Tornadoes' captains lead by example on the field
MOUNT CARMEL - Dan Lesko and Tyler Kwiatkowski are quiet, unpretentious kids who don't call much attention to themselves.
But the Mount Carmel seniors, two of the team's five captains, have been instrumental in the Red Tornadoes' bouncing back from a three-game losing streak earlier in the season to winning six of their last seven games and earning a spot in the District 4 AA championship game Friday at Danville.
"They're both quiet guys but they were elected captains by their peers because they're leaders," Mount Carmel head coach Carmen DeFrancesco says. "The way they handle themselves in good times and adversity is impressive. They knew we all had to look in the mirror when we were losing. We all had a lack of focus - players and coaches."
"We knew we had to stay together and couldn't get down on ourselves," says Lesko, a 5-11, 205-pound fullback-linebacker.
"We had to focus more in practice and concentrate on fundmentals, like tackling," Kwiatkowski says. "We knew we were better than our record showed."
Kwiatkowski, at 6-3, 220, plays defensive end and tight end.
DeFrancesco said Lesko's move back to inside linebacker, his original position on defense, has helped settle a defense that was porous in the beginning of the season. The Red Tornadoes gave up 29 points per game in the first seven games. In the five games since they've brought that average down to 14.8.
"We've had Danny all over the place," DeFrancesco says. "We had him at defensive end, at outside linebacker. When we moved him back to inside linebacker, we started to play better. You have to remember, he spent the past two years with Tommy Hynoski and Cody Shustack starting at inside backer and waiting his turn. But he's such a good player that we had to have him on the field, so he played out of position. What changed our defense was that move."
Lesko leads the Red Tornadoes in tackles (79). He has 3.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an interception. He also gets to run the ball about three times a game at fullback. He only has 79 yards rushing but has scored two touchdowns.
"I don't get a lot of offensive shots, but that's okay," Lesko says. "I love blocking for Lucas (Klingerman, the Red Torndoes' leading rusher) and I love calling the defensive signals at linebacker. I know everyone on the defense has my back. We moved guys around on defense and stuck with it and everybody's gotten more comfortable."
Lesko likens calling the defensive signal to calling pitches as catcher for the Red Tornadoes' baseball team.
Similarly, Kwiatkowski, known far and wide as Noodle for his love of chicken noodle soup, is known mostly for his blocking on offense, although he has caught 10 passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns. He and Eric Joraskie make life miserable for opposing offenses when they line up at their defensive end slots. Kwiatkowski has 45 tackles, a sack, 10 quarterback hurries, an interception and fumble recovery.
"Tyler's a very cerebral kid," DeFrancesco says. "He doesn't make mistakes. He studies the game. They both are the type of kids who accept everything you ask them to do. They never question. They just say 'What can we do to help?," DeFrancesco says.
Ironically, both of them say they thought they may have had their best games in one of their losses, to Southern Columbia.
"I forced a fumble, had an interception and scored a touchdown in that game," Kwiatwkowski says.
"We played real good in the first half against Southern," Lesko says. "Then we just dropped the ball a little bit in the second half and it got away from us."