The start of the college football season could be a challenging one for Lancaster’s Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
The 2018 campaign will start with one of the farthest road trips in program history, with a more than five-hour trek to Norfolk, Virginia, for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. opener at Community Christian College.
“This is the first time going that far,” Bulldogs coach Joe Wysock said. “We’ve played them two times before, but both times they came up here. They are now a league opponent, so we will be going back and forth.”
As a technology school, Wysock and staff are accustomed to breaking in new players. The 2018 campaign will be no different. On the field Saturday will be a mix of returnees and athletes making their collegiate debuts.
“Being a two-year school we lose half our players each year, so freshmen have to play right away, which is a nice thing for them,” Wysock said. “We try to keep it relatively basic.”
The quick turnover is also a reason that Wysock prefers to play multiple players at key positions, such as quarterback, where returner Jordan Baskerville will share time with Penn Manor grad Josiah Edwards, a freshman.
Edwards is one of several former Lancaster-Lebanon League alumni who will play significant time for the Bulldogs this season.
Wes Morgan (Ephrata) and Kyle Metz (Lampeter-Strasburg), along with Tyrese Musser (Columbia), Oowop Wilson (McCaskey) and Wilson Bushong (Warwick) will help the offense.
Local products Marquel Wansley (Columbia), Dennis Mitchem (Solanco), Michael Brown (Penn Manor), Anthony Chaparro (Manheim Township), Tomas Jimenez (Lancaster Catholic) and Julian Sitts (McCaskey) will key the defense.
“We usually get a fair share of Lancaster-Lebanon players, as well as (several from) York, Reading, Harrisburg and the Philadelphia area,” Wysock said. “We are real pleased with some of these freshmen that are coming in now. We have some talent, so we won’t over-coach them and will let them play.”
Along with some highly skilled athletes, Stevens Tech does not lack in size either, as several linemen top 275 pounds.
“This group is a little bigger than usual,” Wysock said. “It’s not the size so much; the nice thing is they can move. They are not just big bodies.
“We like their attitudes and they all seem to be picking things up quickly. You never know till we play, but the kids we have seemed to be able to handle things.”
Wysock said that although it wasn’t much time, an Aug. 18 scrimmage helped the staff evaluate players. He added that many of those incoming players are ready because of the quality coaching received at high schools throughout Pennsylvania.
“We are pleased with the talent we get every year,” he said. “Like any two-year school, depth can be a problem. You just try to get the players ready and they respond pretty well. Based on what we see every year, we are optimistic with this group.”
The 2018 Bulldogs are a reflection of what Stevens has to offer, both on the field and at the school.
While not a traditional institution, many athletes transfer to four-year schools to keep playing and continue their education. Others opt for careers out of Stevens, which has a 95 percent job-placement rate upon graduation — a major selling point on the recruiting trail for Wysock.
In addition, the Thaddeus Stevens grant has helped Pennsylvania athletes in need pay for part of their schooling while playing for the Bulldogs.
Stevens will also be on the road for its second game, Sept. 9 at Stevenson University. The Bulldogs will play their home opener Sept. 15 against Wesley.