For most, it’s just another date. Luke Fronckoski remembers it as the best night of his life.
It was the night the Unicoi County running back had 37 carries for a school-record 361 yards and five touchdowns in a 33-30 win over rival Happy Valley. The icing on the cake was when Fronckoski had the game-winning score, a four-yard run with 1:35 remaining.
“That was a great feeling, probably the best night of my life,” Fronckoski said Saturday at the team’s annual media day. “My teammates and I celebrated in the locker room after that. We were really happy and we hope to come out strong like that this year.”
The record-setting night was part of a junior campaign which saw Fronckoski lead the Three Rivers Conference in rushing during the regular season with 1,602 yards, just four yards more than Happy Valley’s Phillip Garland. Now, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound tailback is ready to embark on a senior season with a new coach and high expectations.
“I think we’ll come out strong as a team this year,” Fronckoski said. “I think we’ll have a winning season. Everyone has been working hard in practice every day. (Assistant) coach (Corey) Headley has been killing us and I think we’re improving.”
There has been a significant change to the offense under new head coach Bob McElwee. The Blue Devils are no longer relying on a zone-blocking scheme and have gone to a pro-style offense, where it’s more man-on-man, hat-on-hat.
For his part, Fronckoski believes the physical style of the pro sets with fullback Leon Dover leading the way will be even more suited to his game.
“It’s more of a power offense this year and I like it,” Fronckoski said. “It’s very comfortable for me because I have another big guy blocking for me to lead me through the holes.”
As a new coach, McElwee was reluctant to hand out many compliments on media day. Fronckoski was an exception, one the coach from California could tell was special from day one.
Last season, Franckoski followed up his record performance in the rivalry game by rushing 24 times for 206 yards in a 25-23 win over Sullivan Central to clinch a playoff berth. A concern is finding someone to share the load, although the coach mentioned sophomore Nick Fender as a possibility.
“Luke’s a good one,” McElwee said. “Luke has proven what he can do and there are going to be a lot of people gearing on him. We have to find some way to get some other people the ball a little bit so he doesn’t take all the brunt of the abuse you take as a running back.”
On the defensive end, Fronckoski will be handing out the abuse from a safety position. He likes both roles as well as an expanded role on the Blue Devils basketball team.
More a role player on last year’s senior-laden hoops team which advanced to the sectional round, Fronckoski will see time as both a shooting guard and forward. He likes playing inside more where the beating and banging is like being on the football field.
He’s wrapped up in sports at this stage of his life, telling how if he’s not doing something football-related, then he’s often playing a pick-up game of basketball or just hanging out with teammates.
As for football, he enjoys being a two-way player. Most games, he would stay in the game every play if it was up to him.
“Anytime I can be on the field with my teammates, I love it,” he said. “Anytime we can dominate other teams, I’ll take that opportunity.”
Note: This year’s Johnson City Press High School Football Preview will be published in the Saturday, Aug. 23 edition. Features on area teams will run periodically, starting with Unicoi County on Saturday, July 26.
Follow Jeff Birchfield on Twitter. Like him on Facebook.