The names change, but the expectations remain the same for Solanco's football team, year after year, as the Golden Mules charge through the grueling gauntlet of Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two competition.
Despite losses to key contributors, Solanco has its sights set on success entering Tony Cox's seventh year as head coach.
"One of the beautiful aspects of football," Cox said, "is that it's a team game. We lose key contributors each season, and it's up to everyone committed to the program to continue encouraging and challenging our student-athletes to become the best they can be on and off the field."
About the offense
The Golden Mules graduated quarterback Grady Unger and fullback Nick Yannutz after the duo combined to rush for 2,472 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. Senior Mason St. Clair should take over signal-calling duties at the helm of Solanco's Flexbone offense, handing off to a backfield that includes Ronnie Fulton, Johnny Morales, Mason Hecker and Zach Turpen, all of whom have varsity experience.
The engine of Solanco's physical brand of football lies in its offensive line, a unit fortified by experience in juniors Cole Gladfelter and Connor Smith and senior Connor Sprout.
"Depth and experience up front are both nice to have from a leadership standpoint," Cox said. "Our experienced players are able, and expected, to shoulder more of the leadership burden this year, putting them in a position to mentor our younger student-athletes."
About the defense
Solanco also returns experience on the defensive front with seniors Seth Harnish, Caden Fuller and Justin Dagen, complemented by a secondary that includes St. Clair and Fulton.
Solanco qualified for the district playoffs in consecutive years for the second time in Cox's tenure.
"The experiences of back-to-back playoff appearances," Cox said, "adds a level of encouragement for everyone involved.”
Key to the season
The Golden Mules have a chance to set the tone early with their season-opener at home Sept. 18 against rival Lampeter-Strasburg, a state semifinalist last year. A clash against the Pioneers, with the "Milk Jug" trophy on the line, could help Solanco prepare for Section Two tests against the likes of Cocalico, Manheim Central and Warwick.
"So far," Cox said, "our student-athletes have displayed a tremendous amount of commitment and grit throughout these uncertain times we’re all facing. I look forward to how they build on those experiences this season and beyond."