MORRISDALE For the longest time, Kyle Lanich pulled on his white-winged football helmet and trotted out to his familiar center position.
After switching to offensive tackle during his senior season at Philipsburg-Osceola, Lanich will start at one of two tackle spots when the North meets the South in tonights 28th Annual Lezzer Lumber Classic at Huntingdons War Vets Field set for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The game is co-sponsored by the Centre Daily Times.
Lanich has grown used to the change of position. He had a whole season wherein he and the rest of the Mounties offensive line helped pave the way for P-O to rush for 2,815 yards to get comfortable as a tackle.
This week, Lanich and the rest of his teammates that make up the North squad, have had a lot more familiarizing to do.
Youve got to learn everything. Every-things new again, Lanich said. Youve got to re-learn the offense or the defense depending on what youre on. But its fun. You meet a bunch of new people all the time, make a bunch of new friends.
When Lanich lines up against the South squad tonight, hell have two new teammates on either side of him.
As fate would have it, one of them mightve been a high school teammate of Lanichs had the latter not moved to Philipsburg after second grade.
The guy Im beside is from Curwensville, Lanich said of fellow North offensive lineman Todd Munchak. I never knew him. I went to Curwensville for two years but that was when I was young. But now Im real good friends with him, were joking all the time. Were beside each other so we just work real well together.
Lanich and Munchak who will line up at one of the guard spots have had three five-hour practice sessions split into two-a-day sessions in addition to a pre-practice meeting on Sunday and a condensed practice Thursday to get their chemistry down.
Skill position players have faced similar learning curves during the teams practices at West Branch High School.
Penns Valley running back Austin Auman will be helping Lanich and Munchak open holes as Auman will slot in at fullback.
Hes had to develop a quick rapport with North ballcarriers and quarterbacks, among them, former P-O back Michael John and Bald Eagle Area rusher Tyler Howell and State College quarterback Josh Weakland.
It definitely translates because we both have to help each other, Auman said of the walkthroughs and positional group meetings he and his skill positions teammates have gone through. If he doesnt know a play and I know the play I can help him and the opposite. So we definitely got to get to know each other. Its different but you have to do what you have to do.
West Branch coach Lester Smeal, who will coach the North, was one of the first players to be selected for the first Lezzer Lumber Classic in 1985. Hes been involved with the game as an assistant, but this is the first year hes taken up head-coaching duties for one of the two teams.
For Smeal, the majority of the North players are familiar in face only. Part of his job this week has been familiarizing himself with his players on a more personal level.
Whenever youre in coaching and youve done it for as many years as I have and I played football, and being a football player and a coach theres always that sort of common bond that you have, Smeal said. Because youve been through the ranks and youve done just about everything that they go through. I think that understanding helps to allow for that bond to occur.
Smeal has also taken the opportunity to coach up, what he called a higher caliber of player, for college.
I told them, This is very similar to what happens to you whenever some of you are going to be going to college to play, Smeal said. Youre going to be thrown into a situation where there are different coaches that youre not familiar with and a bunch of different players that you dont know and youre going to be asked to go out and perform at your best. And thats sort of the situation were in. You have to come together as a team.
For Lanich, this is the second all-star game hes played in this summer.
Having already played in the Big 33 East/West All- Star Game in May, the former P-O lineman has built a sturdy training base as he prepares to head to Edinboro where he will suit up for the Fighting Scots in the fall.
Lanich has been running sprints almost daily to prepare for Edinboros training camp which begins on August 14.
This being all day, its probably a little bit harder, Lanich said. But its easier in the long run. I dont feel as tired. Because the sprints, its immediate. You feel like crap. But with this being all day its just a grind.
Auman is in a similar situation.
Hes headed to Lock Haven where he will likely play fullback for the Eagles.
Ive been mostly in shape but this helps a lot. The practice is pretty nice, Auman said. Its not like regular two-a-days. You come out and the heats not that bad, but then in the afternoon its pretty bad. But that just makes you a better player. Its really not that bad.
Travis Johnson can be reached at 231-4629. Follow him on Twitter @traviswjohnson_