Lonnie Koudela has played both tight end and defensive end on the high school football field, but he has a definite preference.
“I love sacking the quarterback,” was Koudela’s succinct reasoning.
“It’s awesome,” the recent State College graduate said. “You get a great feeling. All your teammates come around you and you get pumped with them, so it’s just awesome.”
Koudela is still channeling that thrilling feeling, and hopes it lasts for years to come.
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Koudela will don his Little Lion helmet one final time at 7 p.m. Friday at Clearfield’s Bison Stadium for the 31st annual Lezzer Lumber Classic.
Then, he will spend his summer preparing for the college game, heading to Bloomsburg in August to play football and learn to be a school counselor.
He definitely has been living a football life recently, with the distinction as the only player in the Lezzer Lumber game to have also played in the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game.
He joined many of the state’s top players at that annual game, first for practices with the West team at Woodland Hills near Pittsburgh, then for the game on May 3 in Downingtown, near Philadelphia.
“I’m having a lot of fun with it,” Koudela said of his double duty. “This one is a lot more laid back. I know a lot of the guys, and I feel I mesh a lot better with the guys.”
In the East-West game, Koudela was not only the lone representative from his school but also from Centre County. The only player he knew before the game was fellow defensive end Andrew Berger of Bishop Guilfoyle, with most of his teammates from the Pittsburgh area.
“It felt a little more like work,” Koudela said. “At the same time it’s a blast. It’s football. I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.”
Practices began Sunday and run all week at Bald Eagle Area’s Alumni Stadium, and this time he’s got four other Little Lions on the field with him. Also representing the school are quarterback John Weakland, athlete-defensive back Charlie Riley, center Matt Harpster and defensive tackle Barrett McMurtrey.
In all, 40 percent (16 of 40 players) of the roster are products of Centre County schools.
Plus, the bulk of the coaching staff, including head coach Matt Lintal, is from the State College staff.
“I’m thrilled to have the chance to coach him again,” Lintal said. “He’s an outstanding man in every way.”
Lintal, who is heading into his second season as the head coach for State College, could not heap enough praise on Koudela, who had a chance to play at Cornell and had a grade-point average above 4.0.
Lintal also said Koudela’s coach on the West team, Jersey Shore’s Tom Gravish, had similar raves.
“He has a motor that doesn’t quit,” Lintal said. “He will track down a play from the back side. He does not slow down. You break down film, you watch Lonnie, his effort is unbelievable. He believes he can make every tackle.”
Koudela helped the Little Lions to a 6-7 record last fall, bouncing back to win the District 6 Class AAAA title and advancing to the PIAA quarterfinals. He had 54 tackles last season, including seven of those cherished sacks.
He also played basketball and ran track for a while in high school, but there was little doubt where his heart was. He was down to just one sport by his senior year, and he is quite happy it is taking him places.
“Football is helping me get an education,” the 6-foot-3, 230-pound end said. “So I can’t complain about it.”
And even though most of the team is running through practice not quite in football shape, no one is having trouble getting inspired.
Koudela is no exception.
“I’m just looking forward to having fun,” Koudela said. “I’m looking forward to hitting someone.”