Ernie Fetzer has been a head football coach for three decades at several different high schools, so it's not lame praise when he characterizes the ability of his two best linebackers, seniors Mack Behe and Devin Lawhead, as uniquely special.
"I've probably had some really good linebackers over the years, but I don't know that I've ever had a tandem like this,'' Fetzer said of Penn Cambria's bruising senior inside linebacker combination of the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Behe and the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Lawhead. "Playing at the level that those two guys are playing at is pretty special. When you get kids who can play at that level, it just elevates everybody else around them.''
Lawhead will be a third-year starter at linebacker who will be moved to the starting fullback position on offense for the Panthers this season after starting at halfback as a sophomore and tailback as a junior. Behe suffered a broken leg prior to his sophomore season that forced him to miss that entire campaign. But he came back with a vengeance last fall to earn all-state honors at linebacker. He will also return at wideout on offense this year.
Penn Cambria coach Ernie Fetzer
Fetzer said that both players lead their teammates by the inspired example they display on the field.
"It's not just the physical way that they play the game, but they also inspire others by the way they play,'' Fetzer said. "They're both different kinds of linebackers. Mack is more of an aggressive, go-after-you type, while Devin is more of a sit and read [the play] type of guy. They complement each other very well, which is really a neat thing.''
Lawhead and Behe have been playing organized football together since they were in the fourth grade. Penn Cambria uses a four-linebacker scheme on defense.
"We know where the other is on the field at all times,'' said Lawhead, who intercepted four passes last season. "When I'm blitzing, he's falling back [in run protection or pass coverage]. And when he's blitzing, I'm falling back. I always rely on him, and he always relies on me.''
"He's a really hard hitter who has good pass coverage skills,'' Behe said of Lawhead. "It's good to know that you can trust somebody [who plays] on the other side of you.''
Fetzer said that both Lawhead and Behe - who are both members of Penn Cambria's varsity basketball team - will also be looked at to bolster the Panthers' football offense this season.
"They both have nice size and nice speed,'' Fetzer said. "We're really looking forward to their contributions on the offensive side of the ball as well.''