NEWTOWN SQUARE >> When Delaware County Christian School lost one season to COVID restrictions, it felt like two for the eight-man football program.
It was a gut punch for head coach Lloyd Hill, who is optimistic the culture the Knights began building last year will help them take a giant step forward in this, their third full campaign of eight aside ball.
“We took our lumps last season,” Hill said of a 1-6 campaign. “I knew coming into last season there would be some guys with no experience at all. We went through our growing pains. This year I’m definitely looking forward to it because we have guys coming back with experience and guys coming back with potential.”
The experience is huge. But the Knights can also hang their helmets on having one of the most devoted coaches in Delaware County. Hill played at Widener University under Bill Cubit and later Bill Zwaan, now the head coach at West Chester University. Hill left an indelible impression on coaches and teammates, for he was one of just a couple of recruits from Florida who didn’t get homesick or offended by the harsh northern weather and stuck it out.
“He was a good defensive end and he played really well for us,” said Zwaan, whose playing career included stops at Archbishop Carroll and Delaware. “Good size, athleticism, smart, you could do a lot of things with him. And he’s one of the best people I’ve ever met. Just right there. He’s that good of a person. I remember our kids gravitating toward him from the second he walked on to the campus. He became like family to them. It was so obvious that he loved the players, and they loved him. And he stayed around here, got a job and now he’s a head coach.”
Hill still chats with Zwaan. The Knights incorporate some of the conditioning drills Zwaan’s players did at West Chester and Widener.
Hill is driven by football and faith, both priorities when he teaches his players. It’s safe to say he has their attention.
Senior Titus Myers, and sophomores Joshua Colonia and Sam Dixon, the latter the quarterback, have been showing enough skill and chemistry for his coach to enjoy designing plays again.
“Last year we didn’t do so well,” Colonia said. “We’re training harder, and I think we’re more like a family now. We’re trying to build our culture back up. Obviously, the No. 1 goal is to honor the Lord. Then we just want to get everything down, work on execution. No silly mistakes and do our best.”
Junior tight end/linebacker Tommy Goneau is another mainstay for the Knights. Among the top varsity newcomers is junior tight end/linebacker Jackson Lewis.
The Knights still are getting accustomed to eight-man ball, which is played on a field 80 yards long and 40 yards wide. Fewer players, including two less linemen generally means players have to cover more field. It’s a challenge, not a problem for Hill, who can always go with power when he lines up those tight ends.
“It’s the same game,” Hill said. “I’ve been on the sideline for 11-man, I’ve been on the sideline for eight-man, and it pretty much looks the same for me.”
Dixon played a little as a freshman but has impressed Hill with his development. Colonia has been impressive playing outside receiver, and Myers, the slot, is a leader in every way.
“Titus isn’t really a rah-rah type of guy but as soon as he gets on the field, he does what needs to be done and he’s a great example to everyone, including the freshmen,” Colonia said. “He’s a great friend of mine. We’re both receivers and we’re definitely going to try to get that passing game going and get some touchdowns.”
Hill is hopeful the Knights will be there for each other and turn the corner. Who better to gauge that chemistry than Hill?
“It’s just the whole culture of the team, guys coming together,” Hill said. “And that’s pretty much what we teach during our devotion time. I tell them football is only like a little dot, but what we teach them out here is going to help them for a lifetime. I think that’s the most important thing.”