A true leader
Senior Younger a ‘model of consistency’ for undefeated Knights
A model of consistency. Is it a person that goes to bed by 9 p.m., wakes up and 5 a.m., works until 1 p.m., finishes off the school day as a student, and then goes to football practice?
Eisenhower High School Senior Conner Younger has been a four-year starter at center, four-year starter as long snapper, and four-year starter on the defensive line for the 10-0 Knights.
Region 2 champion Eisenhower plays Cambridge Springs (8-3) in the District 10 1A playoff semifinals at 7 p.m. Saturday at War Memorial Field in Warren. Ike beat Cambridge Springs, 27-14, back on Sept. 2. Benji Bauer, the all-time leading rusher in Eisenhower history, ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns, and Shawn Pascuzzi threw for 103 yards and one touchdown and ran for one another in the win.
In what Ike head coach Jim Penley calls “the most consistent center we’ve ever had,” Younger did the dirty work.
“To have a consistent program, you’ve got to have consistently good, hardworking young men and I’ve been blessed with that,” said Penley. “Conner has been a model of consistency, one that we know does the right things and has to be the right kind of teammate. He has been a ball player that is willing to be a vocal leader, but I think is also appreciated for his position and influence on his teammates. Even more important than his consistency on our football field is definitely his consistency as a teammate. As coaches, when you have a player that you know you can trust, it makes it easier to coach and game plan from week to week. We’ve been blessed with a tremendous group this year of young men who we can trust to do just about anything, and Connor is most definitely one of those young men.”
Younger is one of four team captains for the 2022 season.
“Our captains this year are Benji Bauer, Caleb Penley, Garrett Jensen, and Conner Younger,” said Penley. “We allow our ball players to vote for the captains during the summer workouts. The most important thing that I feel we need to see is individuals that are sold on the program, but also sold on doing the work that needs to be done to win. All of them are unbelievably hard workers and dedicated to the offseason. To me, it’s like being a coach; you can’t ask your teammates to sell out if you yourself have never sold out, and all of these young men have done that. Other intangibles that you might see from them are the fact that you know that, when push comes to shove, they’ll show up and make a play, or they might be players who you know will know the playbook and will know the game-plan inside and out as though they were a coach on the field. Sometimes you just trust that they’re going to make the right decisions, or players that you know, when the going gets tough, they’ll find a way to buckle down and get everyone else around them to be better. And that’s pretty much exactly why those four guys are there.”
Being a team captain means a lot to Younger.
“I think I’m the type that, when I set my mind to something, I don’t like to stop until it is complete, so I think that ties into the game as far as being one of the captains,” he said. “The game has made me a better person because I’m learning how to lead a group of people into something.”
“I think this season I have made more brothers than friends,” said Younger. “These guys mean a lot to me and I think because we all look at it as a family, it helps us on the field to be the best we can be. I absolutely believed that, with time and effort from everyone, we could go all the way to the D10 championship, and I think we are definitely so close to being there. One more win and we are there.”
That could happen on Saturday night.
“I think, for me, I’m very excited to be in my home area in front of a lot of people that I know,” he said, “and as for the team, I think almost the same I thing; all of us are excited to not have to travel far for this game and stay in our home area.”
If the right opportunity came along, Younger would “absolutely play college football,” he said. Otherwise, “my long-term goals are to start working and make a bunch of money, and raise a family, and start my own company in heavy equipment.”
Hard work has meant a lot to Younger, and he knows how important that has been to the team.
“I think going into this season I expected myself to be the best I can and every single play go out there and give it my all and be the best leader I can for all the young guys coming up,” he said, “Showing them how to be leaders so that when they get to be juniors and seniors, they can do that to their young guys coming up; basically be the best I can in every aspect of the game.”
He definitely doesn’t want this undefeated ride to end.
“I think some of the best memories I’ve made with my teammates have to be the bus rides and all of our conversations — they’re definitely some interesting ones, and no matter what happens on the field, I know that I still have all these guys,” said Younger.
And the work ethic learned at a young age is preparing him for life off the field.
“I have asked for more responsibility and, when it has been given to me, I take it very seriously,” said Younger. “When I was the barn manager at Miracle Mountain when I was 17, it gave me the opportunity to have people work for me and that taught me how to listen. I think everywhere I’ve worked, including where I am now, Cameron Energy, has prepared me to be one of the captains for the football team, and I take that responsibility very seriously.”