Lions’ Football Drops a Class

By Brianna Campagna

The GS Lions’ Football team has and will go against new faces this season following a major change. Due to realignment within the WPIAL, which occurs every two years, the GS football team dropped from Class 4A Section 2 down to Class 3A Section 3.

“The section change was driven by the WPIAL reclassifying schools based on their enrollment numbers,” Head Coach Mr. Dave Keefer said. “Our enrollment declined, so therefore our classification changed from 4A to 3A.”

Mr. Keefer stands on sideline and discusses plays with Rashad Canady. Photo by Brianna Campagna.

Mr. Keefer has been coaching the Lions’ football team for 17 years now. This is his tenth year as head coach. Assistant Coach Mr. Matthew Boe has been a part of the coaching staff for 10 years. The coaches begin pre-season practices with the players during the prior school year.

“For a lot of our guys, particularly those not involved in other sports, preparation began in late January through off-season weight-training,” Mr. Boe said. “That phase then led into summer-training that included both weight and speed training, as well as on-field training, primarily focusing on fundamentals and technique. This ultimately led us through two-a-days and in-season training where we’re at now, focusing on different concepts of how we want to defend or attack certain teams.”

Teams that are also in 3A Section 3 are Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Mt. Pleasant, South Allegheny and Southmoreland.

Boe feels as though not much has changed with the team other than the section.

“At the end of the day, it’s still football,” he said. “It’s still 11 guys lining up across from one another on a Friday night with intentions of imposing their will. It’s still six days a week for the players and seven for the coaches. It’s still battling injuries and learning from mistakes. None of that has really changed with the changing of sections. The only thing that has changed in that regard are some of the teams we’ll line up against throughout the season. That said, it’s nice to have a few more ‘local’ teams – Derry, Ligonier Valley, Southmoreland, etc. – on the schedule that provides opportunities for more engagement from our community.”

Coaches feel as though the players have easily handled the adjustment.

“I think the adjustment has been fine,” Keefer said. “We will start our section games [September 30th]. Many of the teams are teams that we are familiar with so it should be an easy adjustment.”

Players tend to feel as though the competition this year is potentially easier.

“So far it seems easier, but we haven’t hit conference yet so it’s hard to tell,” senior Cody Rubrecht said.

Although the competition level is not determinable at this point in the season, the aggressiveness has started to show its colors.

“Some teams are aggressive, and some teams aren’t as aggressive,” sophomore Kai Brunot said.

Although the section games are most indicative of the team’s chances of making playoffs, the team remains hopeful.

“I think the rest of the season will go great,” senior Christian McChesney said. “We have some tough games ahead, but we still have a very good chance of making the playoffs.”

The senior players on the team collectively agree on the game that they are most excited for.

“The game I’m most excited for is Elizbeth Forward because it is potentially the last home game we have and is our senior night,” McChesney said.

 As the Lions continue to prepare for their section games, they keep their eyes on the prize and keep their goals in mind.

“The goals from year to year don’t change,” Keefer said. “As Coach Tomlin always states, ‘the standard is the standard.’ From one year to the next we change players at positions but the way we expect our team to work, prepare and conduct themselves does not change. Our coaching staff takes a ton of pride in our program and how we represent our school district. We expect success every week we play but are realistic and know that there will be failure along the way. It is our belief that the greatest attribute in our program is dealing with failure and adversity and continuing to show up and work hard to improve and prepare for a new week of challenges. This belief is the core of why sports are so important for young people. It is the best lesson I could possibly teach our players about life and how to persevere when life is tough.”

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