They got the name spelled right this time…
Tandem Still Going Strong
Former Panther linebackers preparing for football at Solano
By Brian Bainum/Times-Herald Correspondent
July 6, 2007
Former Benicia High linebackers Sean Konoske, left, and Justin Ponder get ready to hit the field during practice Thursday evening, in preparation for the East-West All-Star Football Classic on July 14. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)
Sean Konoske throws himself down on the grass and closes his eyes, his head resting against his shoulder pads.
A couple of yards away, Justin Ponder gives a big yawn while walking slowly toward practice at Morton Field.
Close friends and teammates at Benicia High last season, Ponder and Konoske have found rest and relaxation hard to come by this summer. The linebackers have spent their summer working out in preparation for the fall season at Solano College, while also practicing with the West team leading up to the East-West High School Football Classic on July 14 at Napa Memorial Stadium.
“We go to Solano, have an hour of class, an hour on the field and an hour in the weight room, and then we come here and practice for a full two hours,” Ponder said. “It’s tiring, but it’s football. That’s all the motivation I need.”
Ponder and Konoske played key roles on the Panthers defense in the fall. Now the pair is hoping to find themselves in a similar role at Solano, with the prospect of a transfer to a Division I program looming two years down the line.
“We feed off each other,” Konoske said. “We keep each other going.”
It is encouragement both of them need as they transition from playing at the high school level to coach Floyd Burnsed’s Solano program.
“I walked in the first day and I see some guy benching 405, and I’m only (doing) 250,” Konoske said. “It makes you realize that it’s a whole new level.”
Said Ponder: “Next year, we’ll be the returning guys intimidating the new kids.”
Both players play a similar style (it is no surprise that they share a favorite NFL player: John Lynch of the Denver Broncos). Konoske and Ponder hit hard and are quick to the ball, and by all accounts have played with a high intensity level even in practices for the East-West game, which often fosters a more laid-back attitude among players who are trying to enjoy their last game against high school players.
Konoske admitted he needs to work on his tackling to succeed at the collegiate level.
“I can see the difference from high school already,” he said. “Everyone is faster on the field.”
But in preparation for next week’s game, Konoske and Ponder will play alongside many familiar opponents from high school.
“It’s cool to team up with everybody,” said Ponder, looking over toward a group of St. Patrick’s/St. Vincent’s players. “I heard their game plan was to hurt me when we played them, but it’s all good, because it didn’t work.”
St. Pats’ Alexander Wong, who also plays linebacker and will play at San Jose State in the fall, acts as though all the high school rivalries are a thing of the past.
“(Konoske and Ponder) are going to prove something this game,” Wong said.
It is a competitive drive that West coach Richard Eaton certainly appreciates, as he attempts to mesh together a cohesive unit leading up to the game in eight days.
“They are positive and upbeat, they’re competitors and they love the game of football,” Eaton said.