Good Thursday to you all!
OK, Day 3 of my tour concluded with my computer needing to be sent out for additional repairs, so the fine IT staff and Nick Yuhas, who probably dreads getting calls from me, gave me a replacement to get me through the Around the Camps tour. So, we are back up and running.
Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful Wednesday other than the traffic, so we were, as my running backs coach Bob James used to say, “Bright eyed and bushy tailed,” on Thursday!
Again, these blog posts are nice, but I really need you all to buy The Times-Tribune. The stories are in-depth.
It was a Throwback Thursday and I began my trip with a stop at John Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium home of the Valley View Cougars. Listen, us old “Al Bundy” types love the concept of #TBT. Many of us like to sift through old pictures and videos of when we used to be athletes. I have dialed it back just a little, because most who see me from way back when only make fun of my mullet, and folks, that style was en vogue in 1987, I promise you!
Well, on my trip to Valley View, I realized there are a couple of names on the roster of players whose dad’s I played against, so that was neat.
Remember now, as these trips become more crammed with three visits a day, the posts get a bit shorter! Time stops for no man, plus I am still not finished with the preseason football edition!
Visit No. 1
My stop at Valley View is always fun. Coach George Howanitz and I go way back.In addition, he attended Bucknell University, and if I am not mistaken, was a teammate with my brother in 1993. The Cougars are coming off a playoff season, and let me tell you, this team has some really good size. I am going to say this, I don’t know what is going on with athletes at the high school level, but clearly the human body is getting much bigger and stronger. If Valley View, which also has some sophomores who helped the team win the LFC Division II freshman championship, can get off to a good start, this could be a team to watch very closely in Division II.
Visit No. 2
Next came a stop at St. Anthony’s Playground and a visit with the Holy Cross Crusaders and first-year coach Dave Gatto. The Crusaders will always be battling a numbers problem. There weren’t a lot of players in uniform, but they were working hard. Give these players credit, this is not an easy assignment. Many are coming into the program with little or no background in football. But they will play hard each week for coach Gatto.
Visit No. 3
Then my last stop was in the pit at Old Forge where the bugs just love me. Maybe it’s because I worked up quite a sweat during my tour, or I just smell. Nevertheless, they swarm around me like bees to honey. The Blue Devils are back. The practice was about as intense as you can get during the heat acclimatization period. They have some massive linemen and I predict the team will bounce back and be one of the strongest in District 2 Class 1A.
Here’s a recap of the tour
2017 Valley View Cougars
This is a really special season for the Cougars. First and foremost, the fans are eagerly anticipating a great season, especially after the team finished the season going 7-2 over its last nine and finished in the semifinals of the District 2 Class 4A playoffs. Plus, the Cougars freshman team went undefeated last season, really elevating the buzz in the community.
Plus, this is the 25th anniversary of the 1992 PIAA Class 2A championship team. There will be a celebration during the season. Then, I got to thinking, at a school with such a rich championship history, there must be other teams from the joining of Blakely, Jessup and Archbald High Schools that began in 1969. Indeed, I was right!
So, in keeping with the #TBT theme of the day. …
Valley View Cougars Championship on the 5s Anniversary Teams
|Big 11 Conference||
10 – 1 – 1
|Lost in EC final to Mount Carmel|
|Big 11 Conference||
12 – 1
|Lost in EC final to Berwick|
|Big 11 Conference
Eastern Conference Class A
11 – 2
|Defeated Coughlin in EC Championship game|
|PIAA Class 2A
EC Class II
Big 11 Conference
15 – 0
|Defeated East Allegheny in state final.|
REMEMBERING MY PAST
Make no mistake about it, Valley View has some size. And as the linemen gathered around me for my camp photo, I knew a few of these guys’ dads. Kyle Cwalinski’s father, Brian, was one of the most fierce players I had ever faced. I think I carried the ball eight times, and he made every tackle. West Scranton physically abused us that day and Brian just was a terrorizing athlete. Then, I saw Robert Sebastianelli. His father was part of the 1986 Big 11 championship team that also handed me my head. I know Brian Durkin’s dad, too. Boy, I guess I have been around a long time. Well, if these athletes play with similar intensity, this team should make waves.
Interestingly, one of the players who I profiled is Sam Pittsman. His father, Tony, was one of the many members of the 1980 Lakeland Chiefs who more than inspired me as a young player. Tony was a tough, physical athlete, and a team leader for Lakeland and the late Jerry Wasilchak. In that first season that Lakeland played in the Big 11, Tony, big No. 71, was one of the driving forces in that school’s most iconic win, beating Valley View, 43-8. That must make dinner conversations with his son very interesting. Any way, Sam is every bit as intense as Tony, and he will be counted on to lead the defense this season.
2017 Holy Cross Crusaders
Holy Cross had some energy at practice. This is a team that will have more than 20 on the roster and a staff that is working very hard to make the program a positive experience. There are some scrappy guys out there and they showed a lot of team unity and support. The Crusaders are coming off an 0-10 season, but are hoping the athletes on this year’s team they can be competitive in the LFC Division III.
Holy Cross will be inexperienced with only a few starters back on offense. Last season, Jake Wiercinski was used as a wide receiver and was the team’s backup quarterback. This season, he is being elevated to starting quarterback.
2017 Old Forge Blue Devils
Look, last season clearly wasn’t at all up to Old Forge standards. Every team is allowed a hiccup. There were a lot of new faces in the starting lineup last year after an unprecedented run of success in program history. The young Devils got off to a decent start, but once they faced some of the more experienced teams in a loaded LFC Division III, wins were hard to come by. This team is back with a vengeance. The Blue Devils are big, strong and fired up to make amends for those who think the run is completed.
The Schuback Era
BIG, STRONG AND PHYSICAL
Old Forge has several players back, including the heart and soul of the offense and defense in Brendan Mozeleski. But where the Blue Devils must re-establish themselves this season is along the line of scrimmage. A lot of the improvement will depend on the leadership of returning two-way starter King Rose.
Ok, the first week is wrapping up Friday. I have two morning stops with my dear and longtime friend, Dave Rebar and the Mid Valley Spartans. This guy will lift my spirits tomorrow and his kids are always so respectful when I visit. Then, I will hit West Scranton’s session with my pal Brian Fahey.
I will stop in between and do some writing. These 3 practices in one day drain me! Remember, I am 47, not 27!
I will finish in the afternoon with the wild and crazy staff at Scranton High School! I hope they have a snack for me or Ted Anderson will hear about it!
See you then!