OLYPHANT — The Lackawanna Football Conference has a new alignment, but the same old teams expected to contend for titles.
Delaware Valley, Valley View, Dunmore and Old Forge are considered the favorites in what is now a four-division setup in the LFC.
The most likely team to pick off one of those favorites appears to be Scranton Prep.
The Cavaliers joined the four favorites in allowing the LFC to take five of the six District 2 football championships last season.
The favorites and defending champions have a history of success in both the long and short term.
Delaware Valley, the Division 1 pick, has won four straight LFC division titles and two straight District 2 Class 6A championships.
Valley View is the choice over Scranton Prep in Division 2. They were the district Class 4A and 3A champions last season.
Scranton Prep will be trying to extend its streak of winning both LFC division and district championships each of the past three seasons.
Valley View joins Dunmore as the only current LFC teams to win state championships and might be ready to return to the status of the conference’s best team overall.
Dunmore has streaks of 40 straight wins and six straight unbeaten championships in LFC divisional play. The Division 3-member Bucks have won three straight district titles.
Old Forge, the Division 4 favorite, has won four of the last five District 2 Class A titles.
A look at the LFC teams that will battle their Wyoming Valley Conference rivals in many non-league games while jockeying for ratings points that help in District 2 playoff seeding.
If there is going to be a relative newcomer to the championship list, Wallenpaupack is the most likely candidate.
Delaware Valley suffered major graduation losses and the Buckhorns have almost their entire lineup back.
The Warriors graduated 1,809-yard rusher Ryan Obiso and 1,648-yard passer Nick Reilly, along with his top eight receivers, including all-state defensive back Dylan Kelly, who had a team-high 38 catches.
The top returnees from a team that won its first 12 games are linebacker Jason Henderson, who led the team with 125 tackles as a freshman, and Josh Balcarel, who ran for 534 yards as Obiso’s back-up.
Wallenpaupack has seven offensive and nine defensive starters back from a team that had a .500 regular season.
Mark Watson’s team has several players who already have multiple years of varsity playing time.
Joe Ingulli ran for 1,136 yards and is one of three players back who caught at least 10 passers from returning quarterback Tom McCormick, who threw for 949 yards.
North Pocono, coached by former Wyoming Area quarterback Greg Dolhon, also appears to have the potential to contend.
Senior Donny Blaine took over the starting quarterback job during his freshman season. He was running the offense when the Trojans won the 2016 District 2 Class 4 title.
Blaine is not alone. The Trojans return seven starters on each side of the ball.
Scranton has a new coach in Steve Shumbres, who was promoted from offensive coordinator, a position he previously held at Scranton Prep.
“I was always looking forward to this,” Shumbres said. “I’ve been an offensive coordinator the last 10 years.”
Shumbres has just three offensive and five defensive starters returning.
The Knights bring back Rodo Brown, a cornerback who plays both tailback and in the slot on offense; guard/nose guard Grayson Lavelle; and James Lavelle, a fullback/outside linebacker who could also get time at tailback when Brown is not there.
Abington Heights will try to bounce back from an uncharacteristic 1-10 season.
That one win was the 100th for coach Joe Repshis, who has had seven championship teams in his 13 seasons.
The Comets return most of their starters and will build around George Tinsley, better known as the leader of a state Class 5A basketball championship team and a commit to play that sport at Division I Binghamton University. Tinsley, a 6-foot-6 quarterback, threw for almost 1,500 yards last season and has receivers back in state championship basketball teammates Corey Perkins and Mike Malone.
Valley View returns its entire offensive line, including Brian Durkin one of the conference’s top two-way linemen.
Janaasah Boone, an outstanding defensive back, is making the move to quarterback where he could be a running threat.
Scranton Prep is another team led by a Division I basketball prospect at quarterback.
Leo O’Boyle surpassed 1,500 yards and 60-percent completion ratio last year for a team that was unbeaten into the state quarterfinals.
The Cavaliers return only four starters on each side of the ball, but one of them is linebacker Tucker Johnson, who led a defense that posted shutouts in four of its six games against WVC opponents.
West Scranton gets back quarterback Nick Gioia, who threw for more than 1,300 yards as a sophomore before missing most of last season with a knee injury.
In Gioia’s absence, the Invaders struggled with just one win.
Tailback Kobe Sauter and wide receiver Dylan Walck join forces in the secondary at Western Wayne, which returns nine defensive and eight offensive starters from a team that won seven games to land the second seed in the District 2 Class 3A playoffs.
Honesdale is another team that gets a key player back following an injury.
Tailback Andy Carroll led 38- and 43-point efforts in wins over GAR and Tunkhannock in the first three weeks before having his season shortened.
The Hornets also return quarterback Ethan Dunn, top receiver Justin LoBasso and more than half of their other starters.
Jake Sawka is back at Dunmore, but otherwise the Bucks will be replacing nearly their entire line.
How well Dunmore rebuilds its line – something it usually does very well – will be important, but the play of new quarterbacks could wind up settling the division.
The Bucks have six defensive starters back. Of the four on offense, one, second-leading receiver Steve Borgia, is making the position switch to quarterback.
“We’re not as big as in the past,” Jack Henzes, the state’s winningest active coach at 435 wins, including four years at Wyoming Area before putting in the last 47 at Dunmore, said at the Lackawanna Football Conference Media Day.
Henzes, who has a history of heart problems, has since been away from the team for health reasons.
As has often been the case in the past two decades, Lakeland is Dunmore’s top threat.
The Chiefs return eight starters each way from a team that finished strong and have some interesting weapons.
Thomas Pidgeon caught 60 passes. Giovanni Spataro ran for 1,221 yards as a freshman.
C.J. Dippre, a 6-5, 245-pound sophomore defensive end, is yet another talented athlete making the transition to quarterback. Dippre was a state medalist in the discus as a freshman.
Mid Valley returns a pair of 1,000-yard rushers.
Either fullback Colin Hazleton or tailback Joe Chylak could make the move to quarterback.
Harry Armstrong returns to coach at Riverside, his alma mater, where he went 48-18 in five seasons. He led the Vikings to state Class A championship game appearances as both a quarterback and head coach.
“We’re very inexperienced at the skill positions,” said Armstrong, who spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Wilkes University between stints at Riverside.
Carbondale lost all but two offensive and four defensive starters to graduation.
Old Forge was 9-0 going into a regular-season ending showdown with Dunmore for the old LFC Division 3 title last season.
Separating the Blue Devils from the Bucks makes them a prohibitive favorite to win their eighth division title in 13 years.
Replacing standout linebacker and all-time leading rusher Brendan Mozeleski, who ran for more than 2,000 yards last season, will be the priority.
The Blue Devils return quarterback Dante Lucarelli, who threw for 1,496 yards and 19 touchdowns while hitting more than 50 percent of his passes as a freshman.
Lucarelli returns his top three receivers – Anthony Rios, Tommy Souriyavong and tight end Brett Wargo.
“Things change year-to-year with what we do,” said Old Forge coach Mike Schuback, who has a 143-54 record in 16 seasons coaching his alma mater. “We have talked about it before about having the ability, not so much to throw it all over the park, but if you have the ability to do some things offensively to exploit someone’s weaknesses, you’d be foolish not to do so.”
Lackawanna Trail has University of Delaware baseball recruit Nathan Rolka for his fourth year as starting quarterback.
Rolka is one of eight starters on offense, but the Lions are less experienced on defense where they have to make up for the graduation of Shawn Jones, one of the conference’s top two-way linemen, and Owen Hivner, an all-star linebacker.
Sophomore Ray Melnikoff could be a force at linebacker.
Susquehanna returns 11 of its top 12 tacklers, its top seven receivers, its top three rushers and scorers, all three of its kicking specialists, its quarterback and even the two players who backed him up.
Tailback/linebacker Sam Cosmello, fullback/nose guard linebacker Adam Roe and quarterback/free safety C.J. Stone are the top two-way players. Linebacker Garrett Decker led the team in tackles last season as a freshman.
Montrose and Holy Cross are each trying to find a way to make progress under second-year coaches.
The Meteors went 1-9 in Steve Miller’s first season while the Crusaders were winless in Dave Gatto’s debut.