Former York-Adams foes team up for successful Thaddeus Stevens football team
- Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology is a two-year vocational school in Lancaster.
- There are seven players from area high schools playing for Thaddeus Stevens.
- The team has compiled a 5-1 record thus far in 2017.
Joe Wysock is in a different situation than most college football coaches.
As the head man at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, a two-year vocational school, every couple years he's faced with coaching up a team of players that, just two years prior, weren't even part of his program. There aren't any three- and four-year veterans to which he can look to for leadership.
It's a situation the longtime coach chose.
"It does make it difficult, especially at some of the positions like quarterback," Wysock said. "It would be nice to have them for four years, but we try to keep it basic enough ... because you lose half your team every year."
How to build a tech school program: The current team Wysock constructed consists of six former York-Adams League standouts and one other York County product.
As a tech school, most of the youngsters who go to Thaddeus Stevens aren't going primarily for athletics. Their goal is to learn a trade in two years, preparing them for the work force. Continuing to play football is simply an added bonus.
So, for Wysock to keep a competitive program going year in and year out, he needs to rely on landing some quality high school players who just so happen to want to go to a tech school.
Every season, he sends out prospective player sheets to all 500-plus high schools around Pennsylvania, with information about the school and program. It's about the most recruiting he can do because, once the season begins, Wysock doesn't get a chance to do much in-person recruiting.
"We're on Hudl, which, I would say about 99 percent of the schools are on Hudl, so I get highlight tapes of almost all of our players," Wysock said. "So, we follow them that way."
Y-A League flavor: Located in Lancaster, Wysock has benefited from the school's proximity to York County and the Y-A League to help build this roster.
Xavier Wilson (York High), Adam Potter (Dallastown), Jake Keesee (Kennard-Dale), Matt Smolko (South Western), Jesse Lemmon (Littlestown), Conner Zahm (Bermudian Springs) and Nate Butler (Red Land) are all part of this year's team, which is off to a 5-1 start.
It creates an uncommon dynamic, with so many former rivals in high school turning into teammates in college.
"We all remember each other's high schools and playing them," said Potter, who is a freshman offensive lineman. "There's some memories that you remember from each game."
For Potter, who is learning to weld, the decision to attend Thaddeus Stevens was a product of wanting to attend a trade school, but still have the option to play football. As a commuter, Thaddeus Stevens was a no-brainer and one of his only real options to continue to have any sort of football career after high school.
A guy such as Wilson, who is in his second and final year at Thaddeus Stevens, has showcased his versatility for the team. After starting at quarterback as a freshman, Wysock moved him to defensive back after the entire defensive backs group from last season graduated, while two new freshmen quarterbacks were incoming. Those are the types of decisions Wysock has had to make to accommodate getting everyone into games in only a two-year time frame.
While the competition that the team plays won't jump out at you, the program is still very serious. The team practices every day after classes and will either face other two-year junior college programs on the weekend, or, if it's a four-year school, Thaddeus Stevens will take on the junior varsity team.
Even though Thaddeus Stevens is a two-year school, and most of the players will go right into the work force after they graduate, the program has been known to put some players into four-year schools to continue playing football.
The purpose of Thaddeus Stevens is to learn a trade and prepare for the working world after two years.
With the option of prolonging a football career a couple more years, and to do it with some former rivals, it sounds like the best possible scenario for the right type of person.
"I really like it," Potter said. "It's all I could've asked for."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org