Faces will look very familiar on opposite sidelines this afternoon when Wyoming Area hosts Hanover Area in the boys soccer season opener for both teams at the field at Tenth Street Elementary School.
The Warriors hired a new coach in the offseason in Nick Hufford, who happens to be a former assistant and junior high mentor with the Hawkeyes program.
Hufford spent three years under Hanover Area head coach John Nealon, with his last season being in 2008. So the current seniors were Hufford's last group as junior high coach. The familiarity doesn't stop there, though.
Hufford's assistant coach is Pat Cook, who just graduated from Hanover Area this past spring and helped the Hawkeyes to back-to-back Wyoming Valley Conference Division III championships in 2010 and 2011 as starting sweeper.
"I learned a lot from John Nealon so I have a ton of respect for him," Hufford said. "It doesn't get any better than that. It's going to be a lot of fun. When the schedule came out and we saw Hanover as the first game, Pat and I just said ‘Why not.' It kind of set the bar there and this is one that counts."
While the Hawkeyes have been the team to beat in the division the last two years, the Warriors have been near the bottom. But with a large number of players returning, they're looking to make some noise this afternoon.
The season gets underway with six games this afternoon and a pair Saturday morning. The Hanover Area-Wyoming Area matchup isn't the only one that will be familiar.
Crestwood hosts Dallas on Saturday morning in a rematch of the District 2 Class 2A semifinals from last year won by the Mountaineers.
Lake-Lehman, which has bumped up from Division II to Division I this season after winning consecutive division championships, travels to Pittston Area in a battle of the top two teams from D-II in 2011. The Black Knights won the only match between the two last year and this afternoon's contest will be the only time they square off in 2012.
Whenever a new season starts, there are always going to be some changes on and off the field.
The most notable changes locally occurred off the field.
Coughlin and Tunkhannock drop back down to Class 2A after spending the last two in 3A and Lake-Lehman will now play in WVC Division I after two straight Division II titles.
There are also two coaching changes. In addition to Hufford replacing Sam Fuller at Wyoming Area, Rob Schoener takes over for Dan Cunningham at Hazleton Area. Schoener was an assistant with the girls program at Hazleton Area previously. The Cougars are also playing at a new home this season. All but one of their home matches will be at Maple Manor Field, the former home to the Bishop Hafey football team. The only home match not played there will be hosted at Harman-Geist Memorial Field for the team's senior night on Oct. 10.
The full Times Leader boys soccer preview will be published on Sunday. That's also the day the team-by-team preview for all 17 programs in the Wyoming Valley Conference will be available.