TWO-A-DAYS: West Chester Henderson hopes last year’s ‘big plays’ become 2020’s big wins

WEST CHESTER >> West Chester Henderson football head coach John Lunardi would like to see his Warriors develop a more balanced attack in 2020.

“Our goal is to be more balanced and consistent on offense this fall,” said Lunardi. “We had some big plays last year from Pat Esemplare and Cole Cooper, but we’d like to be more consistent this year.”

West Chester Henderson quarterback Eddie Smink looks to throw during practice. (PETE BANNAN – MNG)

Cooper has graduated, and is now playing football for Susquehanna University, but Esemplare returns to the Warriors this fall.

The Warriors, who posted a 3-8 record in 2019, have some experienced firepower on offense, including Esemplare and senior tight end Jordan Laudato (6-5, 245), an All-Ches-Mont League performer who has committed to Temple University for football.

The quarterback will be junior Eddie Smink (5-11, 195), who started as a sophomore last fall, and the running chores will be shared among senior Mark Gunther, senior Thomas Washington and junior Jordyn Porter (5-9, 195). Esemplare (5-8, 145) is a versatile senior who can play running back or wide receiver.

Up front, the Warriors return senior guard Alex Bilotti (a second team All-Ches-Mont offensive lineman last fall) and junior center Wyatt Hampton.

“When I first got a text in August that said [Henderson] would be playing football this fall, I was really excited,” said Bilotti. “It had been up in the air for months, and it had been hit or miss since our first [voluntary] practice in July.”

Smink said, “I was excited when I found out we were playing this fall. Before I heard the news, I was ready to be upset that we wouldn’t be playing – I’m on the [Henderson] baseball team, and a lot of our baseball players lost their sophomore seasons last spring.”

The Warriors are currently (as of Oct. 2) scheduled for four games this fall – against Kennett, Unionville, Sun Valley and West Chester East.

“West Chester East is [to me] definitely the biggest game of the four,” said Smink. “We grew up with a lot of their kids.”

West Chester Henderson football coach John Lunardi adjusts the helmet of Jordan Goodwin.

Lunardi sees the Warriors’ biggest strength as having “some guys with experience on both sides of the ball.” Defensively up front, that would include Alex Bilotti (second team All-Ches-Mont) and Jordan Laudato. Another possible key defensive lineman for the Warriors this fall is senior Eli Lynn.

The Henderson linebacking crew includes a couple of solid returnees in Mark Gunther and senior Sean Collins. At cornerback, junior Casey Killoran returns, with junior Ryan Trice, junior Gabe Martinez and Thomas Washington competing for playing time in the defensive backfield.

Senior Joe Shur, a first team All-Ches-Mont League kicker last fall, adeptly handles the kicking and punting chores for the Warriors.

Lunardi said, “We’ve had good turnout for our voluntary practices since they started on July 6. The kids have been awesome, and they’re enjoying the camaraderie of the practices.

“Our biggest challenge is to be prepared for the games without having a real pre-season. But then, every other team is in the same situation.”

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