OK, welcome everyone!

It’s Friday and we reached our destination of visiting 12 teams of 20 in the Lackawanna Football Conference. We will pick up again next week, but before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we must get you up to speed.

You have to give me a little credit and a little criticism. When I first put together this year’s tour, I basically used last season’s template and re-worked some start times. Things had been going amazingly well — until today.

First, I had “misremembered” that this was an important day at home. It’s my wife, Maude’s birthday, and without any regard just went ahead and booked my schedule right through to the afternoon. I did have the quick thinking on me return from Day 4 on Thursday to stop and get a nice birthday card and some cupcakes, along with her favorite beverage from Dunkin’ Donuts. (A large unsweetened iced team with extra ice, in case anyone wants to buy — WINK!)

Meghan helped sneak the purchases into the house undetected. Fortunately, Maude had plans too. She took the day off and took the kids shopping for school clothes and necessities, then later would be attending a concert by Styx and REO Speedwagon. So, I carefully and strategically placed the cupcakes and her card on the footrest by the couch, so as I was out visiting football teams, she would awaken to a nice surprise. She did!

Later, as I was wrapping up a nice visit with the West Scranton Invaders, who by the way have outstanding size this season, she texted me and asked if we could meet for lunch. I began to panic, because as you know, I plan these trips right out to the minute. I had Mid Valley early and West Scranton at 10 a.m., then, of course, I do have to write and put this blog together. Time was short. In a desire to not rock the boat, I agreed once the temptation was raised when the dining option became The Loading Dock. I eagerly said, “Yes.”

So, Maude, Meghan, Grace and I had a wonderful lunch. I love the chicken cheesesteak with banana peppers with wings. Two nice military men, who had their check paid for by another diner, thought we had a nice family and paid it forward giving us a few dollars off our bill. I happened to spot another military family eating nearby, so we continued to pay it forward. It was a great afternoon. And God Bless our military men and women.

Now, though, time was at a premium. I had to get the Mid Valley and West Scranton parts of the story ready and get this blog post started. Plus, I have a terrible earache! How does this happen? Who at 47 years old gets an earache?

Then, I learned that I had my first iPhone meltdown of 2017. Somehow, my video of Mid Valley’s practice wasn’t loading or saving. I was having a panic attack, because I was on the road to West Scranton. I couldn’t save it, but it did eventually load to my Tout app, so all was not lost.

And you wonder why I am losing my hair!

By the way,  just to reiterate, please, I really need everyone to buy The Times-Tribune. It’s great to keep a scrapbook of this tour and the stories are much more in-depth.

 

 


 

DAY 5

 

It’s always tough to work and stay focused as you see the finish line to a long week. We had a couple of 12- to 14-hour shifts in there, so the tank is running on fumes. Still, there is work to be done. Then, I remembered the preseason football section is not completed just yet. Boy, oh boy, I kept telling myself on vacation that this season would be different. That I wouldn’t be going nonstop, but the football gods are against me.

Hang in there!

 

Visit 1

 

The Mid Valley Spartans are one of the most disciplined and fun teams to be around in the preseason. First, Dave Rebar, in addition to being a great friend, is so passionate about the program he put on the map when he was a player. His enthusiasm is infectious. His assistant coaches are all wonderful, and on this trip I definitely was “entertained” by staff and players. This is a team on the rise. Last season, the Spartans reached the playoffs, and I expect them to be every bit as determined this season.

 

Visit 2

 

There is something unique about visiting a West Scranton practice. Brian Fahey is old school and is a disciple of the old era and head coach Joe DeAntona. I still have nightmares about playing West Scranton which easily delivered the most punishment on me as a ballplayer. Those after-effects linger and there is a little chill that heads down my spine each time I arrive. This is also an up-and-coming team. Last year, the Invaders reached the postseason for the first time since 2010 and they are eager to challenge again.

 

Visit 3

 

Scranton is like a home away from home. Athletic director Ted Anderson has always been gracious in allowing me to use the facility for photo shoots. Plus, I am like a permanent resident of Scranton Memorial Stadium during track season. It’s always nice to get my yearly ribbing from the staff, that now I have to finally do some work after taking the summer off. What’s funny is, aren’t these guys teachers? The Knights have speed, speed and more speed. If their interior people perform, this could be a very good team.

 

 


 

HERE’S A RECAP OF THE TOUR

 

 

2017 MID VALLEY SPARTANS

 

This team is like Razor Ramon and oozing confidence. The Spartans have some talented players returning and some gifted underclassmen. There are a couple of very physical linemen back, including Matt Stankiewicz, who is arguably one of the strongest players in the LFC, and Jason Kline. Both were second-team all-stars last season when Mid Valley reached the D2 Class 2A playoffs. This group, you can see, worked really hard and coach Dave Rebar’s long-range plan seems to be working.

 

DAVE REBAR: A MID VALLEY LEGEND

Dave Rebar (51)

 

DAVE REBAR AT SYRACUSE IN 1994

 

 

GETTING DIRTY

 

 

You know, I played against Dave Rebar when he was just a freshman and I was a scat back at Lakeland. Clearly, coach is in much better shape and I look more like the defensive lineman. It’s also pretty cool that coach Rebar will be guiding his son this season. … More on that great story later in the fall.

 

 

 


 

 

 

2017 WEST SCRANTON INVADERS

 

Here is another example of a former player pouring his heart and soul into a program. Brian Fahey was a standout player for West Scranton and after years of being one of the top defensive assistant coaches at Abington Heights, he returned to his alma mater with a goal to get back to the postseason. Last season,  the Invaders achieved that by reaching the District 2 Class 4A playoffs. Now they want to take another step and with a veteran group returning along the line of scrimmage there is no reason to think the Invaders can’t be a team to challenge for LFC Division II and District 2 Class 4A honors.

 

Most District 2 Playoff Appearances for Lackawanna Football Conference teams

Dunmore

19

Lakeland

18

Lackawanna Trail

17

Old Forge

15

Riverside

15

Abington Heights

14

Valley View

14

Delaware Valley

10

West Scranton

10

 

 

IN THE TRENCHES

 

 

West Scranton has a lot of experience returning along the offensive and defensive lines. That will be the strength of the team in 2017. Big Jake Hoffman has a tenacious edge about him and defines that West Scranton toughness. He had 46 tackles and a pair of sacks last season, but if you grab The Times-Tribune on Saturday you will read why he is so inspired to play each down so hard for the Invaders.

 

 

 


 

 

2017 SCRANTON KNIGHTS

 

Once again, Scranton has speedsters. I couldn’t imagine how fast the Knights 400-meter relay team would be in track if these guys all ran. They get down the field in the blink of an eye. Oh, and as if they didn’t have enough firepower, the Knights welcomed first-year player Ky’Ron Harbin to the receiving corps. Yes, that Ky’Ron Harbin, the 6-foot-4 guy who likes to leap out of buildings in basketball and jump almost 48 feet in the triple jump. He will be a fine addition, considering the Knights already have a guy in Reggie Dickey, who can make life miserable on defensive backs. Look, if this crew gets in sync and quarterback Robbie McAndrew gets a little bit of time. … LOOK OUT!

 

BIG PLAY REGGIE

Yards on Reggie Dickey’s Touchdowns in his career

 

SPEED DEMONS

 

These guys want to race me!

 

 

OK, practice got cut short because of a thunderstorm that barreled down on Scranton, but we stayed dry and got some good footage for the video.

 

 

 

 


 

 

A LOOK BACK AND AHEAD

 

Here is a list of the teams we have seen so far: 

  • Dunmore Bucks
  • Lakeland Chiefs
  • North Pocono Trojans
  • Delaware Valley Warriors
  • Lackawanna Trail Lions
  • Susquehanna Sabers
  • Valley View Cougars
  • Holy Cross Crusaders
  • Old Forge Blue Devils
  • Mid Valley Spartans
  • West Scranton Invaders
  • Scranton Knights

 

As of me turning off my computer on Friday at  8 p.m. the Around the Camps videos have had more than 16,000 views on Facebook give or take a 100 here or there. That is so awesome! I hope you are enjoying the tour!

Now, I have to come off the road and Saturday will be dedicated to finishing GameFace 2017, otherwise Conor Foley is going to give the verbal beating of a lifetime. That edition is scheduled to hit newsstands and The Sunday Times on Aug. 20, which means I better be done writing Saturday.

 

MONDAY’S TRIP

 

Here’s what I have scheduled for when I get back on the road. I will start at Abington Heights and will move onto Riverside and then finish Monday at Scranton Prep.

See you then!