In semi-pro football, the “next man up mentality” doesn’t apply to just players.
Due to spring football college commitments, Cumberland Valley Hitmen head coach Ronnie Kerr had to fill-in as defensive coordinator for the Hitmen during their 27-12 road victory over the Delco Cowboys Saturday.
Kerr, who also coaches at Millersville, arrived after spring practice just 5-minutes prior to kickoff and was handed the defensive playbook because Brandon Cook, the team's regular defensive coordinator, was unable to attend due to spring practice at Shippensburg University.
“Welcome to the world of semi-pro minor league football. Guys work, they have lives and families. If someone is not there, someone else has to step up,” said the Hitmen head coach. “I had to call the defense, and calling someone else's defense is not the easiest thing in the world to do. We made some adjustments, kept it simple and we got the job done.”
The Hitmen head coach couldn't help but get a little nervous when his team fell behind 12-0 inside the first quarter. The offense wasn't helping much either, as they committed five dropped passes while dealing with a harsh wind.
“I couldn't get into my groove,” Kerr said lightheartedly. “There is a reason you get to field two hours early and go through walk-throughs. I didn't have a chance to get my mind from Millersville to the Hitmen. The calls are different, everything is different.”
The team refused to panic. They instead leaned on their O-line to provide a spark, running the ball at will against the Cowboy defense. The run game eventually opened up passing lanes for quarterback Brandon Ellis, who found teammate Hassan Brockman in the endzone for the Hitmen’s first touchdown.
The Hitmen added a second score before halftime to take a 13-12 lead into the intermission.
Defensively, the team started to put some pressure on the Cowboy quarterback late in the second quarter in order to slow them down, and the opposition never recovered.
The Hitmen (3-0) shut down the Cowboys (1-2) in the second half, and added a pair of touchdowns to wrap up a third consecutive win to begin their inaugural season in the North East Atlantic Football (NEAFL).
The strong start comes as no surprise to their head coach, who forecasts the Hitmen to challenge for a NEAFL Championship this spring.
“I expect to be undefeated,” Kerr stated. “We've got some tough, tough games, but with the athletes that we have and the coaching staff that we have I expect to win every week. That's not a knock on our competition, that is just our expectation.”
Wide receivers Brockman, Jermell Fleming, and Greg Williams each caught TD passes Saturday. Ellis was strong behind center, tossing three touchdown passes and completing 11-of-16 attempts overall.
Josh Burnett led the rushing attack, totaling 11 carries, 60 yards and a score.
Defensive backs Jarren Shields and Tyrus Winstead both recorded interceptions in the game.
The Hitmen hit the road once again this week to battle the unbeaten Baltimore Saints (3-0) in an early season showdown between the American Conference's top two teams. Kickoff Sunday in Baltimore is slated for 2 p.m.