rock North for a 2-point win.

Ensuing triumphs over CB East and William Tennent had the Tigers – at 6-3, overall – thinking playoffs. Then the unthinkable happened – Truman lost an 18-17 heartbreaker to SOL Continental cellar-dweller Norristown, a team that entered the contest at 3-6. The loss to the Eagles didn’t necessarily seal the Tigers’ fate –Truman needed other teams to lose to obtain a playoff berth and that didn’t happen – but it sure didn’t help.

Really, the Tigers’ sealed their own fate with losses suffered earlier in the season. What comes to mind is the team’s 28-21 loss to Upper Dublin despite being up by a touchdown at the half. Another 2-point loss – this one to CR South – came, despite being up two TDs at the half.

“Teams that you think you should be able to beat, you gotta put them out and shut them down,” said Craig. “Teams that you are battling with, you have to find a way to beat them at their own game.

“That’s our mission going forward.”

Truman is going to have to do that without the services of graduates Trysten Hunt (St. Francis), linemen Isaac Flowers (Bethany) and Rob Lancieri, DT Colin Pool and cornerback Terez Franklin (DelVal). The aforementioned were first team all-Suburban One League (SOL) and Hunt’s carries last year were second only to quarterback Mark Lopez-Shefcyk.

The good news is that Mark has returned to finish his final campaign in a Tigers uniform along with many of his classmates. Indeed, Truman is a senior-laden squad in this, Craig’s second year as coach.

The skill positions are loaded with seniors: running backs Corey McLeod and the explosive Justin Fant –both, returning starters, are joined by Mo Jackson, another 12th-grader that has garnered Division I interest. Receivers Darius DeLeon and Justin Stone are also seniors.

The offensive line is stacked with 12th-graders and three of them are returning starters including guards Connor McAdams and Bailey Stone along with right tackle Tim Kenny-Schwartz, who played center last year. Senior Mike Beers will play that position and the left tackle spot is manned by Tyler Pool.

On defense, Beers and McAdams will flank the line while Stone and senior Quentin Mulbah will play at tackle. The Tigers’ linebackers include Kenny-Schwartz, a four-year returning starter at that position. Pool and junior Yasir Talley are battling for the middle linebacker spot while Jackson and senior Matt Olsen are battling for an outside backer position. Senior Romeo Sturkey takes over the free safety position vacated by Brandon Hill (East Stroudsburg).

In the defensive backfield, McLeod appears to have the weak side corner locked up while DeLeon is battling with senior Khalil Tramel for the strong side position. On special teams, Kenny-Schwartz is back at placekicker, Lopez will punt and McLeod will handle kick return duties.

Five years ago, Craig and former coach Ed Cubbage – who is now at Bensalem – took the Tigers from the brink of extinction to a squad that can compete with any other in the SOL. Now it’s time for Truman to fine-tune that edge, says Craig.

“It was easy to close the gap from being really bad to good,”

“Now, the teams just above us are really, really good so we have to close the small gaps – doing the little things right to beat the teams at the top of the heap.”

Truman opens Sept. 4 at home against West Chester Rustin, which went unbeaten in the Ches-Mont American League last year and finished among the top eight teams in the District One-AAAA tournament. After that, it’s on to Upper Dublin, which captured the SOL American Conference crown and gave district champ Pennsbury a run for its money in the D-1 semifinals.

Two more weeks of road games ensue starting with a trip to Bensalem where the Tigers will battle against their old coach and then it’s on to CR South against one of those teams that got away from Truman last year.

It will be interesting to see what transpires Sept. 25 at Walt Snyder Stadium.

2015 Harry S Truman Schedule

Sept. 4, 7 p.m.: West Chester Rustin

Sept. 11, 7 p.m.: at Upper Dublin

Sept. 18, 7 p.m.: at Bensalem

Sept. 25, 7 p.m.: Council Rock South (at CR North)

Oct. 2, 7 p.m.: Central Bucks West

Oct. 9, 7 p.m.: at Quakertown

Oct. 16, 7 p.m.:  at Council Rock North

Oct. 23, 7 p.m.: Central Bucks East

Oct. 30, 7 p.m.: William Tennent

Nov. 7, 1 p.m.: at Norristown

Nov. 26, 10 a.m.: Conwell-Egan

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