Edgar Rodriguez is back in the same football stadium where he played his high school games for Dieruff several years ago.
But Rodriguez is hoping that when the Lehigh Valley Storm semi-pro team makes its home debut at 7 p.m. Saturday against the Lancaster Lightning at J. Birney Crum Stadium the results are better than what he experienced most of the time as a Husky before graduating in 2007.
The 320-pound offensive lineman said on Thursday night at a Storm practice that the team features "a lot of good players that just need to come together."
The Storm suffered a 49-6 loss to the Central Pennsylvania Piranha, the No. 1 ranked semi-pro team in the country, last week, but still showed signs of being competitive in the mammoth Gridiron Developmental Football League. The GDFL features more than 100 teams spread throughout the country.
This is the third season for the Storm, owned by Allentown businessman Steve Lombardo, and the team features many local products on its 41-player roster, including Carl Kreidler (Whitehall), Devon Blake (Parkland), Charles Irvin (Liberty), Sam McKellar (Dieruff and Kutztown University), Rodney Gilmore (Dieruff), Quintin Lopez (Pius X) and many others.
Former Parkland and Penn State player Austin Scott is also on the roster, but team officials said he's injured and his status is uncertain.
"He had been at many of our practices and there's still a chance he'll play for us," said general manager David Ziegenfuss.
The team is being coached by Joe Ruffino, a former Central Catholic assistant, who worked with many of the kids on the Vikings' 2010 state championship squad.
Ruffino replaced Fred Rice, a longtime Bethlehem Catholic assistant, who guided the team into the playoffs in his one season in charge.
The coaching change occurred just a few weeks ago and the offense has undergone a radical change to the spread formation that Ruffino had at CCHS. Jamie Sellers, a former Quakertown High and Potomac State player, is the new quarterback.
Ruffino was attending a graduation ceremony and not available for comment on Thursday night.
"It's kind of tough to get an entirely new offense installed in two weeks," said Don Huskey, the team's director of player personnel. "Our first game didn't go real well, but we played a great team and we'll have another week under our belt when we play on Saturday night. Our defense actually played really well and held the Piranha scoreless for a quarter-and-a-half, but we just gave up too much on offense."
The Storm, which has entered a working agreement with the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks indoor team, will play a 10-game regular season schedule — five home games — with up to six weeks of playoffs to follow.
"I played with the Lehigh Valley Steelers last year, but there are some problems there," Rodriguez said. "The Steelers had a lot of good players who came over to this team. Once we get together, we're going to be tough. It's all about coming to play and giving your best. I still love to play and so do all of these guys."
East Side Youth Center will celebrate 57 years of service to Allentown's youth on Saturday when it holds an alumni reunion and open house from 2-5:30 p.m.
One of the highlights of the reunion will be a ceremony to recognize four volunteers who have been the cornerstone of ESYC for decades. President Joe D'Annibale and his wife Judy have been involved with ESYC for over 50 years and treasurer Jack Egizio and his wife Joyce have been serving the organization for more than 40 years.
"We would not be where we are today without the outstanding contributions and service from these special volunteer leaders," said Jay Radio, an area basketball coach who also has a long affiliation with ESYC.
The celebration will include refreshments and a presentation detailing all of the latest developments with the organization.