The physical presence may not be there, but the emotional lift he provides can’t be denied.
When the Pennsville High School football team takes the field Saturday in the South Jersey Group 1 final against Clayton, its captains will walk together to midfield as always. And in their grasp will be the jersey of No. 7.
Kyle Pszenny remains very much a captain.
“It’s been an emotional year,” said senior Jeremy Boucher. “We’ve had our ups and downs all season, so always looking back and not seeing him on the field was rough at times.”
It was in the early hours of Sunday, June 7 when Pszenny was the victim of a hit-and-run. Riding his skateboard, he was headed home from his girlfriend’s house when he was struck.
Pszenny was taken to Christiana Hospital in Delaware, where he was treated for a severe leg injury, mid-section trauma and head injuries. He came home on Monday but is still recovering from those injuries and requires 24-hour care, according to coach Ryan Wood.
“Week in and week out, I wish I had some magical words,” Wood said. “He’s been in our hearts and thoughts since June when this all happened. The guys are close to him, I’m close to him.
“We don’t give any speeches before games, but we do talk about him and a lot of the seniors see him on a regular basis. He is a part of what we do and will always be with us.”
Pennsville (10-1) has won six straight and defeated Clayton in the season opener 23-14. The Eagles will be playing in their third sectional final and first since losing to Glassboro in 2011. They were awarded the 1974 South Jersey Group 2 title and won it all in 1981.
Coming off last season, Pszenny was expected to be one of the Eagles’ top players. Now only with his teammates in spirit, they’ve been able to draw from his strength and reach their ultimate goal.
“Last year and even in the summer a bit, he always was the guy to push us,” said Boucher, the team’s top receiver with 37 catches for 533 yards and four touchdowns. “If we were tired and didn’t feel like doing another rep, he would push us to take another, take two more.
“Now we kind of give each other that look when someone is dogging it. He’s in the back of our heads, he gives us the strength to push through when things get tough.”
The Eagles’ ground game has been led by the trio of senior Josh Van Blarcom (five TDs), junior Brennan Reico (12) and sophomore Nicholas Bard (12). They’ve combined for 1,629 yards.
Senior Matt Widmaier and junior P.J. Halter have shared the quarterback duties.
Junior defensive end Robbie Saulin has 71 tackles and 10 sacks, while Bard has a team-leading 86 tackles.
“Teams before us always had great athletes, one or two star players,” Boucher said. “We really don’t have that star player. It’s forced us to come together as a team and pull together as 11 men. You look to the left and know you have a brother and he’s as dedicated as you are to get that win.”
Said Wood: “We’ve been a 48-minute team. Sometimes we haven’t had the best of starts, but we play all 48 minutes. It’s a testament to the character of the kids we put out there.
“I took over seven years ago and for seven years we’ve tried to win the championship. Every year we’ve put ourselves in good position to do that, but it just hasn’t happened. On Saturday, we will put ourselves in good position and hope to take advantage of it.”
Kevin Minnick; (856) 486-2424; firstname.lastname@example.org
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