WVC football Week 2 preview: Meyers, Northwest want to shake off openers

By John Erzar - [email protected]
Labatch -
Hazlet -

Spend the offseason at voluntary workouts and in the weight room. Then sweat through double sessions.

Then comes opening night and … disappointment. For Meyers and Northwest, more disappointment will come for one of them when they play at 7 p.m. Friday at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium.

Northwest traveled last Friday to Lackawanna Trail — a team it’s in direct competition with for two District 2 Class A playoff berths — and left with a 34-14 loss.

“They beat us handily,” Northwest coach Lon Hazlet said. “They beat us physically — offense, defense and special teams. It was certainly not the type of outing we were looking for. We got beat by a good football team, but we certainly hoped to make it more competitive and we did not.”

At the same time, Meyers was at Riverside and went to overtime only to fall 27-21. The Mohawks had the lead three times only for Riverside to rally and force overtime with a late fourth-quarter touchdown.

“We made a lot of mistakes,” Meyers coach Jeff Labatch said. “Riverside is a good team, very well coached. But we didn’t capitalize on opportunities we had. We had some turnovers we didn’t capitalize on and some good field position we didn’t capitalize on.”

Friday’s game carries a little more importance to Northwest, which can’t fall farther behind the D2-A playoff chance even though the season is quite young. The two other D2-A teams — Old Forge and Holy Cross — also won. Defending champion Old Forge is expected to be a big factor since it’s the defending champ. Holy Cross not so much as its 14-12 win over Holy Redeemer snapped a 25-game losing streak.

But Northwest can afford to worry about the D2-A championship game the first weekend in November unless it takes care of the next nine weekends.

“I don’t want to look too far down the road,” Hazlet said. “As I said, we did not play well on Friday and we’re not looking down the road. Our focus has been getting better the past couple of days. We can’t worry too much about our improvement until we take care of our own house a little bit.”

Meyers has much more wiggle room to make the D2-3A playoffs as eight of the nine teams qualify. But getting one of the top-four seeds would be beneficial.

First, it would mean a home game. Secondly, it would likely mean no quarterfinal matchup with either Scranton Prep or Wyoming Area, who appear to be the classification’s heavyweights after convincing Week 1 wins against quality opponents.

“Everybody is going to be tough this year,” Labatch said. “Ideally, you want to get a home playoff game if you could. But you have to take care of business one week at a time.”

Meyers’ main concern will be a couple Northwest veterans in quarterback David Piestrak and receiver Connor Hazlet, the coach’s son. Both are among the few returners from last season’s 8-3 team. Tyler Stevens is also among the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 3A-A’s top two-way players.

The Mohawks were fairly one dimensional in 2017 as quarterback Janssen Wilborn was the focus of the offense. Wilborn, though, is gone and now playing at Kutztown University. In his place is a multi-prong attack featuring running back Kevin Dessoye, receivers Reese Patronick and Darrian Tyson and tight end Najee Hood. Plus, Meyers has a size and experience advantage in the trenches.

Coughlin (0-1) at Wyoming Area (1-0)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Coughlin’s Ciro Cinti (71-64, 13th year); Wyoming Area’s Randy Spencer (50-49, 10th year)

Last Meeting: Coughlin 17-14 in 2017

All-Time Series: Wyoming Area leads 21-16-1

Scouting Coughlin: Coughlin threw the ball well in a 21-14 loss to Crestwood. But for the offense to click, the running game must improve. The Crusaders are a grind-it-out-type offense and showed little of that against the Comets. One run accounted for most of the yardage on the ground.

Scouting Wyoming Area: The Warriors opened with a 48-7 rout of Mid Valley. The points were impressive, but what was even more impressive was the defense, which shut down a Mid Valley attack with two returning 1,000-yard rushers. The secondary could be tested more tonight.

What To Expect: Wyoming Area to win, but not as easily as last Friday.

Dallas (1-0) at Crestwood (1-0)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Dallas’ Rich Mannello (16-18, 4th year); Crestwood’s Greg Myers (81-72, 14th year)

Last Meeting: Dallas 21-6 in 2015

All-Time Series: Dallas leads 25-9

Scouting Dallas: The Mountaineers opened with an impressive 53-21 win over Tunkhannock. QB Michael Starbuck threw a career-high five TD passes. The defense was stout and had two interceptions, including a pick-6 by Dylan Schuster. Special teams, though, allowed a kick return touchdown.

Scouting Crestwood: The Comets used more single-wing offense in a 21-14 win over Coughlin when RB Pat Rother rushed for 163 yards. But they were penalized 17 times, including some silly bravado-type infractions that drive coaches crazy. Those flags can’t happen against an opponent better than last week’s.

What To Expect: Dallas has more balance and firepower and that should be the difference.

Hanover Area (0-1) at Lake-Lehman (0-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Hanover Area’s Mike McCree (6-25, 4th year); Lake-Lehman’s Jerry Gilsky (57-35, 9th year)

Last Meeting: Lehman 28-14 in 2017

All-Time Series: Lehman leads 27-23

Scouting Hanover Area: The Hawkeyes traveled a long way to Athens and left with a 38-6 loss, their 16th setback in a row. Their only score came late in the game. Hanover Area has been outscored 154-26 in its last four games dating back to last season.

Scouting Lehman: Turnovers, four of them, were costly in a 30-20 loss to Western Wayne. The Black Knights did hit on a couple big plays, but overall the consistency wasn’t there. The defense surrendered over 300 yards rushing.

What To Expect: Lehman to get back on track in a big way.

Nanticoke Area (0-1) at Tunkhannock (0-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Nanticoke Area’s Ron Bruza (33-50, 9th year); Tunkhannock’s Mike Marabell (0-1, 1st year)

Last Meeting: Nanticoke Area 33-21 in 2017

All-Time Series: Tied 5-5

Scouting Nanticoke Area: The Trojans couldn’t hold onto the fourth-quarter lead, falling to Pittston Area 28-20. Nor could they hold onto the ball, coughing up four fumbles. Aside from that, there were some positives, including RB Joe Ammons rushing for 138 yards.

Scouting Tunkhannock: The Tigers drew a tough opener in Dallas and the outcome of the 53-21 loss was decided early. The defense gave up five TD passes and over 400 yards total. The offense was a little better, but still surrendered two turnovers.

What To Expect: Nanticoke Area in a close game.

Northwest (0-1) at Meyers (0-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Northwest’s Lon Hazlet (106-99, 20th year); Meyers’ Jeff Labatch (19-16, 4th year)

Last Meeting: Northwest 23-21 in 2017

All-Time Series: Northwest leads 7-5

Scouting Northwest: The Rangers were manhandled in their opener 34-14 by Lackawanna Trail, a team they are in contention with for a D2-A playoff berth. Trail led 34-0 before Connor Hazlet hauled in a long pass from David Piestrak. A work in progress due to heavy graduation losses.

Scouting Meyers: The Mohawks need to regroup after a 27-20 overtime loss to Riverside. They picked off three passes, but hurt themselves with four turnovers of their own. There were too many penalties as well. However, they have the talent and experience to turn things around.

What To Expect: A close game with Meyers pulling out a home win.

Pittston Area (1-0) at Berwick (1-0)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Pittston Area’s Nick Barbieri (7-5, 2nd year); Berwick’s Frank Sheptock (19-8, 3rd year)

Last Meeting: Berwick 36-0 in 2017

All-Time Series: Berwick leads 32-2

Scouting Pittston Area: QB Mike Nocito and WR Bryan Giambra connected on three TDs passes, including the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter, in a 28-21 vs. Nanticoke Area. A good start for an offense that lost a lot of firepower. Four Nanticoke Area turnovers helped the cause.

Scouting Berwick: The Dawgs completely overwhelmed Abington Heights 42-0. RB Owen Shoemaker and QB Alex Force filled the shoes of graduated players nicely. The defense held the Comets to one foot – yes, foot – per rush attempt.

What To Expect: Berwick will be away from Crispin Field the next three weeks and will hit the road with a win.

Williamsport (1-0) at Altoona (0-1)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: Williamsport’s Chuck Crews (37-40, 8th year); Altoona’s Nick Felus (4-17, 3rd year)

Last Meeting: Never played

All-Time Series: Never played

Scouting Williamsport: RB Treyson Potts returned after missing last season and ran nine times for 150 yards and five TDs in a 62-26 win vs. Central Mountain. The Millionaires scored all their points by halftime. A caveat – the secondary was burned for two long touchdowns.

Scouting Altoona: Altoona gave up 278 yards rushing, and 5.9 per tote, in a 42-27 loss to Hollidaysburg. Defense was an issue with the Mountain Lions last season, their second consecutive 2-8 finish. Can’t see them stopping Williamsport.

What To Expect: Williamsport very, very big.

Wyoming Valley West (1-0) at Hazleton Area (1-0)

7 p.m. Friday

The Coaches: WVW’s Pat Keating (77-30, 10th year); Hazleton Area’s Mike Brennan (129-90, 17th year)

Last Meeting: Hazleton Area 17-15 in 2017

All-Time Series: WVW leads 20-9-1

Scouting WVW: The Spartans answered some questions in a 24-13 win vs. Scranton. First, they demonstrated moxie in battling back with two fourth-quarter TDs. Secondly, RB Carson Canavan looks like he could carry the running game.

Scouting Hazleton Area: It took awhile but the Cougars pulled away for a 35-7 victory over Pottsville. The yardage was lopsided in Hazleton Area’s favor as QB Sparky Wolk and RB Damon Horton picked up where they left off last year.

What To Expect: Hazleton Area’s experience could be the difference.



By John Erzar

[email protected]


District 4’s Williamsport is included in the rankings since it plays in the Wyoming Valley Conference and qualifies for the district playoffs through District 2.

1. Williamsport (1-0)`RB Treyson Potts is back and worth seeing live

2. Scranton Prep (1-0)`Possible D2-3A favorite wiped out Dunmore

3. Berwick (1-0)`Has three road games after Pittston Area on Friday

4. Dallas (1-0)`Mountaineers have been building toward this season

5. Valley View (1-0)`Solid in 27-14 victory over Wallenpaupack

6. Hazleton Area (1-0)`Next three games will test Cougars’ mettle

7. Old Forge (1-0)`Schedules eases up after Lakeland on Friday

8. Wyoming Area (1-0)`Very impressive in 48-7 win vs. Mid Valley

9. West Scranton (1-0)`Opened with shutout of North Pocono

10. Lackawanna Trail (1-0)`Was in control early vs. Northwest

Given Consideration: Crestwood (1-0); Lakeland (1-0); Pittston Area (1-0); Riverside (1-0); Western Wayne (1-0)

Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar

Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar