New coach brings high en­ergy to up­start Bears

The Boyertown Area Times - - SPORTS - By Sam Ste­wart sstew­art@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Sa­muel_Ste­wart7 on Twit­ter

There was a no­tice­able spring in the Bears’ step on what turned out to be a pic­ture-per­fect Thurs­day morn­ing. Thep­ads popped harder, first-year head coach TJ Miller was chest-bump­ing his way through a highly-en­er­gized morn­ing ses­sion and Jerry Kapp pro­vided the high­light that lit up the end of prac­tice, crush­ing his team­mate dur­ing kick­off re­turn drills.

The hope is to re­verse the strug­gle Boy­er­town has been plagued with in the past five sea­sons, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing only one win­ning season (7-4 in 2013) be­fore slip­ping to 3-7 in a rather for­get­table 2016 cam­paign. See­ing the en­ergy dur­ing the morn­ing ses­sion, it’s ev­i­dent that Miller and the play­ers be­lieve the time is now to right the ship.

“It’s hard not to be ex­cited about the things go­ing on in Boy­er­town right now,” Miller said. “The kids that we have out are work­ing hard and we’re ex­cited about things that we have in place to take Boy­er­town to the level that we think they can be at.”

“The at­mos­phere for this year is greater than it was the last few years,” Boy­er­town se­nior re­turn­ing line­man Jake McMe­namin said. “When we go to prac­tice we know we’re go­ing to have a good time. The last few years go­ing to prac­tice felt like a drag, it felt like work. This has been fun. I like where this is go­ing.”

Miller, after hav­ing served as as­sis­tant foot­ball coach at Penn Manor and Gov­er­nor Mif­flin and, most re­cently, of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Muh­len­berg the past two sea­sons, has brought the vaunted triple op­tion at­tack with him, the Bears be­com­ing the only team in the league to run the old-school of­fense. It fits the Bears well (128.5 rush­ing yards per game last season) as they re­turn McMe­namin and se­nior Ay­den McGrath to the line with run­ning back Marcus Thomas com­ing back after rush­ing for 317 yards and three touch­downs on 71 touches last season. Kapp re­turns and will split time at quar­ter­back and re­ceiver while Ay­den Mathias looks to have his role height­ened at the quar­ter­back po­si­tion after break­ing through in last year’s year loss to Perkiomen Val­ley, rush­ing for 116 yards on 14 car­ries in the ab­sence of the in­jured Kapp.

“It’s a change.” Miller said of the shift to the op­tion at­tack. “Teams don’t see it ev­ery week and they have to get ready for it and it’s harder to repli­cate in prac­tice.”

More than the game it­self

Ar­guably the premier as­pect in foot­ball is the way the game trans­lates to life sit­u­a­tions. Miller and his staff are work­ing hard, not only to pre­pare the team for Week 1’s con­test against Up­per Perkiomen, but for chal­lenges that may come down the road.

“We all know there’s go­ing to be grow­ing pains with a new sys­tem and a new coach­ing staff, but we tell our kids that that’s life,” Miller said. “There are go­ing to be times that it gets hard and doesn’t go your way but how do you over­come that? That’s what we try and do. We try and trans­late what we do in foot­ball to life.”

SAM STE­WART — DFM

Boy­er­town head coach TJ Miller talks to his team after the first ses­sion of prac­tice last Thurs­day. Miller has brought a ton of en­ergy as he looks to build the Bears back into a PAC con­tender.

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