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Casey McCollum

Penn Manor standout tackle Casey McCollum makes verbal pledge to play football for Lafayette

JEFF REINHART | Sports Writer

Aug 7, 2017

For a kid who started his high school football career as a jack-of-all-trades player, Casey McCollum is certainly making a name for himself.

Penn Manor's imposing 6-foot-6, 288-pound senior two-way interior lineman recently added his name to Lafayette College's recruiting list.

McCollum, who began his Comets' career playing tight end and center before switching to full-time offensive and defensive tackle last season, has given a verbal commitment to accept an athletic scholarship from the Leopards, who compete in the Patriot League.

He's expected to play offensive tackle for Lafayette.

"Going into my junior year, colleges started coming around," McCollum said. "Then at the end of my junior year it got a lot busier."

McCollum spent the first part of this summer making camp trips. He visited Syracuse, Temple, Rutgers, Connecticut, Old Dominion, New Hampshire, Brown and Yale. He also had a scholarship offer on the table from Fordham.

But when he made his final list and checked it twice, Lafayette was his choice.

"Now I can focus on this year," said McCollum, who also plays basketball and throws the discus and shot put for the Comets' track and field squad. "And I want to make the best out of my last year of high school football."

Then it'll be off to Lafayette, where McCollum hopes to study mechanical engineering. He'll also play for a new staff of Leopards' coaches, including rookie head coach John Garrett - brother of Dallas Cowboys skipper Jason Garrett - and offensive line coach Gordon Sammis, who played college ball for Virginia.

"Love the staff," McCollum said. "They're awesome."

"Casey has come a long way, and I give him a lot of credit because he's a three-sport athlete," Penn Manor football coach John Brubaker said. "So he's using a lot of different muscle groups a lot of different ways. And he's naturally growing and putting on strength."

A lot of strength. McCollum has gained nearly 20 pounds of muscle since the end of last football season, and he's hoping to report to Lafayette at about 300 pounds. He's also picked up on the nuances of trench play, which attracted so many college scouts.

"He's saying all the right things," Brubaker noted. "He's talking about intensity and how he needs to come off the ball and how he needs to finish blocks. That's all really good to hear because he really wants to do this."

"The biggest thing for me is understanding the game," McCollum said. "I know when I was a sophomore I didn't understand much at all. But now you really have to be active and you really have to know what's going on in the game. A lot of it is mental and knowing your assignments. That really makes a big difference."

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Josiah Edwards

LNP Week 7 Football Player of the Week

Penn Manor QB Josiah Edwards is LNP's Week 7 football Player of the Week [Q&A]

JOHN WALK | Sports Writer

Oct 16, 2017

It may be late in the 2017 football season, but Penn Manor is on the rise. After a pair of down campaigns in 2015 (0-10) and 2016 (2-8), the Comets are appear to be steadily improving under the direction of coach John Brubaker in what is his third year at the helm.

There's the 35-20 Week Four win over Lebanon. And the fact Penn Manor came up short by a combined six points in battles against two good teams (Lampeter-Strasburg and Hempfield) with combined records of 10-4.

And then there's last Friday's 33-17 upset victory at Conestoga Valley (4-3), where the Comets (2-5) picked up their second win of the season.

Ask Brubaker how the win over the Buckskins happened and he'll give you a list. There's Penn Manor senior cornerback Taraje Whitfield keeping tabs on Conestoga Valley superstar wideout Jose Barbon. And linebackers Ben Wright and Cole Heckaman making the right calls, and defensive end Evann Jones putting the pressure on CV quarterback Tanner Schwilk, holding the high-octane Buckskins' offense to just three points at halftime and just two touchdowns for the game.

And then there's the Penn Manor "mid-line veer" offense posting season-highs in total yards (429) and rushing yards (421) on 51 rushing attempts. Leading the charge on that end was Penn Manor's 6-1, 205-pound senior quarterback Josiah Edwards, who rushed for 138 yards and two scores.

For those efforts, Edwards is LNP's Week 7 Player of The Week.

Transferring from McCaskey to Penn Manor after his freshman year, Edwards only began playing quarterback late in his sophomore season after seeing action at receiver and defensive back. Now a two-year starter under center, it's his first year running the Comets' new "mid-line veer" that was installed coming into this season. Edwards chats about that and much more in our Q&A with the Player of the Week:

Q: What were some of the initial challenges in running the new veer offense at the start of this season?

A: "Just picking up the reads and stuff. I wasn't as much of a runner my junior year. So that was new for me...it wasn't really difficult, just a new thing I'm learning."

Q: What's the responsibilities of the quarterback in this offense?

A: "Just being a leader. Being able to run the veer-midline offense."

Q: When you go up to the line, what's your responsibilities as the quarterback?

A: "For mid-line, if the defensive tackle is in a certain area, I can change the play up. I have to make sure everybody is set. Things like that."

Q: And making the determination, through the course of a play, of either handing the ball off to the fullback or you keeping the ball or pitching it to the running back...what's the progression for been like from Week One to now?

A: "It's improved a lot. My reading has been so much better since Week One...just from watching film, getting the experience. All of that."

Q: After beginning the year 0-3 overall, how big was the Week 4 win over Lebanon?

A: "That was big. It felt good. I know I'm tired of losing as a senior. I know the other seniors are tired of losing."

Q: Week Five against Hempfield at home. You guys are winning late in the game. Then Hempfield goes down in the final minutes and gets the game-winning score to get the 16-14 win. How tough was that?

A: "That was really tough. Two-point loss. They say things like build experience. We're trying to work on four quarters altogether. Sometimes we come out in the first half strong, don't come out in the second half strong. Stuff like that."

Q: Coach Brubaker said you guys came into last Friday's game vs. Conestoga Valley really fired up. Why was that?

A: "He told us before that game we only had four games left in our season. We had to come out like it was a new season. We did that. We came out physical. We dominated the line of scrimmage. The offensive line opened up holes for me and my fullback to get through and we got the job done."

Q: So now you are 2-5 overall with three games left in the season. What are the goals for this team?

A: "Just hopefully get all these wins and put everything together."

Q: What's your favorite class and why?

A: "Probably science because I just like the labs and all of the hands-on stuff. It just really interests me."

Q: What's the one food at lunch that you run to the cafeteria for?

A: "Popcorn chicken."

Q: Do you have a nickname?

A: "Joe."

Q: If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?

A: "Probably speed. Crazy speed. So nobody could stop me."

Q: Do you run track?

A: "Yeah I do track and I play basketball."

Q: What events in track?

A: "The 100-meter, the 4x100 and javelin."

Q: Outside of football, what's your other favorite sport?

A: "Basketball. Basketball is my favorite sport. And I would say I'm better at that."

Q: Who's your favorite basketball player?

A: "LeBron James."

Q: And in football?

A: "Cam Newton."

Q: Any hobbies you have that folks might not know about?

A: "No. My days are pretty busy. By the time I get home, it's homework, eat, shower, sleep."

Q: Where do you get that work ethic from?

A: "My mom. She's tough."

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Evann Jones

Penn Manor's Evann Jones is LNP's Week 9 football Player of the Week [Q&A]

JOHN WALK | Sports Writer

Oct 30, 2017

The tenure of Penn Manor senior Evann Jones with the Comets' football program has been one of adaptation.

On the defensive side of the ball, he went from being a sophomore cornerback to a junior linebacker before being asked to give defensive end a try in Week Four of his senior season. On the offensive side, Jones saw action at slot receiver and mostly was a blocking back up until midway through the Week Seven matchup against Warwick, when Jones began to see more carries out of the backfield when teammate Ben Wright left with a knee injury.

He's blossomed on both sides of the ball this fall.

Most recently in Penn Manor's 31-21 win last Friday over McCaskey, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Jones tallied six tackles (two for loss), one sack and three quarterback hurries from his defensive end spot while racking up season-highs in carries (14), rushing yards (116) and touchdowns (three) from out of the backfield.

For those efforts, Jones is LNP's Week Nine Player of the Week.

Before we move on, Jones wanted to make sure the Penn Manor offensive line (left tackle Paisun Harris, left guard Casey McCollum, center Joel Stoner, right guard Elliot Lawrence and right tackle Ryan Mahoney) got some credit.

"If it wasn't for them I wouldn't be getting acknowledged right now," Jones said.

It's likely that kind of selfless attitude that led Jones to be selected by his peers as a team captain entering this season.

"I'm not sure if I've ever seen Evann in a bad mood," Penn Manor coach John Brubaker said. "He's one of those that if you could clone, you'd make a bunch of people just like him."

As is the weekly custom, here's our Q&A with the Player of the Week in a conversation with Jones from Monday afternoon:

Q: Last game coming up for you as a senior. What's the thought process?

A: "We have a lot of seniors. It's our last game unless we're going on to play in college. We just want to lace it up and leave it out on the field."

Q: What's your jersey number and why?

A: "Eleven. Coming into my junior year I was like a new guy on campus and that's one of the few numbers that were left. I thought that was the best out of all of that were left."

Q: Favorite class and why?

A: "Math. I just like numbers. They click well with me. I've always been good at it since I was little...algebra and things like that always clicked with me."

Q: Favorite pro football player and why?

A: "Peyton Manning. The way he breaks down a game is cool. His work ethic. He's always been a role model. I watch a lot of film."

Q: Halloween is Tuesday. Do you have a costume?

A: "No."

Q: If you had to pick, what would it be?

A: "Probably Spider-Man."

Q: Do you have a nickname?

A: "They call me 'speed bump' because I have a big head."

Q: What's the one song you know all the words to?

A: "It's a country song, believe it or not. Sam Hunt. Body Like A Back Road."

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