2 Tigers on the prowl
CATAWISSA RR — At one time or another, just about everyone has developed a plan to overcome the biggest odds.
History has been full of such plans, like the one George Custer had to conquer the Western Plains. On second thought, forget about that idea.
Instead, look no farther than the rolling farmland that surrounds Southern Columbia and the game plan developed by fullback Henry Hynoski and two-way lineman Josh Marks. Clearly, these are two seniors whose plans just keep falling into place.
This is not to insinuate that the success of those plans has been achieved by anything other than that tried-and-true formula of preparation, persistence and perspiration. And, yes, it certainly helps to be part of a football program that considers the PIAA Class A final as much a part of its schedule as the New York Yankees of the 1950s did the World Series.
In the minds of Hynoski (6-2, 240) and Marks (6-5, 315), from the time they were old enough to understand and appreciate football, there was never a doubt about their goals. While it is difficult to think of either as being ‘little boys,’ even as tykes, they were never shy about telling any and all their plan was to play on state championship teams — not, a state championship team — for the Tigers.
There is no need for either to come up with a new plan as they prepare to cap their final season for the Tigers by being members of the school’s fifth consecutive state title. If successful, it would be the program’s sixth title in 11 championship game appearances over the last 12 years, including nine in a row.
“To be honest, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about that,” Marks said. “I take so much pride in playing for our program and have understood for a long time what it means to our family.”
Indeed, the Marks name has helped bring statewide attention to the Southern program, going back to the 1980s, when Josh’s uncle, Jerry, and dad, John, excelled for the Tigers.
When Jerry graduated in ’88, he was the state’s career rushing leader, getting to play as a freshman behind an offensive line that John helped anchor.
Both brothers went on to play in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, and Jerry still holds the Bloomsburg single-game rushing record of 300 yards. After graduating from Kutztown, John maintains an active role in the Southern program as an assistant coach.
Meanwhile, the Hynoski name had been linked to the Mount Carmel powerhouses of the late 60s and early 70s. That was when Hynoski’s dad, Henry, was an outstanding fullback for the Red Tornadoes, going on to play for Temple and spending time with the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.
It is no wonder that over the years, both Hynoski and Marks came up with yet another plan. This one focused on individual excellence, which was to make themselves into Division I college recruits.
One national scouting service has Marks and Hynoski both ranked in the top 100 recruits in the Eastern Region, which is comprised of 15 states and the District of Columbia. Marks is No. 28 overall and No. 4 among defensive linemen; Hynoski is No. 60 overall and No. 3 among running backs.
“I was born to be a football player,” a chest-high Hynoski once proclaimed without prompting when being introduced to a family acquaintance nearly a decade ago. And, true to his word, the University of Pittsburgh recruit has made the most of that birthright.
Marks, who committed to Penn State this spring, now realizes neither he nor Hynoski fully understood what a long shot it is for players to achieve their goal. Talent and determination mean very little without the physical size, speed and other intangibles it takes to play Division I football.
“I can remember one time asking my uncle why he didn’t play Division I,” Marks said. “It wasn’t until I was going into my sophomore year that I began to understand what it took to play at that level.
“With my dad being involved in coaching, it seems like I’ve always been around football and hung out with the linemen. I have always been kind of big, and size is important, but it's not the only thing.
“We’ve always had good linemen, but one of the seniors who really helped me a lot my freshman year was Mike Wydra. He wasn’t all that big, but he knew how to play, was smart and really helped me to improve.”
Hynoski also credits the way he was received as a freshman by the upper classmen in general, and senior back Nick Slater in particular, with making his career a totally positive experience. Now, four years later, it is difficult at times for him to grasp the fact this is his final season.
“There had been rumors that Josh and I would be moved up to the varsity as freshman, and guys might have resented that,” Hynoski said. “Instead, we were made to feel like part of the team, and Nick really helped me, even though it meant he would get fewer carries.
“Then, when I got hurt and couldn’t play in the state final that year, Nick had a big game, and that really made me happy. It also made me want to work that much harder to make sure we’d get back to the state final, but as hard as I worked, I’ve never worked harder than this summer to get ready for a season.
“Since the fourth or fifth grade, I’ve felt like football has been my game, and if you can't have fun playing football, you don’t belong out on the field. And, it doesn’t matter what grade you’re in or what position you play, it’s all about the team.”
Southern coach Jim Roth believes it is that understanding of how the game should be played, as well as knowing how to play the game, that helped make Marks and Hynoski special.
“Overall, in certain aspects, you could see they were different,” Roth said. “They would go about things a little different, and it wasn’t just their size that set them apart from most freshmen.
“There are a lot of high school and Division I freshman linemen as big as Josh, but they don’t bench 420 like he does. He works to get the most out of his size and play to his ability.
“It’s the same way with Henry, who has never lost sight of his goal to be a Division I back. Now, sometimes that’s something you can’t control, but he’s worked hard to become a complete back.”
In accomplishing that, Hynoski has combined with Marks to help raise the bar of excellence at Southern. Which, after all, was just part of their master plan.