Returning for PIttston Area in 2011 are Tyler Roman, Evan Hahn, Anthony Schwab, and Brian Delaney. The quartet, along with a number of linemen, will help the Patriots start over under new coach Mike Barrett.photo by BILL TARUTIS
After going winless in 2010, there is a new excitement surrounding the Pittston Area football team, and it all stems from the positive aura projecting from the attitude and style of new head coach Mike Barrett.
Barrett has started from scratch with the Patriots, teaching the basics of fundamental football which he and his staff have stressed since taking over in January.
“With that senior leadership and the offensive line that we have coming back, were taking a fundamental approach to it and we want to be able to run the football,” Barrett said. “We are going to try and keep it as basic as possible and with the guys we have coming back and our decent size up front, we should be able to move the ball up front.”
The decent size up front Barrett speaks of is made up of seniors John Ameen, Joey Stoss, Dave Dragon, and Josh Blaker. The quartet of returning linemen average 6’0, 250 and will give the Patriots a formidable front on both side of the ball. Ameen is the biggest of the group standing 6’3 and while be listed at 300 pounds
That group will be blocking for this year’s starting quarterback, senior Anthony Schwab.
Barrett plans on sticking with Schwab rather than taking the two-quarterback route the Patriots have used the past few years. Although the former Valley View and Mid Valley assistant was excited about the progress of freshman Kyle Gattuso who will serve as Schwab’s backup.
“They did that last year,” Barrett said of a two-quarterback system. “It’s been my experience, when I played we had two quarterbacks and I just don’t think you can develop any continuity or consistency there. We’re going to be a one-quarterback team, although we may throw a wrinkle in here or there.
“(Gattuso) has really been outstanding in the off-season. He has surprised me. He has been very, very mature for a ninth grader.”
The Patriots will feature a mixture of different players in the backfield with senior Evan Hahn and junior Sammy Falcone competing to be the primary halfback, while juniors Joe Giambra and Mark Romanczuk will see time at fullback. Giambra played well last season as a sophomore, but his season was cut short due to injury.
The team’s primary strength will be at wide receiver as the Patriots return one of the top playmakers in the Wyoming Valley Conference in junior Jordan Houseman. He will be the team’s featured receiver and Barrett plans to focus the offense around Houseman. And why not? As a sophomore, Houseman scored eight of Pittston Area’s 15 touchdowns on the season. He led the team in receiving with 43 catches for 556 yards and six scores, and also rushed for a touchdown and returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
“He is definitely going to be a playmaker,” Barrett said. “Our goal is to move the ball around as much as possible, but he’s a kid who can take the ball at any time. Jordan is going to be a focus.”
Joining Houseman in the receiving corps will be seniors Tyler Roman and Mike Stankoski, and juniors Mike Chisdock and Joe Starinsky. Brian Delaney, a senior, makes his return as the team’s tight end.
The big boys up front on offense will also be featured on the defensive line, along with senior Josh Schatzel. Senior Dave Mawson and Roman will see time at defensive end.
The biggest hole the Patriots will have to fill is at middle linebacker where they lost last season’s top defender in Jeff Kramer.
But the coaches like what they see in senior Jake Zalewski at the position. As a junior, Zalewski was second on the team in tackles with 44. Junior Justin Wilk, Falcone, and Romanczuk will rotate at outside linebacker in the Patriots 5-3 scheme.
Stankoski, Chisdock, Starinsky, and Houseman will roam the secondary and look to disrupt the plans of opposing quarterbacks. Hahn will be the team’s primary safety.
The Patriots return one of the better kickers in the WVC in senior Chris Musto. He has been working in the off-season and has improved greatly. Musto converted 11 extra-points as a junior and made a 38-yard field goal.
“He’s very, very good. He has been getting good distance on his kicks. He was down at the Princeton Camp and did very, very well there,” Barrett said. “He’s just a tremendous kid. His work ethic is very good and he is an intelligent young man.”
When Barrett was hired, he watched a ton of film and was very impressed with last year’s team despite their record.
Looking back at the games, I did have time to watch a lot of film in the off-season; they hung in there tight,” Barrett said.
As for expectations this year, Barrett wouldn’t provide a number.
“We are going to be competitive. There is no doubt about it,” Barrett aid. “I don’t want to give you a number, but I think we are going to be very competitive. They need to expect to win every game that they go in to. You’re going to end up a lot better if you go in to the game expecting to win.”
And fundamentally, that’s the perfect place to start.