In high school football Danny Ferens was a big fish, but the University of Pennsylvania is an awfully big pond for a freshman learning a new position.
The former Penns Manor standout, who set area records with 5,563 rushing yards and 7,813 total yards in his high school career, Ferens is doing what most freshman athletes do, learning the ropes, paying his dues and making himself better for the next few years.
“Obviously, it’s a little hard going from being the most depended-upon guy, the leader on your team, to just another guy,” said Ferens, who is a wide receiver for the Quakers. “It was a hard transition, but the thing is, everybody’s good. I’ll run a route and there will be a guy covering me. He might be a third-string corner, but I still have to give it my all just to get open.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: On Campus features graduates of area high schools who are playing college sports. This weekly installment will appear every Friday in The Indiana Gazette throughout the school year. If you know of anyone who should be featured or included, email Mirza Zukic at email@example.com or call (724) 465-5555, ext. 267.]
“I’m used to being the fastest guy in possibly the area. I won the track 100 my (high school) freshman year. Then, to be, like, the third-fastest guy on the team — I’m not even sure where I am, but I know I’m not the fastest guy on the team. Now there are guys on my team a step or a couple steps faster than me. It’s like, wow.”
Ferens made the 62-man squad that travels to road games — his first goal at Penn. He fills in on the Quakers’ kickoff and kick-return teams and has gotten a catch for 9 yards, a rush for 4 yards and a kickoff return for 18 yards this season.
The Quakers (4-4, 3-2 Ivy League) play at Harvard at noon Saturday. The game will be televised nationally on NBC Sports.
“Obviously, I knew my role was going to change,” Ferens said. “The hard part about it is I don’t play much, and whenever our team isn’t doing that well and we’re going through a bad stretch of plays, it’s hard that I’m standing on the sidelines watching. If I was in high school, if our offense wasn’t moving the ball that well, my coaches had the confidence in me to get me the ball and knew I would turn things around for us. … It’s tough, but it’s a process that a lot of people have to go through, and I know it’s going to make me a better player in the end, so I’m just going to work hard and try to have a really good spring.”
A quarterback and defensive back in high school, Ferens has taken to being a wide receiver, which was the plan all along with Penn. His first career catch came in the Quakers’ 37-31, four-overtime win over Dartmouth, the longest game in Ivy League history, on Oct. 5.
“Every week I just get more and more comfortable catching the ball,” he said. “My friends, especially the guys that were with me in the summer, are like, you are so much more fluid in your routes. … When they watched me run routes at first, they could tell that I wasn’t a natural receiver. Now I’m real natural.”
Ferens has been a student of the game, a quality that’s been important as he’s become a college student, as well.
“The biggest difference is probably just the overall seriousness for the game,” he said. “In high school I always took it so seriously, but there are a lot of guys that just play for fun, don’t really take it really seriously, and they can get away with it. At this level everybody takes it seriously. It’s nice.
“It’s obviously more complex. I’ll have a designed route on a play, but if they’re in this defense, the route changes, or if they blitz, it’s this route. Instead of a simple post, you go up to the line and you’ve got to know three different routes on that given play, and you’ve got to identify what defense they’re in.”
It’s a big difference from Class A high school football, in which most everybody plays both ways.
“To put every ounce of my attention on one position, it’s really nice for me,” he said. “Some kids come from big high schools and they already did that, but I had to play multiple positions. To be able to focus on one is really nice to do.”
JOEY VODOPIVEC (Saint Francis, football): A sophomore defensive back, the Penns Manor graduate has yet to appear in a game in his career with the Division I FCS Red Flash, who have won three of their last four to improve to 4-5 with two games remaining.
Victories over Wagner and Robert Morris would give Saint Francis its first finish over .500 since 1992.
STEPHEN NYMICK, CHUCK MILLER (Allegheny, football): Nymick, a junior from Homer-Center, has served as a backup quarterback for the Division III Gators, going 10 of 23 for 57 yards with an interception in appearances against Wabash and Ohio Wesleyan.
Miller, a junior outside linebacker from Ligonier Valley, started the season opener against Kenyon and has played in eight of the Gators’ nine games. He has made five tackles, including two in the opener.
Allegheny (0-9) closes its season at Wittenberg, the first-place team in the North Coast Athletic Conference, on Saturday.
KATEE GRESKO (Saint Francis, cross country): A sophomore from Penns Manor, Gresko has competed in two of the Division I Red Flash’s five races this fall.
Most recently, Gresko came back from a two-month layoff to claim a 46th-place finish in the Northeast Conference Championship, finishing in 21 minutes, 47 seconds, on St. Francis’ own Immergrun Course on Saturday, Nov. 2.
Gresko finished in 28:37.86, 118th out of 139 runners, in the season-opening Lehigh Invitational in late August.
The NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship is today in Bethlehem.
MEGAN LEWANDOWSKI (Washington & Jefferson, volleyball): A senior middle hitter from Indiana, Lewandowski concluded her career with the Division III Presidents earlier this month with a 1.22 kills-per-set average over her four seasons. She amassed 185 service points, 226 kills and 34 digs.
Lewandowski ranked eighth on the team with 23 kills and sixth with 1.15 kills per set this season. She added 20 service points and seven digs this season, and W&J finished 15-11, 7-11 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, for its best finish since 2009 — also its best finish in Lewandowski’s career.
BECKY BRITTON (Penn State Altoona, volleyball): A Northern Cambria graduate, Britton was one of the Lions’ top offensive threats this season.
Britton ranked third on the team with 197 kills and 1.71 kills per set, and she led the team with 39 service aces.
Defensively, she was fourth on the team with 298 digs.
Britton picked up her play in conference play to help the Lions qualify for the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference playoffs. She upped her average to 2.15 kills per set in nine conference matches while also improving her kill percentage to 22.2 percent in conference play. For the season, her kill percentage was 16.2 percent.
A sophomore, Britton played in all 31 of the Lions’ matches and 115 of a possible 116 sets this season.
Penn State Altoona bounced back from a 3-7 start to finish the regular season 16-14 (5-4 AMCC) and make the playoffs. The Lions were bounced by Hilbert in the opening round of the AMCC postseason tournament on Nov. 6.