When it comes to playing good defense and making big tackles, Cocalico senior Tristan Motter is all about putting out fires on the football field.

He’s also about, well, putting out real fires.

The Eagles’ hard-hitting defensive tackle has been a volunteer fireman at Denver Fire Company since he was 14, and he’s on a career path to fight fires professionally.

“He’s always had the urge to do this,” Cocalico coach Dave Gingrich said. “And I know he’ll succeed.”

Fighting fires and helping people in general is in Motter’s genes. His grandfather, uncle and dad, Jason Motter, have all volunteered at the Stevens Fire Company, and Jason is a professional emergency medical technician.

“I went on my very first call when I was 3 years old,” Tristan Motter said. “My dad was watching me and he got a call. He got me in my car seat and he took me down to the station. He got me strapped into the truck and he took me to a barn fire. That was my first call. That kind of got me to where I am today.”

“It’s kinda been passed down to me now,” said Motter, whose younger brother Nathan is also considering the firefighting field. “I grew up watching my family help the community.”

Motter is currently enrolled in the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center’s Protective Service Academy, where he spends his school days learning first responder duties and EMT skills, and in the spring he’ll study firefighting full-time, with hopes of landing an internship at one of the larger local fire halls.

He’s also mulling a career in the military, possibly the Army or Marines.

So why does a 17-year-old kid want to climb into a burning building?

Simple, Motter says: To help people.

“I know when my pager goes off that somebody is probably having the absolute worst day of their life,” Motter said. “They woke up that morning probably thinking that they were going to have a great day. And all of a sudden, something happens. We’re out there to help that person get to the next phase of recovery.”

Motter is still too young to actually climb into a burning building. You have to be 18. And be certified, which he’s working on now. When he goes on calls for the Denver Fire Company, he’s responsible for swapping out cylinders in firefighting tanks, making sure the fire fighters are hydrated and keeping the firefighting tools clean and in working order.

He’s not just standing around watching.

“It’s different for everybody when that pager goes off,” Motter said. “Everybody reacts differently to a call. I just kind of lose all feeling. I don’t feel a thing. Everything is clear. And I know it’s time to go to work.”

Ditto on the football field. Motter earned a starting spot for Cocalico as a sophomore, but then shared time along the line last fall. This season, he’s been a key cog in the Eagles’ defensive scheme, thanks to a lot of hard work and paying attention to detail.

“The similarity between fire fighting and playing football is teamwork,” said Motter, who has 38 tackles and a forced fumble for the Eagles, heading into Friday’s District Three Class 5A semifinal game at home against York.

“You can’t have anyone freelancing at a fire, and you can’t have anyone freelancing during a football game,” he said. “You need to work as a team. You have the head coach in football. And you have the fire chief. You have the assistant coaches in football. And you have all the other officers at the fire hall. If a coach or the chief or an officer gives you a task, you need to complete that task to the best of your ability.”

Whether that’s helping out on the fire truck or at the scene of an accident, or dragging down a 1,000-yard running back for a two-yard loss.

“I like how we’re a brotherhood and a big family, the fire hall and the football team,” Motter said. “I like our regimen with both. I like how Coach Gingrich runs things. He gives us tasks. Just like the fire chief (Shannon Hilton at Denver Fire Company). And they expect you to complete it. It all meshes.”

Meshes into what Motter hopes is a full-time career fighting fires and giving back to the community. And everything has meshed for Cocalico’s football team this fall. The Eagles have nine wins, they’re playing in the district semifinals, and Gingrich said Motter has never been better than over the last three or four weeks, in crunch time.

“Tristan has always tried to do the right thing,” Gingrich said. “For him to want to give back to the community, I see that. That’s something he would think would be the right thing to do. His parents (dad Jason and mom Amy Arment) have done a nice job raising him, and he’s the type of person who always wants to do the right thing. He will definitely achieve all of his goals. I have no doubt about that.”

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