Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer saw plenty of ability in his Warriors last season.
He also saw plenty of mistakes and breakdowns, something common with a young team.
“There was athletic ability there, but we were looking at maturity and experience, no question about it,” Spencer said. “You look at the early games, we were asking sophomores and at times freshmen to play significant roles in big games.
“That says nothing about the kid, but sometimes you just have to get on the field to feel comfortable in those situations.”
The result was a 4-6 record and no postseason, the first time both happened since the 2000 season.
Spencer, though, hopes this group of Warriors grows like the 2000 bunch.
“We’re in a little different situation this year in terms of experience,” Spencer said. “We definitely have kids that have been on the field. We’re hoping that translates into cutting down those errors and turnovers and we’ll make a few more plays.”
Expect a couple new wrinkles in the offensive scheme.
The Warriors want to play to their strength – talent at the skill positions – and keep their undersized but improved line from facing stacked fronts.
“We’re just going to try to match our kids’ skill sets with the best formations,” Spencer said. “We’re not going to be a whole lot different than what we’ve been running, but we’re going to put our kids in position where they are going to be successful.”
Junior Chris Murphy, who played every game last season, and senior Leo Malsky will be the quarterbacks.
“We’re fortunate to have two athletes that can play that position for us this year,” Spencer said. “Chris brings that experience back. He has that demeanor that you obviously like in a quarterback. He makes good decisions under pressure.”
Malsky will also see time at receiver along with senior Sam Eramo, who had seven catches last season, and Ahmad Bouie, who played on the varsity as a freshman last year. Rob Russick will be the tight end.
The Warriors have a nice tailback tandem in sophomore Matt Kintz, a power runner, and senior Aidan Marich, a speedster.
Kintz saw significant playing time in the second half of last season and recorded consecutive 100-yard games against Tunkhannock and Wyoming Valley West. Marich, who missed time last season due to injuries, finished second in the 100-meter dash in the District 2 Class 3A track meet this past spring.
Both could be in the backfield at the same time or paired with a fullback – either Matt Chipolis or A.J. Lemardy.
The O-line matured last season and returns four starters – a pair of 240-pound bookend tackles in Julian Campenni and Bret Davis, 190-pound guard Stan Timinski and 175-pound center Nick Perugini.
“We’re looking for (Davis) along with Campenni to be the leaders in the offensive line,” Spencer said.
The defense also used 2008 as a learning experience. The unit played decently early on, but struggled down the stretch against four playoff teams.
The front in the Base 50 defense isn’t as undersized as on the other side of the ball and has good depth.
Chipolis, Matt Kolbeck and Mike Yakobitis will man the nose. Campenni, Davis, Nick Bartoli and Lucas Stemba will rotate as tackles. Lemardy, Russick, Eric Eramo and Tim Somers will see time as ends.
Perugini and Timinski will be the linebackers. Both worked their way into the starting lineup by the end of last season.
“They’re not really big, but they’re tough,” Spencer said.
The secondary is experienced, but will need to create more turnovers. The unit had seven interceptions, but six came in two games and it had only one in the last five games.
Malsky and Murphy will be the safeties. Bouie and Marich will be the cornerbacks, and Spencer expects freshman Nick O’Brien to be the nickel back and also play some safety.
Wyoming Area shouldn’t have much trouble with Nanticoke in its opener, but then the season could go in any direction. Six of the last nine opponents made the postseason last year, so the Warriors have their work cut out for them to improve.
Grabbing a District 2 Class 3A playoff berth looks like a long shot entering the season.