10 Things To Watch in Berks football in 2020 | High School Sports
What could be the most unusual football season in Pennsylvania history kicks off in 19 days; practice begins in earnest Monday with a week of heat acclimatization workouts.
Here are 10 Things To Watch in Berks football in a season that figures to face constant change and uncertainty:
1. COVID-19 >> The coronavirus trumps everything on this list, on any list. It dominates life like nothing we’ve experienced and the sports world is totally at its mercy.
Every aspect of football — offseason training, preseason camps, daily practices and games — has and will continue to be affected by the virus and protocols to deal with it safely.
No one’s sure if live football can co-exist with it, how long the season will last, or if there will be a postseason.
Every team begins the season hoping to make the postseason but right now that seems to be a million miles away.
2. Nick Singleton >> The Gov. Mifflin junior has more than two dozen big-time college offers — Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, you name it — and is on pace to become Berks’ all-time rushing leader.
He has led Berks in rushing as a freshman and sophomore — that’s unprecedented — and led the county with 32 TDs last season.
He’s one long run from 3,000 career rushing yards, one big game from becoming the Mustangs’ career rushing leader and another big season away from the Berks record of 4,778 yards. Six thousand yards isn’t out of the question.
Chasing records in the COVID era depends on being on the field, so a truncated season will slow his pursuit. (See No. 1).
3. Spartan effort >> One year after a district championship, a 12-0 start and achieving a No. 1 ranking in the state in Class 3A at midseason, Wyomissing could be, dare we say, even better than a year ago? Some think this is the best Wyo team since 2012, when it won a PIAA championship.
Quarterback Zach Zechman, who missed all but the first half of last year’s season opener, returns along with Berks Linebacker of the Year Evan Niedrowski, eight other all-league picks and promising junior Amory Thompson.
With that premier midseason showdown against state power Southern Columbia now off the schedule, the Spartans could be looking at a perfect run into the playoffs — presuming there are playoffs.
4. Bulldogs barking >> Wilson has plenty back from a team that was a hair away from a return to the District 3 Class 6A championship game, starting with dual threat quarterback Kaleb Brown.
Swift backs Mason Lenart and Jayden Jones will bring a spark to the offense, but first the Bulldogs must rebuild their offensive line, which lost all five starters.
As usual, they’ll be battling Manheim Township for the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1 title. The Blue Streaks lost a ton of top-shelf talent, but return some athletes, chief among them Division I prospect Anthony Ivey.
5. Mustangs in full stride >> Bring back three All-State players and you immediately draw attention. The Mustangs swept through Section 1 of the Berks Football League unbeaten last season and reached the second round of districts. They figure to be deeper and more experienced.
Defensive end Cam’Ron Stewart has committed to Rutgers, linebacker Brandon Strausser is getting Division I looks and running back Nick Singleton is one of the top prospects in the state.
It almost goes without saying the Mustangs will be pushed by Exeter, which despite graduating 13 all-league players from a district semifinalist, figures to be a playoff contender again, though offseason workouts were interrupted twice by coronavirus issues. Quarterback Gavin McCusker led Berks in passing yards as a junior and linebackers J.R. Strauss and Ty Yocum are among the top players in the league.
Adding some spice to the Berks 1 mix will be …
6. Saints movin’ up >> Berks Catholic joins the big boys after spending its first nine seasons in Berks 2, where it won five titles. The Saints took some big graduation hits and lost speedy halfback Nolan Larkin, who has transferred to a school in Connecticut.
Berks Catholic’s best teams were able to compete with and beat some of the top teams in Berks 1 in recent seasons. Matching up with Mifflin and Exeter this season will be a tall order.
While the Saints move up, Conrad Weiser and Twin Valley head to Section 2. The Scouts figure to be the biggest challenger for Wyomissing.
7. Sidelines >> There are new head coaches at Muhlenberg, Fleetwood and Kutztown; each faces a tough task.
John Lorchak takes over the Muhls after their first winless season in 42 years. Steve Beatty moves in at Fleetwood after the best season in program history raised expectations for the long-suffering program. Larry Chester returns as head coach at Kutztown, which enters with a 30-game losing streak.
Also, former Exeter and Boyertown coach Ron Zeiber resigned at Hempfield following last season; he won 140 times over 24 seasons.
8. Under center >> Berks’ top three passers return, including Exeter’s Gavin McCusker, who threw for a Berks-leading 2,035 yards.
Wilson’s Kaleb Brown led Berks in passing efficiency while throwing for 1,429 yards and Conrad Weiser’s Logan Klitsch threw for 1,375 yards and ranked third in passing efficiency as a sophomore.
9. Milestones >> Wyomissing’s Bob Wolfrum needs 10 wins to move into 10th place among Pennsylvania’s all-time winningest head coaches. With 313 victories he ranks second among active coaches, behind Southern Columbia’s Jim Roth (444). Roth is 11 away from George Curry’s state record. Wolfrum is also second all-time in District 3 behind Manheim Central’s Mike Williams (348).
Wolfrum’s sixth win will be his 400th with Wyomissing as a head coach and assistant coach.
This is his 49th season overall; Spartans assistant Al Silveri is beginning his 51st season.
10. Teeing it up >> Berks remains a hotbed for kickers. Wilson’s Jack Wagner, Wyomissing’s Aidan Cirulli and Fleetwood’s Wes Seaman were invited to the prestigious Kohl’s National Elite Camp this summer.
Cirulli earned all-league honors as a punter and placekicker and led all Berks kickers in scoring.