Owls look to their line to start upward trajectory
BENSALEM >> It’s not easy to find new, compelling ways to motivate the players in a high school football program known primarily for its chronic absence of winning. Ed Cubbage, the fifth-year head coach at Bensalem High, knows the feeling well.
Yet, things are looking up for Cubbage and the Owls this year despite a shortage of depth and experience on their roster. The coach can thank Lower Bucks rival and longtime non-contender Harry S Truman High for igniting renewed optimism at Bensalem. Truman, of course, won a share of the SOL National title in 2018.
“I tell the kids that we’re in one of the best leagues in the state and that’s what we point to, that a team like Truman can build itself up and compete with the big boys,” Cubbage said.
For Bensalem in 2019, the reconstruction project will have to start at the foundation. Only a few of the Owls have real varsity experience – three of them are on the offensive line. Senior guards Matt Brown and Ian Bustard will anchor the unit, along with junior tackle Joe Trunkwater.
At 6-2 and “every bit of” 330 pounds, according to Cubbage, Brown is an immovable object and an irresistible force. He is “without a doubt one of the hardest workers we have in the weight room, the classroom, and on the field.” Bustard is the team’s strongest player and another hard worker, despite his smaller stature for his position, the coach said.
In the Owls’ spread offense, Brown and Bustard are the key guys to power the inside running game.
“Their strong suit is going forward and that’s pretty much what we’re going to do,” Cubbage said.
Bensalem 2019 Schedule
Ideally, transfer senior Henry Hill will get the bulk of the carries at running back. After spending his freshman and sophomore years at Neshaminy, he transferred to Bensalem before his junior campaign, but he broke his ankle in a scrimmage and sat out the entire season. He is 6 feet tall and a muscular 195 pounds. Like his senior linemen, he has been working hard in training.
“We had a tremendous offseason in the weight room,” Cubbage said. “I think that’s the first step to making us competitive. If you do that, the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”
The Owls are still assembling their lineup at the other skill positions. Several young players are vying for wide receiver spots, while senior Rich Bardone is settling into the quarterback role. He’s been a multi-purpose player for the Owls throughout the last two seasons, including one career start at QB.
“He’s developing as a thrower and is a really quick, tough runner,” Cubbage said.
Defensively, the Owls will look to Brown and Bustard on the interior of the line, Hill and Trunkwater at linebacker, and senior Christian Wilson, a transfer from Philadelphia’s Dobbins Tech, in the secondary.
Cubbage hopes that the showcase of SOL competition will keep things interesting for the Owls, even if they find themselves on the short end of the scoreboard.
“We’ve been fortunate each year that we’ve been able to put five or six kids into college football, so we’re aware what it means to play on this stage,” the coach said.
By Bill Kenny