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Apr. 29—Luke Ammarell took three minutes off from a long-awaited practice. It was hot and he was out of breath.
As the Schuylkill Valley grad tried to find the right words, the ones to describe what this truncated spring season meant to him, one fact was clear. He didn't want to be anywhere else.
Football was back in Ammarell's life after an 18-month hiatus. Working out on Alvernia's turf field was something to cherish.
"I've always loved it," he said. "This was always my favorite sport. I just wanted to keep playing."
One of the questions coach Ralph Clark asks when he's searching for high school prospects is how much they want to put on that helmet and shoulder pads.
It seems simple. It's not really. To compete in Division III, to keep working through a pandemic that cancels an entire season, you have to want it at a higher level. There's no scholarship money to provide inspiration.
Ammarell definitely wants it.
"We love his strength and his build and we love his attitude," Clark said. "We want to find guys that love football. He's definitely our kind of guy. We identified him. We're glad that he chose us."
Alvernia's spring season amounts to three games. A loss against Stevenson on April 10, a loss to Lebanon Valley College on April 18 and Sunday's matchup with rival Albright.
Ammarell has made an impression during this short time. The 6-5, 245-pound defensive lineman is an imposing figure. He was placed in the lineup immediately and could be a foundation for the future.
"Luke has done really well for a true freshman," Clark said. "He's starting for us right now. He's learning. It's different from high school ball with the speed and the size and the technical aspect of things. He's a really smart kid. A high academic kid. He's got the football IQ to go with it."
Ammarell's first year hasn't been easy. Even the most motivated player can find it difficult to keep grinding when there are no games in sight.
The freshman hoped to at least step on the field in the fall. When that didn't happen, it was a long winter of waiting.
"We kept working out as a team," Ammarell said. "Working hard together. We'd come out to the field and do whatever we could. You just try to keep your head in it. It's hard."
Ammarell has three more seasons to play. Four if he wants to take the extra semester athletes have been awarded because of COVID-19. He's a finance major who hopes to become an accountant.
The former All-Berks lineman picked Alvernia because he was sold on the program's potential. The Golden Wolves started playing in 2018 and posted three wins in 20 games over their first two seasons. Everyone believes better days are ahead when they hopefully play a normal schedule in the fall.
"I love the coaches; I love the idea of coming to a new program and trying to build something," Ammarell said. "I'm getting a chance to play. It's all good."
Ammarell said it was a big sigh of relief when he finally ran onto the field three weeks ago. Football was back. It was gone too long.