By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/14/08
Jef Hewlings has successfully built lacrosse programs from the ground up with fewer tools, so he believes his new job at Emmaus is the ideal place in his return home.
Hewlings, a 1976 Ridley graduate who turned Penncrest into a highly-respected program in the 1990s, returned from New York state this spring to take over the reigns at Emmaus.
The Green Hornets have been one of the big stories of the season – although Hewlings would prefer nobody know his team is 7-1 and ranked 10th by Phillylacrosse.com. Hewlings has deep roots in Philadelphia lacrosse circles. He started as an assistant coach at Malvern Prep in 1981 and served as head coach there for several years until 1987. He was an assistant at Ridley for a year and then had a strong stint coaching at Penncrest from 1989-99.
He then moved to upstate New York and started a high school program at Oneonta High while also serving as an assistant coach at nearby Hartwick College. But last year he came back to Fleetwood, Berks County, and was fortunate to land the job at Emmaus. The Green Hornets, still a club team, had already emerged as a perennial power in the ever-improving Penn Valley League under coach Andy Scott. But Scott was happy to give the program to Hewlings.
Next year, when the PIAA takes over jurisdiction of boys’ lacrosse, Emmaus will be a full varsity team. But this year, the Hornets are hoping to make waves in the final season of the Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association.
Emmaus is 3-0 in the Penn Valley League and appears to be the league favorite. The Hornets held their own in an earl-season loss to Ridley, 8-4, and rallied for an 8-7 triumph over a strong Springfield-Delco squad.
More impressively for Hewlings, he starts seven sophomores and one freshman. Only one senior sees significant time and four juniors are making key contributions.
“The thing I like best about Andy is that the Emmaus program was built on moving to the next level,” Hewlings said. “I want us to get to the top level, to be a state champion; or at least to be in the hunt.” Still…
“We stink, we are really young,” Hewlings said, somewhat sarcastically. “Our strength is our junior and sophomore class. That’s a credit to Andy. He had kids in the program, and I trying not to screw it up.”
This year there are 28 teams headed to the EPSLA playoffs, 24 automatic berths and four wild card selections. Last year Emmaus was 15-5 and fell to Garnet Valley in the pigtail round, 14-6, and this year Hewlings is hoping for more.
“I feel strongly that we needed to schedule good teams, so we did add Springfield and we lost to Ridley, 8-4,” said Hewlings. “We added scrimmages against Malvern Prep, Haverford School and Conestoga and we took our lumps.
“We made it very clear to the kids that this is where we want to be. We need to close the gap and compete against those schools. The kids took it well, they are not awed by anybody. They certainly respect that we need to be better to be called one of top teams in the state, but they are willing to work at it.”