A lot of people — and we’re certainly not pointing any fingers here — spent a good chunk of their coronavirus quarantine time parked on their couch in front of the television, binging their favorite shows while snacking on a bag of chips.
Not Lampeter-Strasburg’s football team, and the Pioneers’ brute offensive line unit in particular. Nope, not those guys. They spent their stuck-at-home quarantine time this past spring, and into the summer, working out. Like, really working out, lifting weights, maxing out with some eye-popping personal records, and putting in some serious grunt work.
“A lot of us knew we had to lift to maintain our strength, especially through quarantine,” L-S senior offensive tackle Zac Shelley said. “And honestly, quarantine kind of helped us out with that because we were all stuck at home and we had more time to lift.”
And lift they did. Shelley was one of the ringleaders, and soon junior offensive tackle Nick DelGrande, senior guards Neil Eckman and Jake Scranton and senior center Ashton Spahr were hooked, spending hours upon hours lifting wherever they could; some have workout equipment in their home gym, while others lifted with their friends, while following social distancing protocols to stay safe.
“Once Zac and I started posting videos,” DelGrande said, “everyone started hopping on.”
And the Pioneers’ O-line shredders started putting up some titanic personal bests:
Shelley had a 600-pound deadlift, a 500-pound squat and a 365-pound bench; Scranton is at 525 on the deadlift, 245 on the bench and 405 on the squat; Spahr has hit 455 on the deadlift, 225 on the bench and 345 on the squat; Eckman has deadlifted 475, benched 275 and squatted 405; and DelGrande, not to be outdone by his mates, is at 455 on the deadlift, 325 on the bench and he has a 405 on the squat.
“I’m really proud of the guys, because we know what kind of goals we have for this season, and how far we’d like to go as a team,” DelGrande said. “And you can’t do any of that without working hard in the weight room.”
Remember: Those guys — and plenty of other players in the Pioneers’ program — did this on their own. Schools and weight rooms were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and coaches had minimal contact with their players until July.
“They were so motivated this offseason,” L-S coach John Manion marveled. “There was no need to push them. They pushed themselves. They did so great on their own, setting personal records all over the place. The kids were really motivated to work.”
And work they did. In fact, all of those gaudy lifting numbers by all of those guys went up by leaps and bounds during quarantine.
“We saw other guys putting up big numbers, so you wanted to put up even bigger numbers,” Shelley said. “That was a big chunk of it. So I’m proud of where each of our guys is at right now, and how much stronger we’re looking as a group going into the season. We want to show people that we’re big, strong and physical up front.”
That starts Friday night, when L-S, the reigning District Three Class 4A champion and state semifinalist in 2019, heads to Quarryville to take on backyard rival Solanco in the 11th annual Milk Jug trophy game.
By the way, the Golden Mules also feature a chiseled offensive line, so the trenches will be a busy, body-slamming spot Friday night.
For L-S, things took off like gangbusters in the lifting department when Shelley and DelGrande started posting videos of their top lifts on Twitter. Once those videos went viral, it was on.
“When I started seeing Zac’s gains going up and up, I knew I had to do something,” Spahr said. “I started lifting with Neil five days a week. Since then, I’ve seen tremendous gains.”
“I wasn’t going to sit around and watch them lift and not do anything,” Scranton said. “We kept encouraging everyone to stay in shape, and to keep their strength up.”
L-S will not be lacking in the strength department this season, that’s for sure.
“I’m really proud of myself, and I’m thankful that I got a lot of help from my fellow linemen,” Eckman said. “It was quite the journey through quarantine. We kept pushing each other to get those heavier lifts.”
L-S is hoping the end result will lead to another extended postseason run, and perhaps more gold trophies to put in the case. The talent — and especially the beef up front — is here to make that happen.
“We’re glad we got to lift,” Shelley said. “Now we hope it will translate over to the field. We’re hoping it will make a difference in our game up front. We need to be even stronger than last year so we can battle to get back to the same spot. We have a lot of motivation.”
And a lot of larger muscles and more brute strength.