Chris Seifert understands and lives the Ewing High School football mantra: “Surrender me for we.” Switching to a No. 50 uniform is proof. “That was a hard thing,” Seifert said. “32 was my varsity number since freshman year.”
Ewing asked the senior to not only play linebacker this year, but also contribute on the offensive line, and offensive lineman are not permitted to wear a number in the 30s. Seifert initially didn’t warm to the idea of playing left guard, but when he realized it would help the team, he accepted the move.
Ewing head coach Drew Besler said Seifert hadn’t played offensive lineman since youth football. “He had gotten some snaps at practice in case of an emergency situation, but he was never expected to be a starter there. He’s started and been a very good offensive lineman for us.”
Seifert is one of the reasons that the Ewing has been steady over the last three seasons. He has been a starter at linebacker since his sophomore year. Last year, he led the Blue Devils with 104 tackles as they returned to the state playoffs, and more importantly he started to show his maturity and began to embrace the Ewing mantra.
“Going into my junior year, I really realized it,” Seifert said. “You have to do everything for the team so they can do everything for you.”
Seifert didn’t understand that concept as well before that season. But as he broke out as a player, he also became more of a leader. His progress has continued this season.
“I’ve grown tremendously,” Seifert said. “Freshman to sophomore year, I had some struggles. I became a more vocal individual as we went through the years. My leadership has grown. As my years went on, I embodied the meaning of the program.”
“Chris is a peer leader in the building,” Besler said. “He has over a 3.0 GPA. He’ll have opportunity to play in college—where we don’t know yet. He’s a solid student, and solid player and he’s done whatever he possibly could to help put this team in a position to win.”
Ewing was 4-2 after a 13-0 win over Bishop Eustace on Oct. 12, but on Oct. 19, as they celebrated 20 years of hosting night football games at Ewing, the Blue Devils couldn’t overcome five turnovers in a 28-13 loss to Cinnaminson.
“I think we’ll respond great,” Seifert said. “We’ve responded to adversity pretty well all season. I think it’s another bump in the road we’ll smooth out.”
Ewing was set to go into its Oct. 27 game against Pemberton looking in at the playoffs from the outside. They held the No. 17 spot in South Jersey, Group 3 with the top 16 qualifying for states. Knowing how close they are to returning to the playoffs was useful motivation.
“It would mean everything,” Seifert said. “It’s huge to make the playoffs and it’d be a great accomplishment to say every year we made playoffs. You have a chance to advance and that’s way better than a consolation game. It’s the main reason we do all the work in the offseason.”
The new ranking system has been hard to figure out. Ewing dropped four spots after shutting out Eustace. The Blue Devils had every reason to believe that they had playoff potential from the start of the season.
“It’s a senior laden defense,” Besler said. “It’s one of those things where I knew we were going to play good defense. We had a bunch of new starters offensively along the offensive line; and at quarterback, Caleb Stokes has been a cornerback and a consistent player for us and now he’s playing both ways.”
“The emergence of Ricky Francois and Tywayne Reed and Paris Wright have really helped to run the ball and given us at least an opportunity to play good football and go back to states for the third year in a row,” Besler added. “It’d be the fourth time in the last six years. We’ve been competitive.”
Ewing was two points away from a 4-0 start. They won three games in a row after losing, 7-6, to Northern Burlington. They handled Lawrence, 26-3, before falling in a 32-20 game at Delran.
“We’ve been very good defensively,” Besler said. “Our first four games, we only gave up 44 points total. That was helpful. Offensively, we’ve been able to establish the run. Ricky Francois, he’s got over 800 yards and he’s only a junior. He’s been extremely explosive for us. It’s been one of those things where we’re in a good situation because when you can run the ball and play good defense, you have an opportunity to be in the state playoffs.”
Seifert is one of nine senior starters on the defensive side. They know how to react to adversity and overcome it. They’ve been the backbone of their high aspirations.
Seifert has been proud of the way that the Blue Devils have continued to battle throughout the season. It bolstered his confidence in their playoff push.
“Sometimes we’ve been down early, and we’ve come back in the second half,” Seifert said. “We never really fold up. Even against Cinnaminson, we were down big. We never stopped fighting to the end.”
Seifert has taken the same approach to his new positon. While he has been comfortable in his return at linebacker, where he makes defensive calls and adjustments and helps position teammates, he’s been learning the ins and outs at left guard on offense.
“There’s been some struggles at times, but I’m getting the hang of it,” Seifert said.
Seifert is looking to play football in college. It’s something he’s always hoped to be able to do and now he’s in position to make the jump. Seifert figures that he will focus there on the defensive side of the ball.
“I was always a defensive player at heart,” he said. “It’s always been my thing. Even when I was growing up I liked D’ line.”
Seifert still favors the defensive side of the ball, but for the Ewing team he is willing to help anywhere. It’s that attitude has helped to boost the Blue Devils as they target another playoff trip.
“We have to execute and perform well and then hold our breath and see if we can sneak in,” Besler said. “We’re a good enough team that I believe when we execute we can play with anyone.”