A Viking Fall to Remember


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TOWER CITY - Sometimes, there was just no time for a shower.

Williams Valley senior J.R. Rummel admits, following football practice, there was little time to spare when his fellow Vikings would head off to support the boys' soccer team during their games.

"We usually had regular practice, didn't even shower, put on deodorant and headed over there," Rummel said, about traveling from the high school in Tower City over to the Gerald Stauffenberg Field at Viking Stadium in Williamstown.

That was one of many efforts shared recently by some senior members of the Viking football and boys' soccer teams, demonstrating how devoted each team was to supporting the other.

As the winter sports season begins, Williams Valley athletes reflected on their unique fall sports season, their friendships and what enabled both teams to post an undefeated regular season and earn District 11 Class A championships. The soccer team was 22-1, after losing to eventual state champion Mountain View in the first PIAA playoff round; and the football team was 12-1, after falling to Bristol, also in the first PIAA playoff round.

Even with a Class A population of available male students, Williams Valley fielded healthy numbers. There were 28 players on the soccer roster and about 40 players on the football roster at the end of the season.

According to PIAA records, there have been no other schools over the past ten years in District 11, Class A, who have won two district titles, in the same season, with athletes of the same gender (boys). That feat now belongs solely to Williams Valley.

While some football and soccer players at other schools may seem at odds with each other, at Williams Valley, it's been quite the opposite. Both teams tried to attend each other's games, cheered, designed banners, painted their bodies and faces, and even traveled to away contests to support their "brother" athletes.

"We got the idea to paint ourselves and got a student section together," said offensive lineman Trevor Martin.

Meanwhile, when the Viking football squad would score a touchdown during its game, the soccer team would run a lap around the field in their honor. The football team, as well, would do the same whenever the boys' soccer team scored a goal.

According to receiver Owen Daniel, the high school's computer classes are also designing t-shirts, with the teams' titles listed on them.

Senior soccer athlete Colin Harrison said the support came easily from fellow players, due to their close ties with the football team. "It's because of the friendships that we have," he said.

Most players believed it was a combination of good coaching and the fact that the teammates got along so well that enabled them to be successful.

"The coaches gave us a lot of opportunities in the off-season, but it's up to the players to do it," said Dennis Jansen, noting most of his soccer teammates attended multiple camps and tournaments to improve their abilities.

"We all love our coaching staff," said Vikes' lineman Jake Mika. "They've been great."

"They (coaches) watch film with us and give up a lot of time with their own family," added Daniel.

Williams Valley Superintendent Dr. Donald Burkhardt has never witnessed such a round of success in a single season during his educational and administrative career.

"In Class A, it's virtually impossible to do," he said. "It was a fall to remember. In 38 years, I've never experienced a fall like this," Burkhardt said.

Burkhardt, who also has been serving as acting high school principal, said he never would have taken on the added position, if wasn't for the quality of the students involved in the district.

"We've got good coaches, but you also need a special group of kids and these kids are truly special. We also take more fans to away games than most and they support our kids no matter where they go," said Burkhardt.

The superintendent also noted many of the players are on the honor roll, are members of the National Honor Society and are serving on student government.

Although this was Tim Savage's first year as Head Football Coach, he had known most of the seniors since they were freshman and had previously served as a former defensive coordinator, and offensive and defensive line coach. His predictions for a successful team began back in March, he said.

"We knew we had a talented team and knew they'd run through our league from the start," Savage said.

His five lineman were all seniors, and the rest of the team was committed to strong play.

"We'd ride them hard and they wouldn't buckle. There was no whining or crying. They always played hard," Savage said.

Head Boys' Soccer Coach Seth Shuey said some of their opponents even recognized what remarkable odds Williams Valley was faced with.

"Mountain View is about the size of us. The coach there was shocked that Williams Valley had a football team, too. He said, 'You literally have a much smaller pool.' It's a testament to the work ethic of these players, which is second to none," Shuey said.

Here's how the senior players see their futures:

- T.J. Leiter, 17, of Tower City - soccer at the collegiate level; computer science

- Billy Schaeffer, 18, of Tower City - club soccer in college; engineering

- Colin Harrison, 18, of Tower City - may play soccer at the collegiate level; environmental studies

- Dennis Jansen, 17, of Muir - soccer or baseball in college; sports management

- J.R. Rummel, 18, of Wiconisco - may play football or wrestle at the college level; engineering or environmental studies

- Jake Mika, 18, of Tower City - football in college; pre-law

- Ryan Hand, 18, of Wiconisco - may play club sports, football upon graduation; criminal justice

- Owen Daniel, 18, of Williamstown - collegiate football; civil engineering

- Trevor Martin, 17, of Wiconisco - may wait 2 years before playing either football, or wrestling; business management/marketing

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