Vass emerged from camp as a running back and a pretty good one at that. He had a memorable season for the Slaters, rushing for 1,687 yards and 20 touchdowns despite missing much of the final two regular season games with an ankle injury.
Vass came into training camp this season as a virtual given in Bangor’s offense, a linchpin for a program starting over under first-year coach Donnie Hawk, himself a running back for the Slaters in the mid 1990s.
“I played running back for the Blue Valley Patriots, then in middle school and on the freshman team here at Bangor,” Vass said. “I went to Freedom as a sophomore but I didn’t play football there. I just ran track.”
Vass returned to Bangor as a junior and was moved from wide receiver back to running back after the first day of camp.
Asked to describe his running style, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound senior puts himself in the category of power runners, not darters who try to run around defenders.
“I realized that the first game I played last season,” Vass said. “I understood that I was a straightahead guy, not someone that tried to outrun everybody.”
One of just two returning offensive starters on a team that went 7-4 in 2012, Vass will team with fellow returnee, tackle Logan Matthews, to lead a unit that will run from multiple formations. Hawk brings the single wing with him from Pen Argyl, where he was an assistant, and the Slaters will show some I-formation, split back looks and some wildcat as well.
The quarterback will be Jryi Davis, an athletic 5-9, 170-pound senior who is being moved from wide receiver to run the offense.
“Phil Vass is going to be asked to do a lot of things besides run the football,” Hawk said. “He’s going to be playing cornerback on defense and we’ll line him up as a wide receiver in some of our formations on offense, too. He’s got excellent hands. You can see that right away.”
Vass will run behind a big and physical offensive line that includes Matthews at 230 pounds, center Rob Hendershot at 256, guards Matthew Pysher at 240, Mike O’Dell at 200, or Trevor Abt at 260, or Brice Lemon at 225 and Eli Vough at 240 at the other tackle. Even tight end Jared Pysher tips the scales at 235.
That averages out to 236 pounds per lineman.
Vass wants to play football on the collegiate level and he’s getting some interest from Temple on the Division I level as well as Delaware and Towson among FCS schools.
“I’m prepared to play both ways this year,” Vass said. “I believe I can handle it with no problem. We have a lot of talent. Being a senior, the ninth and 10th graders look up to me. My role is mostly going to be the same in terms of running the football but we have other runners that teams have to worry about, too.”
But make no mistake about it, Bangor opponents’ first headache will be stopping the bullish runs of Vass.
Coach: Donnie Hawk (first season)
2012 record: 7-4 overall, 7-3 league
Returning starters: Sr. OT Logan Matthews, Sr. RB Phil Vass, Sr. CB Jryi Davis.
Key returnees: Sr. C/ILB Rob Hendershot, Sr. G/DT Matthew Pysher, Sr. G/DE Mike O’Dell, Sr. TE/DE Jared Pysher, Sr. SE/OLB Josh Williams, Sr. FB/ILB Shawn Green.
Top newcomers: Jr. G/DT Trevor Abt, Jr. G Brice Lemon, Jr. OT/DT Eli Vough, Sr. TE/DE Christian Bonisese, So. WR/OLB Cam Strohe, Jr. WR/CB Sean Wolderich, Sr. QB Nick Tudge.
Home field: Paul Farnan Field at Bangor Memorial Park
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