Devin Reppert brings highly valued experience to the Phillipsburg football field.
It’s about beating Easton.
“We beat Easton for the first time in program history last spring,” Reppert said.
OK, it was in boys lacrosse, where Reppert is the starting goalie for the Stateliners. But it can’t hurt that Reppert, along with some other lacrosse/football twin threats, knows how to come out on top when faced by an opponent in Rover red. Remember that no varsity football player at P’burg has experienced a win over Easton on the gridiron.
So Reppert’s experience may help?
“Hopefully,” he said.
If the experience doesn’t help, Reppert’s talent surely will. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound senior has earned two starting spots on the Stateliner lines, at guard and defensive tackle, as P’burg prepares for its final preseason scrimmage Thursday at home (4 p.m.) with Elizabeth before opening the season Sept. 6 at Warren Hills.
Head coach Frank Duffy is excited to see what Reppert can do.
“Devin is really athletic, quick and mobile,” Duffy said. “He’s developing a strong leadership role with the team.”
Reppert, a Lopatcong resident, has a superb role model to follow as a leader on the line.
“(2019 P’burg graduate) Ryan Fisher was awesome, he was a really good player and no one studied our plays more than he did,” Reppert said. “Last season when I was sitting on the sidelines, I watched the seniors taking care of everything. After practice we’d all ask questions and they’d answer us and spend extra time. Now I’m the senior. It’s like a reversal of roles.”
Reppert may have an edge when it comes to studying plays. Since he was young, Reppert has been a practitioner of the martial art known as jiu jitsu.
“I started when I was 6 years old,” Reppert said. “I go to U.S. Family Martial Arts in Pohatcong. Sometimes it’s hard for me to get there with football and lacrosse but I still go whenever I can. Jiu jitsu is technique-based -- we do a lot of drills in a couple of hours. In order to remember all the techniques we use you have to stay focused and you can’t get distracted. It’s like remembering the playbook in football.”
Reppert said jiu jitsu. helps with discipline as an offensive lineman and staying calm in difficult spots.
Lacrosse adds to Reppert’s athletic skills from completely different angles.
“It’s so physical,” he said. “You get used to staying in a certain position, moving around in a 6 by 6 foot area. And you have to learn to keep your head up. You can’t ever get down on yourself as a goalie when you make a mistake. You have to stay focused on the next ball that’s coming in.”
Lacrosse balls are made of very hard rubber, and when they get hurled at full speed at a goalie they can concentrate the mind quickly, much like a pass rusher at full throttle. But between his jiu jitsu training and his lacrosse experience, Reppert brings enviable mental toughness to his guard spot.
And, somewhat unusually for two-way linemen, Reppert prefers offense.
“I like the sense of protecting the quarterback,” Reppert said. “I don’t like to let anybody touch him.”Phillipsburg’s pass protection wasn’t what Reppert would have liked in Saturday’s scrimmage against a powerful and skilled Piscataway team.
“We had some mistakes early,” Reppert said. “But the coaches have broken that down on film for us and we’ll fix that against Elizabeth.”
While passing is important at Phillipsburg, the Stateliners’ staple diet will always be a punishing ground game. Reppert’s strength there is, again, his overall athleticism.
“In our offense Devin pulls a lot,” said Duffy, describing plays where the guard will move to the outside to clear space for the ball carrier. “He’s pretty mobile in the open field and we like the way he plays in space.”
Defense is a newer gig for Reppert.
“I haven’t played as much defense,” he said. “Overall, I have to learn the scheme better, the technique better, everything. I am starting to understand the system better. I’m catching on.”
On both sides of the ball strength was an area Reppert worked hard at in the offseason.,“I felt like I needed to get bigger,” Reppert said. “Last year I was even smaller than I am now and when he played Union I was up against a kid who was 365 pounds. I wanted to add muscle.”
Reppert credited P’burg strength coach Craig Merrick with making him stronger and, at the same time, faster.
“My speed is better and that helps me a lot as a pulling guard,” he said.
All in all, it seems as if everything has come together for Reppert to enjoy a memorable senior season.
“It feels great; there’s never a dull moment,” he said of football’s return. “Whenever we make a big play, we’re always high-fiving each other. I am really excited to start the season.”
And perhaps gain that experience of beating Easton again -- in football this time.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.