At the genesis of last year’s Shamokin high school football campaign, my broadcast partner over the last seven seasons at the Black Diamond Sports Network, the very Maddenesque Corey Houser, informed me that we were on the cusp of what would be referred to from there on out as “Hyno-Eve.”
Anticipation and hope can be the greatest of things. But like anything else that exists on this human continuum, everything comes to an end, especially anticipation, and the reality of the situation takes hold like an unsuspecting chop block.
We are there now.
There are no other group of fans, boosters, bakers or candlestick makers that subsist on high school football that have been craving a consistent winner more than the Shamokin Indian faithful. While Shamokin’s nearby antagonist Southern Columbia is racking up records for state titles, and their longest and most distinguished rival Mount Carmel continues to add to their total as the winningest program in Pennsylvania history, Shamokin plods along.
Their latest generation of play has been anything but memorable. Over their last two campaigns under the direction of two different head coaches, Shamokin has averaged one win a season.
Even their most recent district title that arrived seven years ago saw the team lose more games than they won. It was a poetic anomaly that spoke more to enduring frustration than it did to any sustained success. Then there is the annual Coal Bucket game that leaves behind a yearly pile of ash and cinder as Shamokin has served as Mount Carmel’s piñata for well over a generation.
Enter Henry Hynoski.
The former New York Giant fullback has played a lot of football on every level and his successes have been well-documented. What Hynoski hasn’t done is coach the game — in any capacity — other than orchestrating a one-day summer camp for youngsters that is more a charitable fundraiser than it is about evaluating talent, and formulating and executing game plans.
So who better than to hand off the reigns to of this original, yet stumbling, coal region dinosaur? It seems like a no-risk proposition. How bad can it get? If Hynoski wins two games in his first year at the helm in a restructured schedule that on the surface seems favorable, he doubles Shamokin’s average win output from the last two seasons.
It would certainly be a step in the right direction.
The art of coaching, and it is an art, is about getting players out of their comfort zone and having them perform to the best of their ability with every play. It is also about being able to make positive adjustments from an established game plan and convincing your players that they can execute the changes put forth.
Win or lose, as a coach you are permanently one-step away from the action and that step is canyon-like and insurmountable. You can’t play for your players. This could be the hardest hurdle for Hynoski to overcome.
Having the will to win is not enough. What matters is having the will to prepare to win. If there is one coaching concept that applies to every coach no matter what the sport, this is it.
Talk to anyone who has their fingers on the pulse of Shamokin and Coal Township and it is easy to discern that the problems that plague the community run as deep and as dark as any abandoned mine shaft. At the end of the day, it is much more than X’s and O’s.
Shamokin hired a young, rookie high school football coach, but what they really desire is an overhaul in its culture both on, and especially off, the gridiron.
Perhaps Hynoski is exactly what is needed.
If one word can describe Hynoski, it’s atavistic. He is a young man with an aged soul, a throwback to a different epoch. His namesake, upbringing and the position he once played with abandon attest to this. If it meant donning a leather helmet to play on a frozen, gravel-filled parking lot at 2 a.m., he’d be there. Personal expectations have always been high and those expectations will convey to those he will mentor and coach.
No event, no happening, no holiday or sport unites a Pennsylvania community like those Friday night lights of high school football. What hasn’t gone unnoticed through the ensuing years is that the pomp and circumstance, the house decorations, the rhythm of the community has devolved into any other Friday night. At one time, without question, you knew a home game was to be played without having to look at any schedule.
Perhaps that changes, too.
All of this has to start somewhere, and maybe Kemp-Memorial Stadium is the perfect starting point with a briny, old-school, coal region fullback leading the charge.
(Maresca, a local freelance writer, composes “Talking Points” for each Sunday edition.)