Jesse Nagle is doing everything in his power to change the fortunes at his alma mater.
The Bald Eagle Area football team has been struggling from one season to the next, so the Eagles’ new coach has brought in a new spread offense and has shaken up as much as he can to change the attitudes on the field.
“They want to win games, we want to win games,” Nagle said. “It’s been a while since we have.”
With the season opener set for 7 p.m. Friday at Alumni Stadium against St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, Nagle is hoping to finally see results from the work put in for the program since he was hired in the spring.
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He’s been schooling the athletes in the playbook, teaching the offensive players the ins and outs of his spread offense.
“There’s a learning curve there — high tempo and stuff,” Nagle said. “You put the wrist bands on. They have to know what’s going on.”
Some kids have even asked to get footballs so they can hold their own practices on Sundays.
They also have been working on conditioning, improving their cardio abilities to be prepared for that hot tempo. But they’re also trying to improve the depth, getting everyone better.
“Our mentality is, a fresh No. 2 is better than a tired No. 1,” Nagle said. “We want to get two deep at every position.”
They are doing whatever they can to improve an offense that tallied fewer than 1,700 yards last season, and gained just 850 yards on the ground.
There’s also a bit of a battle for the starting quarterback job. Senior Tanner Kresovich is the incumbent, with junior Jordan Jones looking to move into the lineup. Kresovich completed 46 percent of his passes for 736 yards, and also rushed for 318 yards to lead the team.
“What we’ve seen on film, Kresovich has the athletic ability you don’t come by every day,” Nagle said. “But Jones is pushing it big time, and they both make each other better.”
The 45 boys on the roster include 19 newcomers, and a number of them have talent and figure to contribute right away.
Many of the newcomers may be lining up in the backfield to carry the football. Hunter Hockenberry returns after picking up 273 yards on the ground, second on the team last season, and is joined by Blake Roberts, Austin Young, Ethan Moore and Andrew Dubbs. Nagle said each of the five runners brings something different to the field.
“We’re very, very open to get all five kids carries,” Nagle said. “We’re going to get it to the hot hand. They’re all very capable of running the ball.”
A number of young receivers also could have an impact, including 6-foot-1 junior Rilee Bechdel and freshman Matthew Reese.
“We’ve got some nice athletes at the lower grades,” Nagle said. “We’re going to be young at the skill positions, that’s for sure.”
Kyle Gill and Kael Gardner also are in the receiving corps, and junior Derek Henry and freshman Gage McClenahan are the top prospects in the slot. Andrew Cohen and Dylan Bisel are the top tight ends.
The Eagles also are showing some good size on the front line, averaging about 275 pounds per blocker.
Mike Salvanish is returning at center, flanked by guards Hunter Weston and newcomer Kurt Hall. Eli Myers and Caleb Roberts are at tackle.
On the defensive side, Bechdel, Luke Jozefick, Moore and Roberts are ends and Hall, Salvanish, Myers and Cody Armstrong are tackles.
Young, Hockenberry, Luke Holler, Bisel, Dubbs and Cohen are linebackers. Defensive backs include Reese, McClenahan, Henry, Gardner, Tyler Heinbaugh, Jake Gates and Nick Turner.
Nagle has liked what he has seen in practice, but he wants to see more.
“We’re looking to see what kids do when the lights come on,” he said. “When you’re running a spread offense, you have to be in condition, you have to be uptempo and be able to do it. You have to think on the move and be able to react and get your athletes out in space.”
Nagle also is looking to change the mentality of a program that has grown accustomed to losing seasons.
“When something goes wrong, you’ve got to overcome it,” Nagle said. “What we’ve been watching on film (from last season), as soon as adversity hit, they laid down, they didn’t rise up. The biggest goal for us, when those obstacles hit, our mentality is, you’re not going to do that to us.”
Bald Eagle Area
Head coach: Jesse Nagle (first season)
Last season: 1-9
Assistant coaches: Colby Way, Matt Masullo, Brett Umbenhouer, Roger Proctor, Ben Leskovansky, Justin Taylor, Joe Nagle
Key losses: Josh Fye, Daniel Hockenbury, Mike Kachik, Jacob Koleno, Cobey Bainey, Cole Robinson, Ryan Guenot, Jared Ishler, Kevin Howell
Returning letterwinners: Tanner Kresovich, Rilee Bechdel, Jake Gates, Derek Henry, Eli Myers, Mike Salvanish, Austin Young, Luke Holler, Andrew Cohen, Hunter Hockenberry, Hunter Weston, Andrew Dubbs, Caleb Roberts
Key newcomers: Matthew Reese, Kurt Hall, Luke Jozefick, Tyler Heinbaugh, Dylan Bisel, Blake Roberts, Gage McClenahan, Nick Turner, Ethan Moore, Kyle Gill, Kyle Gates, Cale Burkett, Kael Gardner