When the football season starts, optimism is at an all-time high.
Depending on how a team’s first game plays out, expectations can rise or fall.
For Northeastern High, scoring 55 points in a win at Solanco served notice to the other teams in York-Adams Division I — the Bobcats expect to challenge for the division title this season.
“I am hoping we can go somewhere Northeastern has never been before,” senior wide receiver Jordan Lagana said.
That place Lagana wants the team to go is past the second round of the district playoffs. The Bobcats have also never won a D-I crown, nor an outright Y-A division title. Northeastern did share the D-II championship in 2011 with West York.
This season, Lagana, a 2018 D-I second-team all-star, is part of a talented Northeastern team that features a number of experienced players at key positions.
The familiarity the Bobcats have with each other plays a major factor in their ability to have success on the field. Lagana said some members of the senior class have been playing football together since they were kids and have built up a chemistry that is special.
“We don’t even really need to talk when we do stuff, it just happens,” Lagana said. “It’s a special type of bond that not every team gets to have.”
Senior quarterback Zech Sanderson echoed his top target’s message about the team’s close bond, adding that it plays a particularly important role in the timing he has with his receivers.
“It’s a really great advantage,” Sanderson said. “I can depend on all of them. I don’t have to say, ‘will he be there?’ I know he will be there. They know where I want to go with the ball.”
An acquired skill: In the Bobcats’ first game, Sanderson, a 2018 D-I honorable mention all-star, tossed three touchdowns, while Lagana hauled in seven catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns. That came vs. a Solanco team that pounded the Bobcats in 2018, 38-13.
Sanderson said Lagana is one of the fastest players on the field and that his speed plays a major role in his ability to rack up yards. Lagana wasn’t always able to run at the 4.6-second 40-yard dash clip he can now. He had to work for it.
Starting in his sophomore year, Lagana started running track to improve his speed for football, but fell in love with the sport. He said it made a significant difference in his 40 time and helped him on the field.
In his track career, Lagana has recorded a number of top-five finishes in the league championships while running the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and 400-meter dash.
The running back: While the senior quarterback and receiver pose significant threats to opposing defenses, the player that Solanco defenders were seeing in their nightmares last week was running back Manny Capo.
The 5-foot-10 junior gashed the Solanco defense for 230 yards and four TDs. Remarkably, he said he tried to do too much in the first half or he could’ve had a bigger night.
The 230 yards that Capo collected was nearly a quarter of his 2018 total of 926 rushing yards. That total put him among the top-10 rushers in the league, despite the fact that Capo started the 2018 season as a backup.
Coming into last year, Capo expected to fill in when the team needed him, but an injury to running back Frank Brown thrust Capo into the mix and he made a major impact.
Now a team leader, Capo uses the circumstances in which he secured his role on the team to stress to the younger players the importance of being ready when their number is called.
“They have to step in and be that player that’s going to step in and pick up the team if somebody gets injured,” Capo said. “If somebody is not going on scout team, I will (tell them) ‘you’ve gotta get in because now might be your time.’”
Always more to learn: In typical coach fashion, Northeastern coach Jon Scepanski was happy with the result from the first game, but found things for this team to improve on. He said it’s important to keep the players focused on the next foe and working hard in practice.
“Fifty-five points is a lot in a football game,” Scepanski said. “Chances are, that’s not going to happen every week. In scoring 55 points, we made some mistakes and we point those out to the kids. Not to put them down, but in the sense that, we can be better than we were.”
All three players agreed that every game in D-I will be tough, but they believe they can compete for the title.
For Lagana, the combination of talent, experience and chemistry that the Bobcats possess will allow the fantasy football-like numbers they put up in Week Zero to continue and result in new heights for the program.
“It’s not going to stop unless something tragic happens,” Lagana said. “I think things are going to keep clicking the way they are.”
Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.