Hello, everyone!

OK, the 2017 season has “officially” started. I held off on overdoing the coverage through the summer, because, well, because I like to enjoy the summer. But the heat acclimatization period in the PIAA got going and so too did my tour Around the Camps.

Boy, do I look young in 2010!

It’s hard to believe I started this madness in 2010 and here we are beginning our eighth season of kicking off the high school season by me visiting all 20 members of the Lackawanna Football Conference. As for “heat acclimatization,” Mother Nature had a little something to say about that Monday. It rained throughout the morning and temperatures were in the 60’s, except for at Lakeland, where it is always cold, it ranged in the 50’s. So much for the good intentions of getting players ready for the intense heat and humidity of August.

I started this tour a little slower than in years past. Only visited Dunmore and Lakeland, because later in the day I have IN THE ZONE on NEPAs ESPN Radio. The alarm sounded at 7 a.m. — which for a guy whose body is used to staying awake most of the night — is a challenge. I was able to catch an episode of Matlock with my morning brew and my new breakfast snack, carrot sticks. See, I spent the last week on the beach and let’s just say, I don’t have a beach body, so I have agreed to dial back my food intake for a few weeks. That is until my co-pilot Herb Smith returns from vacation and we can hit some popular places for lunch next week!

Soon, I fired up the KIA Rio and was off.

Visit No. 1

The rain came showering down as soon as I arrived at Dunmore Veterans Memorial Stadium. Go figure. Dunmore, traditionally has been one if not my first start. I like to watch coach Jack Henzes on the first day. In his 51st overall season as a high school head coach, he still has the energy of a young athlete. I also get great cooperation from the Dunmore staff. Coach Henzes has surrounded himself with outstanding assistant coaches.

 

Visit No. 2

As the rain tapered off, I headed up to what may as well have been the frozen tundra. I was literally chilled. You would think for a guy who played at Lakeland and lives near the school, I would be better acclimated (there is that word again). But, look 58 degrees in August is a bit unseasonable.

Both teams practiced as hard as they could all things considered. They can wear shoulder pads and helmets and there is no live contact during these required sessions. It was a fun start and really rejuvenated me after what has been a difficult eight months.

Here is a recap of the tour

 

 

2017 Dunmore Bucks

 

Why start with the Bucks? Why not? Since I began touring the preseason camps, Dunmore has been the most successful. The program has won 81 games, four District 2 championships and had two appearances in the PIAA final. Not too bad.

 

Dunmore records since

Around the Camps started

2010

7 – 5

Lost in D2 Class 1A championship game

2011

10 – 1

Lost in D2 Class 1A semifinals

2012

14 – 2

D2 Class 1A Champions; Lost in PIAA Class 1A final

2013

11 – 1

Lost in D2 Class 1A championship game

2014

14 – 2

D2 Class 2A Champions; Lost in PIAA Class 2A final

2015

12 – 2

D2 Class 2A Champions; Lost in PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals

2016

13 – 1

D2 Class 2A Champions; Lost in PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals

Total

81 – 14

 

 

Power and glory

I feel very safe with these guys watching my back.

 

This season, the Bucks are expected to be one of the top Class 2A teams in the state. They return all five starting linemen on offense. That is quite an advantage for a program that wants to physically maul its opponents and have done so with great effectiveness in the last seven seasons.

Tackle Nick Shoemaker (6-2, 255) and guard Jerry Longo (6-2, 255) were All-Region selections last season. Tackle Michael Muracco (6-0, 290) will be in his third year as a starter, center Jake Sawka (5-11, 280) and Rocco LaCapra (5-10, 230) are two all-star caliber players.

How do they do it? It’s like the Bucks have a cloning machine in the fieldhouse and just keep producing quality, big, strong linemen. Well, I know how they do it. The kids work hard in the weight room. They are dedicated to the program and respect and honor the responsibility of being a lineman at Dunmore.

Check out this list of Hookey Reap Award winners in recognition of being the best lineman in Lackawanna County.

  • 1964: Jim Kane
  • Tim Ruddy went on and played in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins.

    1969: Charlie Raymond

  • 1973: Defense: Lou Coviello
  • 1980: Offense: Jack Miles
  • 1985: Offense: Gary Muracco
  • 1988: Defense: Tim Ruddy
  • 1989: Offense: Tim Ruddy
  • 1989: Defense: Tim Ruddy
  • 1993: Offense: Derek Forgione
  • 1994: Offense: Carmen LiBassi
  • 1995: Defense: Harry Kirias
  • 1999: Offense: Joe Boniewicz
  • 2002: Offense: Mike Boccella
  • 2010: Offense: Paul Gaughan
  • 2012: Offense: Mike Boland
  • 2012: Defense: Mike Boland
  • 2014: Offense: Dan Drewes
  • 2014: Defense: Tim Drewes
  • 2016: Defense: Nick Shoemaker

One of the top players on this year’s team is a legacy. If you look at 1985, the season Dunmore finished 13-0 and won the Eastern Conference Class A championship, Gary Muracco, won the Hookey Reap award for offense. His son, Michael, is one of the five returning starters and is considered one of the most physical players in the Lackawanna Football Conference.

 

Scrapbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

2017 Lakeland Chiefs

 

Stop No. 2 was in Scott Township with my longtime friend Jeff Wasilchak. Listen, I know I am supposed to be an unbiased reporter and I am, in my humble opinion, I am. But, you see, Jeff and I go back a very long way. When I thought I knew something about football and began coaching as a wet-behind-the-ears assistant at Lakeland in 1993, Jeff was already there carrying on his father’s legendary legacy as an assistant. When he took on his first head coaching assignment in 1997, Jeff asked me if I would join him. I jumped at the chance and we have been very close ever since. So, I like to visit the Chiefs, for one because I went and played there, and for two to see Jeff each season.

It’s remarkable what he has accomplished as he enters his 21st season as a head coach. Look at the company he keeps.

Top 10 Career Coaching Victories

 

1. Jack Henzes, Wyoming Area, Dunmore 421

2. Frank Pazzaglia, Valley View, Mid Valley 344

3. John Henzes, Blakely 251

4. Allen ‘Butch’ Keller, Honesdale, Western Wayne, Bishop O’Hara, Holy Cross 220

5. Elio Ghigiarelli, Old Forge 202

6. Nick Donato, North Pocono, Scranton Prep 174

7. Dick Bagnall, Susquehanna 169

Jeff Wasilchak

8. Jeff Wasilchak, Lackawanna Trail, Lakeland 165*

9. Sam Donato, West Scranton 151

10t. Gerry Wasilchak, Lakeland 143

10t. Joe DeAntona, West Scranton 143

 

Big task

Lakeland is coming off a 10-2 season and reached the District 2 Class 2A championship game. However, the team lost 18 seniors which included three All-Region players.

This year’s senior class has five players among its nine seniors who had to play on the varsity team in 2014 as freshmen because there weren’t enough players to field a freshman team.

Here are some of the Lakeland seniors who will try to keep the Chiefs winning this season.

 

 

Battling back

One of the seniors is fullback Paul Sokoloski, who has missed some time and battled through injuries during his three seasons on the varsity team.

 

 

 

Scrapbook

Lakeland senior QB Nico Piraino.

 


 

TUESDAY’S TRIP

We returned home safely on Day One.

Now on Tuesday, I will be on the road traveling. I will visit a pair of District 2 championship teams from 2016. First,  North Pocono, which won the Class 4A title and then Delaware Valley, which won the Class 6A crown.

We are off to a cool start, but things will get warmer!

Check back tomorrow.