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Jeremy Cenci: Brentwood football's 'Ironman'

| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
randy jarosz | for the south hills record
Jeremy Cenci is a 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior center/linebacker and third-year starter on the Brentwood varsity football team.

In three years of Brentwood varsity football, Jeremy Cenci never has missed a snap. Literally.

Cenci, the Spartans' starting center since his sophomore year, handles all the snapping duties, and mans the middle on defense.

He is Brentwood's “Ironman.”

“I can honestly say in three years that Jeremy Cenci has never missed a practice,” Kevin Kissel, Brentwood's head coach, said. “He's never missed an offensive snap in three years.”

Even after fracturing his hand during last year's 25-14 loss to Imani Christian in Week 3, Cenci wouldn't come off the field.

Cenci made a tackle from his linebacker spot and smacked his hand off a helmet. An x-ray the next day showed it was fractured, but it wasn't enough to put Cenci on the sideline.

“I just like playing so much I try to play through what I can,” Cenci said. “I got an x-ray and it was just fractured.”

Cenci wore a playing cast since the injury was to his non-snapping hand. Brentwood finished 7-4 overall and made it to the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals, while Cenci earned Black Hills Conference all-star honors at center.

In nearly two decades as the Spartans' field boss, Kissel has seen many players come and go. But he believes Cenci is one of the best — if not the best — centers he ever has coached at Brentwood.

“He's without a doubt one of the best I've ever coached,” said Kissel, a former offensive lineman at the University of Maryland.

Cenci is the keystone to both the offense and defense for the Spartans, making all the calls on both sides of the line.

At 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, Cenci isn't big by offensive line standards, but his quickness and strong lower body give him an advantage in the trenches.

“Offensive line (play) is a lot of leverage and a lot of angles,” Kissel said. “He's never out of position. He latches on to somebody and stays on them and doesn't let them go.”

Cenci is willing to put in the extra time studying film, correcting mistakes with his coaches, and learning what all the other players are doing on each play.

“Once I learn what I'm doing, I try to take the time to learn what everyone else is doing,” Cenci said. “If someone happens to be misaligned or doesn't know what they're doing, I can be there to align them or tell them what to do.”

Not a vocal guy, Cenci likes to lead by example. But Kissel says Cenci's not afraid to speak up if he sees something he doesn't like.

“I've seen him tell guys forcefully that he'd like a better effort out of them,” Kissel said. “Kids respond to Jeremy because they see the effort he puts out. If he gets on them for not giving effort, they know it's time to get their rear in gear.”

Cenci sums up his work ethic to a “winning attitude,” and hates the feeling of losing.

Sitting at 4-4 overall and 4-3 in league play with two games left, Brentwood is fighting for its playoff life in the tough Black Hills Conference.

Cenci summed up the team's WPIAL playoff approach:

“We'll take it one game at a time,” he said. “Once we get to playoffs, we're going to worry about it (then).”

Justin Criado is a freelance writer.

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