What a whirlwind of a month it was for the Pennridge football team. Especially junior Matt Kraynik.
A sudden rise to starting quarterback on a team in playoff contention was challenging, but not catastrophic. The Rams rallied behind their backup signal caller and won their last two regular season games, securing a spot in the postseason.
A loss of the starter for the remainder of the year did not mean it was time to turn in for the fall and prepare for the winter. Kraynik switched over from linebacker, a position he played for the first seven games with success, and went to the offensive side of the ball as commander of the huddle. All of the practice reps and playbook prep Kraynik did helped the Rams to come within one yard of beating Quakertown in the opening round of the District 1-AAAA playoffs.
“I did take a step back and realize this was one of the biggest games I am ever going to play in,’ Kraynik said. “We really had that game in the palm of our hands. We made some mistakes in crucial times that really hurt us. Coach Hollenbach and the team were behind me 100 percent. I thought I was well prepared going into (my four starts), but I was a little shocked (my shot) happen so quickly.’
The fourth-seed and arch rival Panthers intercepted Kraynik to end the Rams upset bid. The 14-10 loss stings, but after a few days he can take a step back and appreciate the great atmosphere and opportunity he and his teammates had. He is thankful for one more crack at the Panthers, Thanksgiving morning, back at Alumni Field.’
“We had off Monday and Tuesday off, but I’m sure the rest of the week will be regular practices,’ Kraynik said. “It is good to get some time to heal our bodies up. All the guys in the locker room really want it.’
Kraynik is well aware it may be the last time he under center for the Rams. It turns out he enjoys playing defense and after three years of quarterbacking, including last year’s jayvee squad. He misses putting his helmet into the chest of oncoming ballcarriers.
“The difference from jayvee to varsity, or even practice to varsity games is incredible,’ Kraynik said. “I miss defense, but I am always going to do what is best for the team and right now it is play quarterback. I would like to play defense next year and it probably is what I will do.’
Kraynik is very thankful for the crack at the position and the way his team celebrated his completions and picked his head up during the tough times. Going forward he will only make the Rams defense better and the quarterback position is in good hands. Devon Balmer is expected to return to the team for his senior season and current freshman, 6-foot-5 Oliver Jervis can be seen in Coach Jeff Hollenbach’s ear, charting plays, and learning what it takes to win at the varsity level.
“Like any other sophomore I was on the sideline watching last year,’ Kraynik said. “Having a clipboard, writing down the plays, and watching what (former quarterback) Matt Pasquale did, I really took in a lot. Oliver is real tall with a great arm. If he works on his fundamentals he can be a great quarterback.’
Whether it is Kraynik, Balmer, or Jervis next season is a question to be answered after a year of weight training and offseason workouts. All that matters at the moment is can the passionate, 6-foot-1 Kraynik carry his Rams to redemption in two weeks?
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