'COACH WOJ' CONTINUES TO PASS THE SPORTS WISDOM HE INHERITED TO HIS PLAYERS TODAY
Updated: Nov 25, 2019
Lenape's second-year head football coach said he realizes the impact he and even his seniors can have on younger players
One of the most enduring elements of sports is the impact coaches can have on their players, regardless of gender or sport.
Ask anyone who played high school sports and he or she will tell you their coach had a big role in molding them into a young adult.
Generation to generation, the idea of competition, teamwork, family and the passion of doing something you love is passed on every year.
Lenape High School second year head football coach Joe Wojceichowski talked about the impact high school coaches have on their student-athletes.
“I think that's the coolest part about what I do,” Wojceichowski said during a recent practice held at a facility near the school in Medford. “I do think I have an impact on these guys. At least I hope I do. That's my biggest goal, is to be at least have an impact on their life.”
A NEW ERA AT LENAPE
Wojceichowski took over for retiring head coach Tim McAneney in 2018. He said McAneney was his football coach in high school and certainly had an impact on his life and his life decisions.
“The guy who I took over for was my high school head football coach,” Wojceichowski said, referring to McAneney, his coach when he played at Holy Cross. “The man has had an impact on my life that I can't put a value on. And he still does to this day. I still talk to him four times a week. To have somebody like that in your life is important. If I can be that, even half of that for these guys, I think that's crucial.”
Wojceichowski's listed the current coaches who work with him at Lenape, many of whom coached him during his high school days. They include offensive coordinator John Martino, offensive line coach Jason Pare, defensive line coach Keenan Jenkins, linebacker/receiver coach Greg Harvey, linebacker coach Clyde Washington and offensive assistant Frank Capobianco.
Wojceichowski's first year was a bit of a step back from 2017 season when the Indians captured the South Jersey Group 5 Championship. Lenapefinished the 2018 season with a 5-6 record.
Wojceichowski rebounded in 2019 with a great regular season, forging an 8-1 record that includes a win over Edison in the first round of the South Group 5 playoffs.
Wojceichowski talked about how he was able turn it around.
“It starts with experience,” said Wojceichowski. “We were a young football team last year. We had graduated 19 starters from our 2017 State Championship team. So we were young and inexperienced. They grew throughout the season. They bought into what we were trying to. They bought into the weight room. They started to believe in each other, trusting in one another. And you're seeing that this season.”
Wojceichowski was asked how much in front of him, as a second year head coach, has changed. How much more comfortable is he, as the face of the team, coaching wise.
“You just know what to expect,” Wojceichowski said. “First year it was like a whirlwind. It was like, 'oh my God, all this stuff was getting thrown at me.' The second year I was prepared for it. Certainly much easier to handle. There's always the unexpected, but certainly much easier to handle this year.”
COACH TALKS ABOUT HIS LEADERS
Wojceichowski said he has leaned on senior captains Connor Kennedy (FS, WR), Owen Hartman (C) and Clyde Washington (TE, OLB). Wojceichowski also brought up two-way senior lineman Jake Silver.
“They're tremendous leaders,” Wojceichowski said. “And just seniors in general. A guy like Jake Silver , whose a two-way player for us. He's been an absolute animal. He's a great leader on both sides of the football. To have those kind of guys on your football team is super important.
“Silver is three-year starter who started on the 2017 state championship team,” Wojceichowski continued. “The guy's not big in height but he gets off the football and he's a nasty guy between the tackles. He gets after it, he get's it done.”
Silver talked about the challenges of playing on both sides of the ball.
“It's a lot of work,” said Silver, who is listed as 5-foot-10, 225 pounds, but appears more stout than that. “You have to put it in everyday at practice. You can't just go out on Friday nights and play both ways and be at 100 percent, or anything like that, to help your team if you don't put the work in.”
Silver said he looked towards older players when he was first starting out and learned about work ethic.
“It's really about the guys around me that I grew up with, watching playing this game,” Silver said. “Just like how they practiced and how they took every rep at 100 percent.”
Silver, who plays catcher and first base on the Lenape baseball team, says he takes his leadership role seriously.
“More or less on defense, I talk with my play,” Silver said. “I fly around and make plays.”
Silver said when he is on the offensive line, he defers to man in the middle making the line calls.
“On offense, I kind of let the guys around me, like my center Owen Hartman, I let him do most of it,” said Silver, who says his favorite lineman playing in the NFL is Indianapolis Colts All Pro guard Quenton Nelson “I'm there for support if anyone needs it.”
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL CAREERS COME TO AN END FOR THE SENIORS
There are only a handful of football game left regardless of how far the Indians go in the post season. Silver, who admires Giants running back Saquon Barkley enough to wear his jersey during practice, talked about cherishing the time he has left as a high school football player.
“There's been a couple talks in the locker room about that,” Silver said..”We only have three more games guaranteed. But I'm not worried about all that right now. I worried about Cherokee tomorrow night. The each week after that.”
Silver was asked what he remembers the most about his senior season.
“This year, we started every Thursday, we go to someone's house, eat pizza and watch film and get together as a team,” he said. “It make us become more like family.”
Hartman talked about his role as co-captain and what coach Wojceichowski expects out of him and the other captains
“Coach Woj stresses with Connor, Clyde and myself to be player-coaches, be really coach-able for him,” said Hartman,who recently announced he will playing football at the next level at Johns Hopkins University. “We're supposed to lead the team, we're supposed to set an example. That means at practice, if we see some guys fooling around, maybe don't have their helmet on, not paying attention, not lined up right, not locked in like we should be, it's kind of our job to get to it before the coaches do. Because they have enough to worry about with X's and O's and stuff, organizing all the guys who are playing Friday night. We've got to make sure everybody's in line.”
Hartman, who lists Eagles Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce as the NFL player he most admires, says sometimes the captains work as interpreters for the coaching staff, particularly with underclassmen.
“Especially with how games work,” Hartman said. “Sometimes sophomores might not know what they're doing. Maybe I'll tell a sophomore to watch what the older guys do, they've been around the block a couple times. It could just be explaining how plays work. Football isn't as simple as it seems.”
Like Silver, Hartman is keenly aware his high school career is coming to a close.
“I was talking to my dad last night,” said Hartman, whose father Neil is a former sports TV personality who was recently named Rowan University’s new director of the Center for Sports Communication & Social Impact. “I was talking to him, I was like...'we only have one regular season game left.' We're fortunate. We've put ourselves in a really good position here, knowing we're going to be playing in the playoffs. I don't have that many more chances to put on the Red and White. It's crazy...it's almost over. But it's been a hell of a ride.”
Hartman said he will miss the Thursday night pizza and film sessions with his teammates.
“We've done it every single Thursday night this year, and last year,” said Hartman, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 275 pounds. “Last year it was just offensive line, this year it was expanded to the defensive line. Last year it was restaurants each week, this year it's someone's house. We've been watching film, its been really great for us playing on Fridays.”
SEASON'S FINAL GOAL
Wojceichowski said he is not looking ahead when he says that, if the playoffs go chalk, his Indians will face Williamstown in the Group 5 final. The Braves were the only team to knock off Lenape this season. It was a one-score game.
“That's a game our guys feel like we let go,” Wojceichowski said. “We were up 13-0 at halftime. They didn't have a first down. They kind of exploited us a little but in the passing game in the second half. I think it's going to be a great battle if we get there. There are a lot of things that have to happen first, but our guys certainly want to.”
Note: This article was written two weeks before Lenape played Williamstown for the South Group 5 title. The Indians fell short losing 14-10 in the championship game. Lenape's last game is against Shawnee on Thanksgiving Day.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii