Eastern York's team motto for the 2018 football season is “brick by brick."
It's a similar mantra used by the Arizona Cardinals this season and the Tennessee Volunteers in the past.
With the way last season ended for the Golden Knights, however, it looked as if rebuilding the program would take a ton of bricks.
Eastern went 2-8 last season for its 15th losing season in the last 16 years. The Golden Knights also struggled with a small roster, ending the season with around 15 healthy bodies.
After Jeff Mesich resigned as head coach at the end of the season, Eastern hired Josh Campbell, a 2003 Eastern graduate, to take over the program. With the way the first two weeks of the Knights’ season has gone, Campbell, a science teacher at the middle school, is proving his chops as a bricklayer.
Less than eight months since Campbell was hired, Eastern now has a 42-man roster and is the only undefeated Division II team through two weeks of the nonleague season.
“We put in a lot of preparation beforehand, meeting with the team and asking a lot of them to be rededicated to the program,” Campbell said. “It looks like we’re seeing some dividends of that and seeing the results.”
Granted, it’s only two weeks into the season, and Eastern has yet to play a particularly strong opponent. Neither contest has been close, though. The Knights defeated Columbia, 41-13, in Week Zero and Hanover, 47-21, last week.
Campbell said that despite the good start, the Knights still have a long way to go to reach their goals.
“We were 2-8 last year,” he said. “You are what you are. We can’t come in and say we’re a playoff team. We have to earn that.”
Recruiting talent: This year is Campbell’s first as a head coach at the high school level.
Campbell, who was an assistant at Eastern between 2008-2014, said his main goal once he was hired was to beef up the team’s roster. As a Class 4-A school, Eastern certainly had more than 15 talented football players in its hallways. For Campbell, it was just about finding those kids.
He started talking to students who used to play football, as well as asking his future senior class to lobby their friends to play.
Of all the 20-plus new faces on this year’s squad, no player was a more important find for Campbell than Trevor Seitz, who is now Eastern’s starting quarterback.
Seitz played on the junior varsity team in eighth grade but stopped playing to focus on basketball once he got to high school. Seitz was the starting point guard for the Knights last season and hopes to play in college.
“Trevor, being the starting point guard on the basketball team, has athletic ability,” Campbell said. “He’s smart, athletic, takes coaching well and competes. Needless to say, that was definitely a player I wanted to get.”
For Seitz, his decision to play was easy once Campbell got the head coaching job.
“When he got the job, I thought I’d really like to play for him,” Seitz said. “I’ve had him as a teacher, then as an AD and I thought I’d like to have him as a coach.”
First-year QB: Having a first-year head coach and a first-year quarterback usually doesn’t lend itself to success on offense.
Through two games, however, Eastern is the third-best offense in the York-Adams League, scoring 44 points per game.
Leading the Knights’ Shotgun Wing-T offense is Seitz, who has thrown for eight touchdowns to only one interception this year.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Seitz said. “I hadn’t touched a football in about two or three years.”
At one of the first summer practices, though, Seitz remembers gaining confidence from something Campbell said after a well-executed drill.
“Once you have it, you never lose it,” Campbell said.
“He believes in us, and that’s what made us believe in ourselves more than anything,” Seitz said. “He’s pushed us to be the best we can be and has made us believe we can do special things this year.”
A big target: Campbell said the strength of Eastern’s offense is about depth and consistency, and he’s glad that eight different players have accounted for a touchdown so far this season.
While the offense is deep, there is clearly one player who stands out: 6-foot, 5-inch wide receiver Demonte Martin.
Martin, who runs a 4.50 40-yard dash, has three TDs already this season and was a first-team D-II all-star in 2017.
“He draws a lot of attention,” Campbell said. “I have faith in him. I don’t call them 50-50 balls with Demonte. He’s going to take those out of the air and win those.”
While this is Seitz’s first season throwing to Martin, he’s used to being his teammate. Martin is also a member of the basketball team.
“I would say he’s one of the best wide receivers in the league, if not the best wide receiver,” Seitz said. “It’s great having him on the team as a first-year guy. I know whenever I need a big play, I can look to him to make it.”
Eastern plays defending Division III champion Littlestown Friday. Campbell said a win Friday would only mean the program is one step closer to being what he envisions it can be.
“The success is nice to have,” he said. “We’re breeding that culture of winning football and starting one step at a time. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re building day by day, brick by brick.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org