Friday Night Knockout: State High Football Kicks Off


State High football players focus on getting the energy High and supporting each other during games. Photo taken by Alex Antoniono.

Elisa Edgar

Friday night lights lit up the field of the very first football game of the 2022 season for State High on August 26th. State High defined the night with a strong victory against Williamsport, ending in a final score of 42 to 14. 

Senior John Scott, a team captain, started at defensive end. Scott has been involved in State High football since his sophomore year, having moved to State College to play football. His first priority on Friday night was, as he calls it, “getting heads to the ball”. This meant getting as many defenders to whoever had the ball, even if he was already wrapped up in them. 

“You wanna knock em’ down,” explained Scott. “You wanna make him feel you guys. I got butterflies right before I was about to get on the field. I just knew that, as the defense, we gotta set the tone.”

Clearly, this strategy played out successfully for the team. While defense kept their main focus in mind, offense wrote a different story. Firing off with the first touchdown of both the game and his own history, Scott completed a seven yard run. Senior Matt Wall also performed an impressive touchdown. State High got a three-and-out, a reflection of defense’s success.

Freshman Deondre Sheffrey made a name for himself, scoring a 58 yard touchdown. Skipping both freshmen football and junior varsity, Sheffrey made his way straight to running back on varsity this year, an impressive feat. At just 14 years old, he’s playing against 16 and 17 year olds, and, as Scott would say, “balling out”. 

“The guys around me make me excited for this season,” said Scott. “You know, I’ve been playing with most of these guys since my sophomore year and we have a good young core too. I think it’s a perfect storm for us this year.”

As Scott mentioned, the line up is nothing short of impressive. 

Middle linebacker Micheal Gaul played a particularly good game, along with Eli Espinoza, a fresh face emerging into varsity. Jake Hohenshelt, a younger player, was successful in defense, carrying out multiple “pancake blocks”. Senior Donte Nastasi also had a long and impressive kick return, while senior Finn Furmanek performed a powerful throw. 

During the second half of the game, younger players got an opportunity for more playing time and experience, which went smoothly. Scott took this time to step back and observe as opposed to being entirely locked into the game. Using a headset given to him, he listened to his head coach talk the entire time. 

The success of Friday night was no fluke accident. Months, years, hours, and days of preparation all led up to the win. The team completed a lot of training over the summer. Scott and his teammates focused especially on lifting and running, even attending two summer camps himself.

“Honestly, we just want to bring the state championship to State College,” said Scott.

Last year, the team suffered various injuries at inconvenient times. Scheduling problems also introduced a challenge. Obviously, there are many factors that contribute to the success of a season, some of which are out of their control. However, many positive factors played into the team’s recent performance. Even the energy in the stands was notable to many. It was one of the most jam-packed crowds that had shown up in years, though the State High student section is notorious for bringing the energy, no matter what. 

The students can’t take all the credit, though. Head coach Mathew Atel, defensive line coach Calooza, offensive coordinator Cory Raupers, defensive coordinator Todd Baney, wide receiver coach Joe Nastasi, along with many others, put their best efforts in. One advantage of having so many different coaches is that attention can be diverted to different people where most needed. 

I think it’s gonna be a real special year. The regular season and the play-offs are gonna look real, real, nice for us,” said Scott. “I mean…for my teammates and captain to give me that title and think of me as a leader, it’s honestly a real big honor to have. It’s a really nice program, and it’s really a safe space for a lot of us.” 

This coming Friday, State High will be playing Downingtown East at an away game. The team is looking forward to facing their first real challenge, but feeling optimistic about how they’ll walk away from it.