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Avella coach hoping for more success in second season

| Sunday, Aug. 25, 2002

Second-year Avella coach Marvin Dunklin's team is looking for respect this season. He said the way to earn it is with wins.

"We're gonna try to spell respect one letter at a time, with victories," Dunklin said. "With seven victories we should be in the playoffs."

Avella's main problem in the past was lack of numbers. Twenty-seven players were on the starting roster for its first game against Clay-Batelle (W.Va.) at the start of the 2001 season. Dunklin has seen that many during voluntary workouts during the past offseason.

"The numbers keep going up, and it's really great," Dunklin said. "When I'm told we have 30-some odd kids coming out for the team, my biggest concern is that we'll run out of helmets."

Seniors Ryan Shubenski and Lance Kearns are the front-runners for the quarterback position. Dunklin said Shubenski is the fastest and most versatile player on the team while Kearns is one of the most intelligent players.

Phillip Woodburn will play running back after missing last season. Woodburn was injured in a car accident before the first game last season. He has fully recovered. His loss was devastating to the team's hopes last season.

"When you lose a team captain like Phillip, it's like losing three players," Dunklin said. "He's a team leader on the field and in the locker room, and it hurt the team."

Phillip Amaismeier and Pat Birdsall are expected to see the most time at the wide receiver position. Birdsall is still trying to choose between golf and football but should have his decision made by the start of the season.

Avella's offensive line could be its biggest weakness. Returning all-conference center Mike Bertovich will anchor the line but from there, there's a lot of uncertainty.

"I think even though the size is pretty much the same as it was last year, they'll go through growing pains," Dunklin said. "It's just part of paying their dues playing together for the first year."

The defensive line will be led by Bryon Birdine at one end position, with two defensive tackle spots and the other defensive end position being contested.

Kearns, Woodburn and Mike Kettler will cover the field as the team's linebackers. The secondary is still in the process of being formed but Shubenski, Amaismeier, and Adam Keenan will play major roles.

Confidence levels remain high, but egos are intact for a team coming off a 1-8 season.

"The kids are so used to having nothing expected from them, I don't know if that's a good or bad thing," Dunklin said. "It's said that winning cures all ills, but I just get the feeling the team is uncomfortable when they're leading in a game."

Opposing teams might not expect much from the Eagles, but Dunklin has high hopes for this year's team.

"I start this season off where I left it off at the banquet last year," Dunklin said. "I told them there was one place I'd rather be than the banquet. Everyone stopped eating, the room went silent and they all looked up."

The then-first-year coach said he wanted to be on the field in the playoffs.

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