Moshannon Valley's Bacher hopes to represent the Black Knights well|
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
By Jon Christoff Sports Writer
ALLPORT - Aside from family and some close friends, Moshannon Valley's J.J. Bacher doesn't think he'll have a lot of support at Friday's Lezzer Lumber Classic in Huntingdon.
That's nothing new for the 6-foot-3, 230-pound offensive lineman and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Bacher, who is the Black Knights' lone representative, is used to competing on his own against players from all over after attending camps at Rutgers and Pitt over the last couple summers.
While neither camp got the attention of Division I programs, Bacher had choices of smaller schools, but passed them over for a better educational setting with Lock Haven Clearfield's nursing program.
"It feels like it's the same kind of environment," said Bacher. "I'm just going off on my own and seeing how I can do against some of the best players in central Pennsylvania.
"I tried very, very hard to get attention from some schools. I was looking to play football at colleges with nursing degrees, but Lock Haven had the best program and was the best educational fit for me. I wish I could have played football, and I had to make a tough decision with that."
With the Lock Haven program lasting two years, the 28th edition of the game will serve as Bacher's last game and will give him a chance to end his playing career on a high note.
His senior campaign came to a close in the District 6 Class A semifinals against eventual champion Penns Manor, but the game was far from pretty, as the teams combined for over 300 yards in penalties and had a total of six players ejected from the contest.
Just mention of his team's final opponent sends chills down Bacher's spine.
"That's something I wish I had one more shot at," Bacher said of playing the Comets. "I feel on any other night that game could have turned either way. I feel we played them about as tough as anybody in the playoffs.
"It gives me chills just thinking about it. I feel like I'd do anything to change the outcome of that game."
The game ended Mo Valley's bid for its first D-6 finals appearance since 1996, and Bacher believes that Penns Manor quarterback Danny Ferens was a big reason his team got so frustrated that it committed 17 penalties for over 170 yards.
Ferens, who has taken recruiting visits to Syracuse and is getting interest from other D-1 programs such as Air Force, ran 31 times for 245 yards - many of which came in big chunks.
"There was no doubt about it ... he was good," said Bacher of Ferens.
"He is really quick and made a lot of plays for them. In a game against someone else, we'd make the play but he'd make us miss and go to a 20- or 40-yard run, and that led to a lot of frustration.
"(The Lezzer game is) one more time just to strap it up and give it my all."
While he may be competing this week in practice against players from other schools, not all of his new teammates are exactly foreign.
Bacher, who started three years at tackle on the Knight offensive line, will be joined by players from rival schools such as West Branch and Glendale.
Warrior head coach Lester Smeal is also a former rival turned teammate, as he will be the North's man in charge for the week.
"I got to know a couple of kids that I didn't like before but got to know them better," Bacher said. "It's different to see how both sides work together.
"Coach Smeal likes running the ball a lot, and his offense is more of a bruiser, run-him-over-type offense whereas (Mo Valley head coach Murray) Fetzer's was more finesse and passing."
Smeal's offensive philosophy should be right up Bacher's alley, as the Black Knight rushing attack thrived behind his blocks for three seasons.
Bacher, who ended his career with a 20-12 mark, paved the way for rushers who gained over 2,000 yards this season. During his time on the Mo Valley offensive front, Bacher saw ballcarriers gain 100 yards in a contest on 26 occasions.
While the loss to the Comets - which led to the Knights being placed on probation - may have tarnished Mo Valley's reputation, Bacher is hoping his effort on Friday will help alleviate some of the scrutiny.
"I feel like we accomplished a lot of things we wanted to," said Bacher of his classmates. "When we were younger, we saw we had a pretty good group of guys.
"I'm just trying to go down there, work as hard as I can and represent Mo Valley the right way."