Fans, this is a struggle.
Lakeland is my community. It’s where my daughters call home. And it’s hurting. … Really bad. Yes, there are very caring people there who will stay strong, but trust me, they are suffering and in pain. It’s going to need a collective effort to get through this, the most heartbreaking of times.
Leah Loomis, a vibrant 17-year-old with a beautiful smile and an engaging, caring personality, tragically died Tuesday in a boating accident on Newton Lake. She was a spirited cheerleader for the Lakeland football and basketball teams. She was an athlete. She was a caring classmate to many. And she was a loving, dear friend in her inner circle and to my daughter, Meghan.
Their hearts are broken. Their emotions are gushing. These are painful times for young people, who can only cry and cherish their memories. All we — and I am appealing to everyone — can offer is comfort, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a strong embracing hug. We can all light a candle tonight. These gestures will mean so much.
This family, these kids and this community need your help and your compassion and your hearts. They need a source of strength. It’s been an incredibly sorrowful couple of years. Lakeland’s residents have been coping with a lot of grief. And they will continue to power forward together as one.
Shane Rivenburgh, a handsome young man with a sweet swing and a baseball star, died following an accident while traveling to practice at Lackawanna College in the spring of 2016. David Duchnik, a one-time standout for the Lakeland football and baseball team, died from injuries suffered when a tractor trailer caused a collision while he was working, attempting to tow a disabled vehicle, a little more than a year ago. Kevin Novitsky, a parent and youth sports coach who had an unmatched devotion to his family and friends, and his father, Clement, died in a highway accident last spring. This summer, school superintendent R. Scott Jeffrey, who worked tirelessly to charge up the spirit of the student body academically, athletically and socially, died suddenly. Now this. The loss of a student only two weeks into her senior year.
It’s been devastating. It’s heartbreaking.
As this country is full of constant bickering with an endless stream of conflict over divisive rhetoric, protests and venomous dialogue, I plead to Northeast Pennsylvania to rise up, come together and show true unity in support of what really matters by keeping Leah Loomis, all of these families and this community in your thoughts and prayers.
Love and compassion can be very powerful.
Forgive me if I have been a bit distracted. Clearly, now you all know why. I understand, though, that I also have a responsibility to you all and a job to do. I will do my very best.
This week, the Lackawanna Football Conference begins play in Division II. Based upon the early returns at the halfway point the start of play within the division has been much anticipated. At times this season, all six members of Division II had been ranked in The Times-Tribune High School Football Poll. Now these teams will battle it out over the next five weeks to determine the division champion.
This week, the best of the matchups won’t be until Saturday.
Valley View Cougars at Scranton Prep Cavaliers
This is going to be one of the best head-to-head battles of the season. The Cougars losses are to No. 1 Delaware Valley by four points, and to No. 3 Scranton by seven points. Now they take on No. 2 Scranton Prep on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Scranton Memorial Stadium. Valley View brings with it a high-powered offense and a physical defense. Scranton Prep is overpowering, having an unbeaten record with 14 straight wins in the regular season, and four shutouts in its last five games. Both are strong contenders in their respective District 2 classifications, with Valley View in Class 4A and Scranton Prep in Class 3A. Scranton Prep is also a community that is hurting. Luke and Tucker Johnson’s father, Eric, died suddenly this week, and they all will be playing with heavy hearts. Again, our condolences and prayers are extended to the Johnson family.
West Scranton at North Pocono
Last season, North Pocono was riding high with a 5-0 record and an overwhelming favorite to beat West Scranton. It didn’t happen. West Scranton posted an impressive win and sent the Trojans into a slight tailspin. This season, the Invaders have yet to win and have been devastated by injuries, especially to quarterback Nick Gioia, running backs Kevin Williams and Andre Chollette Jr., who returned to action last week. North Pocono had a heartbreaking loss to Scranton in Week 4 and was crunched by Delaware Valley, 41-0, last week. This is an important game now, because looking at the schedule, there is no rest for the weary in Division II.
Honesdale at Western Wayne
This game a lot more juice about two weeks ago, but things have changed a bit. Honesdale was making a big turnaround from an 0-10 season with wins over GAR and Tunkhannock. But running back Andy Carroll was injured in the Wayne-Pike Shrine Bowl against Wallenpaupack, and his status the rest of the way is questionable. That’s an important piece to the puzzle for the Hornets. Western Wayne is off to one of its best starts in program history having won all five games. Last week, the Wildcats withstood their first challenge against Tunkhannock.
Old Forge at Riverside
The Triboro Rivalry game is renewed for the 72nd time. Players and fans of both schools are very passionate about this rivalry being the best of the best. This year, both the Old Forge and Riverside Communities are coming together on what is now an emotional week for everyone in this small part of the state. The bitter rivals are raising awareness and money for Childhood Cancer. It’s just great to see this, and I thank both schools, their fan bases and Old Forge coach Michael Schuback and Riverside coach Ben Thomas, for their contributions.
Here is the information:
Williamsport at Scranton
Two weeks ago, I would have told you this could be the most exciting game of the season. But Scranton is reeling with injuries to its best players. Ky’Ron Harbin left The Battle for the Bell early, and the Knights have been without Reggie Dickey since Week 1. This still has potential to be a fun game and it certainly will have an impact on the direction each team takes headed down the stretch and toward the District 2-4 Class 6A playoffs where all four teams automatically qualify.
Lackawanna Trail at Carbondale Area
This is now a huge game in the LFC Division III thanks to a three-game winning streak by the Chargers. If you recall, Carbondale Area was picked to finish second in the division by the coaches in the preseason. After two straight losses to open the season, well, things didn’t look so promising. Now, they are in contention. Lackawanna Trail has been steady, getting better every week. It’s amazing what the Lions accomplish each season considering how few players there are on the roster. Hit hard by graduation of standout players from last season, Lackawanna Trail is right back in the hunt for a District 2 Class 1A title.
Hazleton Area at Delaware Valley
This, like the big game between Valley View and Scranton Prep, will be a Saturday afternoon game at 3:30 p.m. It is the marquee event at the school’s annual WarriorFest. Also, the school will recognize the 1992 Delaware Valley football team that was the first in the program’s history and is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The Warriors have posted back-to-back shutouts and are 5-0. Hazleton Area has impressive wins over Wyoming Valley West, Abington Heights and Wallenpaupack.
OK, that is all for today.
I’d like to offer you more, but I am just not up to it right now. Please pick up a copy of Friday’s Times-Tribune for this week’s edition of GAMEFACE. It features the Cody and Dillon Moyle of Lackawanna Trail.
At the halfway point of the season, I have seen 12 of the 20 member teams in the LFC. This week, I will add two more to that list. Where will I be?
Honesdale at Western Wayne
Valley View at Scranton Prep
Remember, again, if you can to offer thoughts and prayers in these trying times for the Lakeland community.