The weather is getting warmer, kids are getting ready for the last day of school and the start of football is on the horizon.
The Seneca Valley High School passing league began on May 25, and like many other teams, defending Class 4A state champion Northwest is getting ready for a new season of football.
These games don't exactly reflect a real football game since they are a lot shorter and a lot less physical with tackling being a non-factor, but there are a few things to be gained Northwest coach Mike Neubeiser said.
“There's little things you look for,” Neubeiser said following a scrimmage May 28 against Quince Orchard. “You want your receivers to catch the ball away from their body and work on fundamentals. Run good, crisp routes and get to the right area. So you can take away a little bit. I mean it's still not football but it's close.”
Neubeiser also wants to see a few things from second-year starting junior quarterback Mark Pierce.
“As a junior, hopefully his reads will become a little quicker,” Neubeiser said. “His [throws] will be just a little crispier. He's worked on his mechanics a lot in the offseason, so his arm looks really good. He's able to throw the deep ball I think, a little more precisely than he did in the past.”
Neubeiser added that he has a lot of returning players, including running back EJ Lee. The Jaguars will, however, be going into this upcoming season without two of their most productive offensive weapons from a season ago in Josh Gills and Matt Watson.
Neubeiser and Pierce said they believe that this year's team will have the guys ready to step into those roles.
Neubeiser mentioned receivers Jamar Wilson, Troy Lefeged, Brandon Williams and Aaron-David Beidelman as potential impact players.
“We're really confident,” Pierce said. “We have a lot of juniors — I mean it was hard for them to play last year and get on the field because of the talent we had, but I feel like we're just as good as last year coming into the season. And I think they'll step up and fill those roles that we're missing.”
Pierce said he gained some confidence from last season's opportunity, but now it is a new season.
“We try to forget about [the championship] now. That's behind us,” Pierce said. “It was last year. So, we're focused on this season and we're focused on trying to get back to the [championship].”
It's thoughts like that, shared amongst Pierce and his teammates, that makes Neubeiser's job of keeping the team from getting overconfident easier.
“I really haven't had to say much,” Neubeiser said. “They are hungry. They have been working really hard in the weight room and they just want to compete. They like to compete everyday. We don't talk about championships, we just talk about competing everyday. And they just go out and play football. They just want to go out and play — they go out in the backyard and play football. They just play all the time. They love it and they live for it. So luckily for us as coaches, we haven't had to say too much to them. We just kind of focus on fundamentals and hope to get better each day.”