[tps_title] Pennridge Rams [/tps_title]
It’s all about attitude in 2019 for Rams
EAST ROCKHILL >> Attitude is a big theme for Pennridge football in 2019.
The Rams are out to make a change from last season’s mindset and build a new approach that will get them back into District 1-6A playoffs after missing out a year ago.
“Last season, I don’t think we had the best attitude,” junior Shane Hartzell said. “I thought we got a little ahead of ourselves, little big of a head. But this year I think we’re really putting in the work and we have a better attitude all around.”
After a 1-4 start to 2018, Pennridge ran off three straight wins to reach .500 but the Rams proceeded to lose their next two. Pennridge capped the year with a Thanksgiving win over Quakertown but the 5-6 finish marked the program’s first losing record since 2007.
Graduation has the Rams a bit lighter on the lines and with the side looking to replace a few starters on offense but a solid returning defensive core should help the team’s bid to rebound in coach Cody Muller’s second season.
“I think the attitude is in the right spot for these guys,” Muller said. “They’ve really bought into the culture and the system we’re trying to employ here. We have a good amount of talent that’s coming back and obviously we’ve lost a lot of talent, a lot of veteran guys, but so far the attitude, the mentality and the effort has all been very, very high which I’m pretty proud of so far and happy and hopefully we can keep building and keep getting better.”
Hartzell, who Muller says is “one of the best linebackers you’re going to see around,” was an All-SOL Continental Conference first-team pick at the position as a sophomore in 2018. On the defensive front, both junior Jack Ferguson (end) and senior Phil Long (tackle) were honorable mention picks last year.
“We lost a lot of our d-line and some of our secondary but we have a next man up mentality,” Hartzell said. “I think that guys are stepping up and we’re all really putting the effort in and we’re really coming together, clicking.”
The offensive line lost three all-conference players — Zack Tarburton, Joel Hartzell and Brian Lafty — but does return junior center Eli Kantor, a Continental honorable mention pick, and junior Jake Tarburton.
“I just think overall, we’re not going to get bigger than we did last year,” Muller said. “We had some big boys up front. I just think, like I said, just overall buying into what we’re doing. And just taking on adversity and people are challenging them, you know fighting, keep attacking continually through and pushing through instead of taking a step back or getting all out of whack and mentally breaking down over penalties of misplays.”
Junior Bobby Croyle takes over at quarterback and will get help with the return of receiver Connor Pleibel, who tied for the team-high in catches last year, hauling in 22 receptions for 456 yards and five TDs. Both Joe Muntz (50 carries, 268 yards, 1 TD) and Taj Utsey (53 carries, 224 yards, 1 TD) are set to take on bigger roles in the running game.
“Our expectations are high,” Muntz said. “I think with all the players we’ve got, we lost some but all the players coming up can ball.”
Avoiding another slow start comes on the road as the Rams are the visiting side for four of their first five games — beginning the season with a trip up to Pike County to face Delaware Valley.
“I think all of our players, all of us, even the coaches, are holding the grudge and we want to show these teams that beat us last year that we’re not joking, to be taken lightly,” Muntz said. “We’re here to play.”
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
Joe Muntz, RB/DB >> The 5-8, 163-pound senior looks to have a larger role of the running game in 2019 after finishing third on the team in rushing yards last year — posting 114 yards and a touchdown in the Week 3 loss to Perkiomen Valley.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
Shane Hartzell, LB/RB >> Hartzell was a defensive playmaker in 2018 from his linebacker position and should only continue to get better. The 6-0, 215-pound junior also earned all-conference third team honors at both running back and punter.
By Mike Cabrey; firstname.lastname@example.org