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Brendan Mozeleski. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TIMES-TRIBUNE

Brendan Mozeleski has to be his own worst critic when it comes to football.

As he prepared for his senior season with Old Forge, the Blue Devils, Mozeleski thought about all the struggles that team went through in 2016, when the Blue Devils were back to the rest of the District 2 field with a 4-7 record that was capped by a loss to Susquehanna in an Eastern Conference playoff game.

Mozeleski remembered that feeling as he got ready for his senior season, and the longer he thought about it, the more it bothered him. Understanding that he was looking at his final year of high school, he decided to put on the role of leadership.

The Blue Devils were in the right hands.

Despite some trepidation, just about everything went right with Mozeleski in charge, and the senior delivered a standout season, capped by an early Christmas present — he was selected for the Pennsylvania Football Writers’ all-state Class A team.

“At the beginning of the year, I was definitely eager and motivated to try to be named to the all-state team,” Mozeleski said. “But as it got later in the season, and we were eliminated, I was a little doubtful about that, because you know you needed to make a run in order to get noticed. When I was picked for it, I was surprised and grateful it happened. Just proud that all my hard work through these four years paid off.”

His 2,097 rushing yards this season combined nicely with 27 rushing touchdowns to lead an offense that, in retrospect, was little light in experience at the start of the season but which really came around to become dangerous weapons surrounding Mozeleski. All of those players who were question marks before the season started became valuable parts and helped the Blue Devils win their first nine games of the season. All because of the talent and desire of Mozeleski to set the tone and show the less-hyped Blue Devils what it takes to win games, that nothing takes the place of hard work and desire.

Mozeleski knew his leadership would be important for getting the Blue Devils back in line. There are no short cuts.

“You can’t just be the captain and have everybody listen. You have to prove it. You have to show them through example,” Mozeleski said. “I think they trusted me because I was a starter on the team for four years. I was on the best teams and I was on the worst teams, so I think that they looked up to me. They were great teammates.

“They always listened to what I had to say and they know that when I said it, I meant it. Most of all those guys are my friends. Hopefully, I get to stay close with them throughout my life.”

While he shared a lot of tidbits with the younger players, Mozeleski also continued his drive to right another wrong that occurred last year.

“It feels good to keep the winning tradition alive at Old Forge. We try to have at least one guy make it to all-state, and I’m proud that I was one of those guys,” Mozeleski said. “Last year left me motivated. Everybody worked hard. They were all in. I think that’s why we went so far. It starts in the off-season in January. That’s where games are won, in the weight room, training in the gym and doing all the little stuff.

“That’s when it starts to pay off in the season.”

With Mozeleski graduating, there will be a variety of roles that will need filling. They will be big shoes to fill.