WEST PITTSTON — Dunmore gets set at the line of scrimmage, and the Wyoming Area defense responds.
“Hawk! Hawk! Hawk!” the Warriors shout to each other as they recognize the offensive formation.
Assistant coach Joe Pizano, standing well behind the defense, immediately interrupts.
“You’re wrong!” he yells.
A short time later, there’s another mistake.
“We’ve been at this six weeks,” head coach Randy Spencer says to his players.
There’s a hint of frustration in Spencer’s voice, but at least it’s a warm summer morning not a Friday night in the fall. And there is time — albeit it’s ticking away — until the Aug. 29 high school football opener with Wyoming Valley West.
But the quicker those mistakes are corrected the better. And that was one of the goals of Wednesday’s 7-on-7 passing scrimmage against Dunmore.
“It’s always a great learning experience, especially going against a program as sound as Dunmore,” Spencer said. “They do such a great job teaching and are always prepared. So they’re giving you a Week 1 look offensively and defensively in July.”
Offseason workouts and passing scrimmages are probably more important for Wyoming Area than in recent years. After winning the District 2 Class 2A title in 2012, the Warriors finished 3-7 last year. They are moving up to Class 3A this season, meaning eight new opponents including 2013 playoff qualifiers Berwick, Coughlin, Crestwood and Wyoming Valley West.
“We’ll be a little more experienced this year than last year,” Spencer said, “but strength of schedule obviously is going to be much different.”
From a distance, a 7-on-7 passing scrimmage looks like an organized touch football game. Helmets and spikes are the only equipment worn. Contact is prohibited per PIAA rules, but is unavoidable on occasion given the nature of the sport. The only lineman used is the center and there’s no pass rush. Success is based on executing a play quickly and precisely.
Up close, it’s obvious that both teams are more interested having each player perform their roles properly. The Wyoming Area coaches are a little more vocal than their Dunmore counterparts, but both point out mistakes. A defensive back takes too shallow of a drop. A linebacker doesn’t understand his responsibilities on pass coverage. A receiver fails to run the correct pattern. The list goes on.
“You can’t really hear anything when you’re out there (during a game),” said Ryan Murray, a junior receiver/defensive back. “That’s why we have these 7-on-7’s, so we know what to do in the game. We’ve had 17 now and it’s helped a lot.”
While 17 passing scrimmages might seem like overkill, some were multi-team events held at Wyoming Seminary. Plus, PIAA guidelines make all offseason participation in every sport voluntary. Spencer estimated about 10 players were missing Wednesday, including senior quarterback Ryan Gorki.
Gorki’s absence was an opportunity for two other quarterbacks — sophomore Steve Homza and freshman P.J. Angeli.
“As much as you talk about the speed on the field, it’s the mental processing,” Spencer said. “Key progressions, reads for the quarterbacks, wideouts understanding the coverages they’re working against. It’s critical to get as many game-type experiences for them before you get to the season.”
The scrimmage finishes on a high note for Wyoming Area. Angeli and Homza each make some nice throws on the Warriors’ final 10 plays on offense. Ben Steve ends it with an interception, the Warriors’ third.
Wyoming Area has two more 7-on-7 passing scrimmages — Tuesday at Pleasant Valley and July 22 at Lake-Lehman. Then after some time off, the Warriors have heat acclimation followed by double sessions starting Aug. 11.
The future drudgery of summer doesn’t bother Murray.
“Actually, I’m excited,” Murray said. “I’ve waited a long time for a game.”