by Jonathan Weaver
While the varsity Sabers have a losing record, Ford City’s future may be bright for their last season.
The Ford City junior high team went undefeated, 7-0 with six wins and one forfeit. The team’s 36-6 victory against West Shamokin last night at West Shamokin sealed the undefeated season.
It was the second undefeated season under 12 years of leadership by Coach Rick McKernan.
McKernan – who also played junior high football for Ford City – gave all the credit to his 27 athletes.
“The kids – this group of kids that I coached this year that last year were seventh graders were really good, but when they lost last year, they took it to heart and said they weren’t losing this year,” McKernan said. “They were in the weight room in the winter, in the spring on the ball, lifting…they took it serious and it paid off.”
Last year’s team – made up of about 90 percent seventh graders -finished 5-3 in 2012.
8th Grader Tanner Stivason played fullback and linebacker during the last few months. He has played football for the past eight years and also plays Saturdays with the Glassers. He explained why he and his teammates worked so hard.
“We wanted to get bigger and stronger – we didn’t want to lose,” Stivason said.
Stivason will also try out for the varsity team next year, the last season before Kittanning and Ford City athletics and attendance areas merge into the Armstrong Junior-Senior High Riverhawks.
Coach McKernan is also a coach on the varsity staff and with the Greater 28 Youth Football League Glassers – who finished in third place and will play in the league playoffs at 7:30PM this Saturday in Highlands.
Coach McKernan said many of the eighth graders also play for the Glassers or volunteer to practice with them, which made him proud of their work ethic.
“That always makes it easy on the coach,” McKernan said.
He recalled how he got into coaching.
“I was at a car wash one day the youth football was having, and they asked if I was interested in coaching. I never coached anything; I (have been) a basketball official for 27 years, but I said ‘what the heck? I’ll try it for a little bit’ and that was 20 years ago,” McKernan said.
8th Grader Cody Tressler missed the first four games of the season due to an injured knee, but is glad he did.
“It really pushed me back – it was hard to get back into it,” Tressler said.
Tressler played tackle and defensive end for the junior-high squad, the same positions his brother Brandon did for the varsity team.
Brandon graduated in 2010.
Out of the 27 athletes this year, about eight will be eighth graders in the 2014 season.
Much to the chagrin of the athletes, there are no junior high playoffs.
The Kittanning junior high team went undefeated in 2012 with five wins and two ties. But, Ford City won the rivalry game this year, beating Kittanning 54-0.