Aiming for Glory
There are no excuses at Abington Heights for its football team.
Year in and year out, the Comets are among the Lackawanna Football Conference's top teams, with a standard of excellence expected from it.
The recent history of the program makes it easier for head coach Joe Repshis to get his athletes to believe in what they are being taught to do, that the coaching they are receiving will lead them to success.
As it is, the bar is set high for the LFC Division I Comets.
"Our expectations are the same each year," Repshis said. "Every year, our expectations are to come in and compete and win a league championship, to compete and win a district championship, have an opportunity to play in the state playoffs and win a state championship."
"That's easier said than done, he continued. "But the way we approach that is to go out and do what we can control - go out, improve, play better as a team, get better individually, get better as a team - that's our philosophy of how we approach a season."
While last year the Comets may have fallen short of achieving their lofty goals, there were plenty of bright spots of hope that helped carry the team through its rugged offseason program. It gave everyone something to strive for, something to think about while lifting weights and conditioning.
"We do have some players coming back, players coming back with experience," Repshis said. "I'm happy with the way the players worked in the offseason; there's a lot of excitement going into this year."
"Coming off last season, I thought we played some of our best football toward the end of last year," he continued. "The win-loss record may not show that, but as it went on, our kids stayed together, they continued to improve, and we went into the offseason with a lot of optimism and excitement."
With eight players back on offense and seven veterans on defense, the Comets have a solid base to start from and those lessons learned during the struggles of last season will only help the reach this year's high goals.
"The game experience, you can't simulate in practice," Repshis said. "At one point last year, toward the end of the season, we had six sophomores that started a game, or games, and had other sophomores and juniors that played in situations, so that experience is invaluable. We're hoping to build upon that going into the season."
"Obviously, there are other things we need to do as well, and that's to make sure we're improving with each practice, every day, and take care of the things we can control - that's our work ethic and our ability to do those things we've worked on in camp to prepare for our first game," he added.
The offense is in a lot of capable hands, with senior quarterback Dante Pasqualichio in command, supported by senior Jerry Langan and juniors Quinn Karam and Sean Rock in the backfield, and junior J.C. Show and senior Sean Sanderson at wide receiver.
"We have, predominantly, a large portion of our skill players returning from last year, that experience is very important," Repshis said. "The ability to run the football is something we stress a great deal and it opens up our passing game, just as the ability to throw the ball opens up our running game. It's something we emphasize both things a great deal on offense. We feel we have players with the ball in their hands that give us the ability to make plays, and we feel very confident when they have the ball in their hands."
Sanderson is recovering from a knee injury, but the Comets are blessed with depth as seniors Jamie Henzes, Conor Dickinson and Ryan Fiorillo, and juniors Nathan Hollander and Joe Carroll give Repshis many options, including some three- and four-receiver packages.
With Show at free safety, Henzes at strong safety and Pasqualichio and Hollander at the corners, the secondary has many veterans, backed by juniors Kyle Tierney, Joe Murray, Matt Huggler, Carroll and Rock.
The biggest questions are up front with only three starting offensive linemen returning, and three of the front seven on defense back.
Senior Peter Hubbard, at right guard and defensive end, and junior Dan Stevens, at center and defensive tackle, are two-way starters back in the trenches, with Langan returning at linebacker. Junior Ben Rarrick is back at left tackle and is among the candidates at defensive tackle.
"On both sides of the football, the guys up front are a key to how successful you can be," Repshis said. "You have to be solid up front; you want to be able to stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback and do those things. We'll have football players in the position to help on both sides of the ball up front."
Senior Simon Williams, back after a year at Manheim Township, figures into the mix as a tight end and at defensive end.
Other seniors positioned to play include T.J. Murray, at right tackle and defensive end, left guard Chris Sagan, guard/end Zack Sutter, linebacker Joe Marciano, lineman Pat Kearney and two-way tackle Jon Rarrick, a 6-foot, 1-inch 300-pounder.
Juniors vying for time are Nick Ksiazek, a two-way end, linebackers Karam and Drew Kuzma and guard Kevin Malone, with sophomore tight end Joey Arcangelo also making a push to play.
There are a lot of options for Repshis to choose from as he tries to get the program back in the hunt for postseason laurels.