We made it through a soggy Day 1 of my eighth annual tour Around the Camps and other than being a little soggy, it went pretty well. So far, the reception has been great, we had a lot of shares and likes on Facebook and Twitter and that is very encouraging.
My boss, Chris Imperiale, did a great job with presentation of yesterday’s visits. I am pleading with you all to pick up a copy of The Times-Tribune throughout the tour and the beyond. We all could use a little good news, right?
My first day on the road went so well, I couldn’t believe it. Then, Dave Mehall and I had a great radio show on NEPAs ESPN Radio. Just as I returned home, had heated my leftover pasta and meatballs (I love Italian food) and kicked off the old, worn imitation leather shoes I got a text from West Scranton athletic director Rick Bresser telling me the team’s varsity football game for Oct. 6 against Valley View would be played at PNC Field. I quickly snapped up one meatball, and leaped to my feet like Batman once the Bat Signal has been lit. I wasn’t able to track too much additional information down, but we had the news and I was able to retire to my quarters by midnight. Football season just brings out the long shifts.
This morning, I got up a little later than usual. I scheduled a visit to Delaware Valley in the evening, so I brewed my morning pot of Joe and got ready to depart. After leaving my house, I decided to take Interstate 81 South. Here is my first Public Service Announcement of the summer: Every road in PA apparently needs or is under construction. With all due respect to our hard working men and women in PennDOT, I just can’t find any route where there is not some delay. As traffic came to a crawl, I realized giving myself almost 30 minutes of extra time on my trip, I still might not make it to North Pocono on time. But what can you do, but throw on a little 70s music and hope for the best. There is no need to get the blood boiling. Fortunately, Butch Comegys, my wild, crazy and talented photographer, arrived early and prepared the North Pocono staff for my later than scheduled arrival. I made it by 11:06 AM. only six minutes late. Not too bad.
VISIT No. 1
The sun came out and was beaming. North Pocono was in the depths of its practice. The Trojans are coming off a District 2 Class 4A championship in 2016. It was a strange season where the team barreled out of the blocks and started 5-0 with wins over Riverside, Abington Heights, Wallenpaupack, Scranton and Delaware Valley. But then, North Pocono dropped three of five, but played with confidence in the postseason to finish 10-4 overall. Right off the bat, fans will anticipate the Trojans taking a step back, because usually when a team wins a district title it means it had a strong senior class. North Pocono did. But there is a lot of talent returning. And you can’t put a price tag on the impact success has on a program.
After my visit with the Trojans, I quickly headed home to get some work done before leaving for Milford. Can you believe this? My key for the letter “G” which has been under some stress popped right up into the air. I mean it had loft. Now what? How am I supposed to fix this? How am I supposed to write my stories each night? This is problematic. So, I do what most kids do today, I researched the web and YouTube. After countless efforts, I still have not fully repaired the “Easy Fix.” If anybody has any ideas, I am open to suggestions. What a start to the season!
VISIT No. 2
After putting in a few hours of writing and putting together this blog post (funny how these things don’t just appear), I jumped back into the KIA Rio which is still in high gear. I traveled to Delaware Valley and imagine this. … More construction. Any way, the new additions and upgrades at Delaware Valley are impressive. A fresh, much more cushioned, turf field welcomed me. The Warriors are the defending District 2 Class 6A champions. This team has the bulk of its starting team back, including physical linemen and linebackers and speedy weapons. I have a feeling this team will receive a lot of attention this season.
HERE IS A RECAP OF THE TOUR
2017 NORTH POCONO TROJANS
It’s always a neat dynamic to visit with the Trojans after visiting with Dunmore. There is a huge Dunmore influence on the North Pocono staff. Obviously, Greg Dolhon, the head coach and longtime assistant to his father-in-law Jack Henzes at Dunmore has patterned his approach after the legend. It’s worked well. There are also some former Bucks on the staff, as well. including Corey Gilroy and Bryan Weber. How great would a Dunmore vs. North Pocono game be each season? There is also former North Pocono standouts Dave Smith and John Strempek, along with former Holy Cross head coach Josh Watters and Thomas Chesko, a former tenacious linebacker at Valley View. There is an attention to detail and practice is intense without any wasted time, while also sharpening and teaching. It’s why the Trojans have risen, again into an elite program.
North Pocono wins since 2007
LOTS TO BE EXCITED ABOUT
This season, North Pocono will be considered one of the top teams in the Lackawanna Football Conference Division II and District 2 Class 4A. There are several reasons, including linebackers Brett Butler, who had 102 tackles with 11 for loss and JC Gaughan, who had 101 tackles with 16 for loss and 14 sacks, and all-star lineman Matt Caputo all returning.
But one of the key returnees many my overlook is Michael Kowalski. And that is a mistake. This kid has been one of, if not the, best defensive backs in the LFC. He has 12 career interceptions. Last season, his seven were a team-high and he had 25 tackles with 15 passes defended and somehow he did not earn a first-team spot on the LFC Division II Coaches’ All-star team. Make no mistake, he will be the heart and soul, and the emotional leader for the team this season.
2017 Delaware Valley Warriors
OK, I arrived at Delaware Valley and the team is on the field doing stretching. They look like an Army of stormtroopers with their white helmets and white jerseys. There is more than 100 of them with the freshman group. The Warriors will have more than 80 varsity players on the roster and this is one of the more gifted teams coach Keith Olsommer has had at the school. To say the least the Warriors have come a long way since going 1-9 in Olsommer’s first season and 0-10 in the next. Olsommer enters this season with 120 career wins. That’s pretty good for a program that has grown into the monster of the LFC.
BY THE NUMBERS
|Winning seasons since Keith Olsommer became head coach in 1999.|
|Seasons with 8 or more losses from 1992 to 1998.|
|Championships from 1992 to 2003.|
|Championships, including three District 2 titles since 2004.|
Delaware Valley players are some of the most loyal followers of the Joby Fawcett account on Twitter @JobyFawcett26. Being so far away from the hub of the Lackawanna League geogrpahically, this form of social media is a great way for the players to stay active and informed. They are true #JobysJabronis. Last year, one of the most popular tweets of the Around the Camps tour was of me with the beefy and extra-large DV linemen. This year, I hung out with some of my Twitter pals from the receiving corps.
Delaware Valley has a lot of standout players returning from a team that won the LFC Division I title and the District 2 Class 6A crown. There are a pair of all-star linemen in John McCarthy and John Boyd, a physical tight end in Brendan Heaney, a dynamic playmaker in Dylan Kelly, and the top running back in the LFC Ryan Obiso. He led all LFC Division I backs with 1,299 yards on the ground last season, and added 17 touchdowns. He is considered one of the best overall players returning this season.
It was a lot of travel on Tuesday, but we are back at it early Wednesday morning. Lackawanna Trail coach Steve Jervis likes to have his kids out on the field before dawn. Being a fellow Lafayette College grad, you would think he understood that I can’t function that early in the morning! However, I will be at the school I used to coach after 5 cups of coffee.
Then, I head north to Susquehanna where I will visit Kyle Cook and the Sabers. Hey, remember how strong the team finished last season with a pair of convincing wins over Holy Cross and Old Forge? Going to be good to catch up tomorrow.
Four of 20 schools are down. Looking forward to Day 3!
Check back tomorrow.