For the last four years, Darian Herncane has earned helmet stickers for tantalizing runs or punishing opposing players. He’s slapped them onto his maroon State College High lid with pride.
Now, Herncane is giving his stickers away.
Actually, he’s been trading them all week. Don’t be surprised to see a “Lions” decal on the back of a Penns Valley, Bellefonte, Bald Eagle Area or Philipsburg-Osceola helmet when the North takes on the South in Friday’s Lezzer Lumber Classic at Bald Eagle Area High School at 7 p.m.
The game is sponsored by the Centre Daily Times.
“These guys are really cool,” Herncane said of his teammates. “We trade stickers on the helmets and everything so it’s started off that way and out on the field, with the safeties and the (defensive) backs, we’ve really bonded. These guys are a good group of guys.”
The group assembled earlier this week at Clearfield where the North has held two-a-day practices over the last week. For some, like Herncane, it’s been an easy adjustment. The Little Lions’ baseball team recently finished their season with a run to the PIAA quarterfinals.
“We’re so used to going from sport to sport to sport, it’s kind of weird going from baseball right back to football,” State College’s Dan Fry said. “It hasn’t been overwhelming. It hasn’t been anything we really can’t handle.”
Herncane and Fry will be joined by teammates Mike Rizzuto and Troy Peterson in addition to Bald Eagle Area’s Jon Romine and Cole Long, Bellefonte’s Dan Roan, Penns Valley’s Scott Johnson and Zach Harter and Philipsburg-Osceola’s Brian Matthews.
Not everyone has had the luxury of a long baseball season to augment their physical fitness regimens.
Those players have adjusted to the two-a-day practices run by Moshannon Valley head coach Michael Keith.
“It’s tough. The practices are a lot harder than what I was used to for baseball,” Roan said. “The transition is definitely tough, waking up sore every day. But it’s a lot of fun. Everybody knows what they’re doing out here and we’re just having fun.”
“It’s fun,” Romine added. “It’s a good time waking up and being a little sore.”
Fun comes at a premium as Keith said because naturally, all-star teams are pretty easy to coach.
The North spent a relaxed week practicing at Clearfield High School where the team held two-a-days from Monday through Thursday after an opening two-hour practice on Sunday. Keith led his first drills as an all-star game head coach although he’s been an assistant in the Lezzer Lumber game before.
Meanwhile, the South, coached by Hollidaysburg’s John Barton, opened with an evening practice on Sunday before transitioning into two-a-days from Monday into Wednesday. The South practiced just once on Thursday.
“The best thing is, they’re all the best players on our team, so they all do everything you tell them,” Keith said. “You tell them to do something once and they do it right the next time. So that really makes it easy and with them going one way, they can have more time with that specific position.”
Players have enjoyed this luxury too. Many have found that chemistry develops quickly between highly skilled players.
“It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing football in high school actually,” said Long, who’s expected to take some snaps at quarterback for the North. “You’re around a group of guys that wants to be here and everybody’s giving it there all the whole time.”
Although he knows this is a one-off game, Fry, who will play football for Bloomsburg in the fall, is using it as a measuring point.
He’s thinking about also trying to play baseball for the Huskies. Football comes first, though, specifically, his last high school game.
“I’m not really playing it careful,” Fry said. “I’m playing it more as a really good opportunity to get a halfway point between now and the beginning of the season so when I go in, this is my halfway point where I can reinvent my skills and keeping fresh heading into the season.”