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Springdale football embraces strongman English

| Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, 12:26 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Springdale's Cory English takes part in a tackling drill during practice on Wednesday at Springdale High School.

When Springdale wants opponents to fully comprehend its brutal style of play this fall, it'll send its message in English.

The battering ram and muscle man of the 2013 Dynamos is senior Cory English, a 6-foot, 220-pound fullback and defensive tackle who can bench press 370 pounds, squat 470 and deadlift 525. He lacks a long history as a football player, but he has coaches salivating over his capabilities.

“(On defense), he has the potential to dominate basically anyone that he comes up against,” second-year coach Dave Leasure said. “He's not there yet, but the potential is there. There are still parts of this game that he's working on, but even with technique that's not exactly the way we want it, he stands out.

“We're excited about where he'll be in Week 5 and where he'll be in Week 9 because we think he can be one of the best defensive linemen in the conference.”

Until he hit a growth spurt in sixth grade, English was stumpy. His weight, 150 to 160 pounds even in junior high, exceeded the upper limits in the Allegheny Valley Youth Football Association, so his first year with the sport came in eighth grade.

As a freshman, he chose not to play football. He said he just didn't like it that much.

As a sophomore, English changed his mind. The switch in preference paid off; he started full time on the defensive line for the Dynamos, who reached the WPIAL quarterfinals where they fell to Clairton.

“I remember my freshman year when I came out and saw him as a sophomore,” junior tight end/defensive end Adam Lock said. “He was the guy in the weight room that made all the freshmen go, ‘Wow.' To see him lift, it was kind of intimidating.”

In that 2011 playoff loss, English tore the ACL in his left knee. He had surgery in January 2012, wore a full-leg brace for about two months then endured six months of rehabilitation. Yet by the start of the 2012 football season, his knee still felt weak, so he chose not to play.

“It was tough,” he said, “especially because we had the new coaches coming in.”

Leasure, who replaced long-time coach Chuck Wagner, knew about English but lacked a full understanding of the player's abilities. English worried that he'd fall to the bottom of the depth chart by the time he rejoined the team.

Leasure, however, knew enough about English to eagerly welcome him back to lifting sessions in January. The coach, who suffered an ACL tear in college, sympathized with English's long injury recovery.

The strength and quickness Leasure witnessed in the offseason made him wonder if English, a player with no offensive experience, could contribute to Springdale's rushing attack, which lost standout running back Sean Dugan to graduation in the spring.

“We didn't have that home run hitter like Dugan coming back,” Leasure said. “And knowing the size we have up front ... just thinking about if we had a big back behind that big line, we may not hit a home run every time, but that's the type of offense that can wear a defense down.

“That's the way we play football. We try to control the ball, move the sticks, keep the defense off the field. ... We think Cory can help us achieve that.”

English will leave flashier running styles to senior tailback Matt Mikus and junior fullback Austin Kline. His plan is to plow through the line for short gains.

Offense is English's experiment. Defense is what likely will define his legacy.

“I'm not really one of those linemen who's trying to clog the hole up,” he said. “I'm more trying to get off the guy and make the play.”

Said Leasure: “When teams watch films of our defense, he will be the first guy they say, ‘We need to get that kid blocked.' We have a couple others that will stand out. But just from a matchup perspective, usually your (offensive) guards are smaller than your tackles. Teams might have to switch their guards and tackles when they play us.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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