Ground and pound: Northeastern's offensive attack comes with number of capable ball carriers
It's understandable if Northeastern football opponents have to ask, which Bobcat is going to get the ball?
However, as the stats indicate, there may not be a definitive answer. Only eight yards separates the top-three rushers in the Northeastern attack — and there's more where that came from.
Junior running backs Chris Whack (18 carries, 132 yards) and Anu Johnson (23 carries, 127 yards), along with quarterback Shannon Valenti (20 carries, 124 yards), are chewing up yards on the ground. Yet, that doesn't mention Kody Reeser, who averages nearly 5 yards per rush as well.
With all those weapons, Bobcats coach Jon Scepanski has a challenge that would make any coach envious: Finding enough carries for everyone.
"Fortunately we've been blessed with skill talent. Putting them in the right spot is our job as coaches," the coach said. "I don't see us being a team that this is the No. 1 running back and the guy you have to stop."
Add in Valenti's numbers as a passer — 14-of-23 with four touchdowns, two to senior receiver David Ankney in the fourth quarter of last week's comeback win vs. York Suburban — and you have a proficient, perhaps prolific offense.
After defeating York Catholic on opening night, Valenti, a junior who transferred to Northeastern from Central York last season, was asked about the number of weapons he has. He smiled brightly, saying, "It's awesome."
In many ways, Northeastern is benefiting from injuries suffered during the 2014 season, when no matter who went down, someone stepped up. A lot of kids got playing time because of it.
"We had a lot of guys that were dinged. At one point we were down to our third quarterback and third running back and still able to beat some teams," Scepanski said. "That's a confidence gained that you can't coach. Experience comes with being out there."
The Bobcats will look to improve to 3-0 Friday night against an improved Susquehannock squad. Scepanski said the difference to this point has been playing a full game.
"It's one of those things you want your kids to learn," he said. "We've had two seasons since I have been here. We went 1-9, it was a big learning year. Last year we went 5-5 and still struggled with how to finish games. This year, so far, we've been able to finish games."
While the offense gets a lot of the credit, defensive improvements have helped greatly. Northeastern held York Catholic to just seven points. Although a highly-skilled and experienced Trojans squad scored 24, only 10 came in the second half, leading to the comeback.
"Three out of our four captains are on defense all the time. The senior leadership is able to take the adjustments we make," Scepanski said. "(Defensive coordinator Jeff Mesich) does a great job. It's nice because they understand the defense, so when we want to check on certain things, they feel comfortable."
Scepanski said he expects the Warriors to play his team tough on Friday. After watching video, he was particularly impressed with Susquehannock's improved physicality.
A 3-0 start would meet the Bobcats goals to this point, but next week the Division I season opens, as Northeastern visits rival neighbor Central York. A win there could help program reach that next level, while putting Northeastern into the mix among the top squads of the league.
"What I really think is we need to have a program win, whether it comes against Central York, or Dallastown, or Red Lion," Scepanski said.
"Yes, we are 2-0, our goal is to go into division play undefeated. We are not there yet, we still have to win this Friday. Once division play opens, I think everybody has got to have a fair shot of winning it."