The first game was a heart-breaker. The second a nail-biter. And the third a blowout.
The Wilkes-Barre Area Wolfpack have certainly packed a lot into their first season. But now comes something else starting at 7 p.m. today at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium.
The non-conference game with Delaware Valley (2-1) could be called a measuring stick. It could determine how far the Wolfpack need to go to play with a perennial District 2 big school power. DelVal has won all three District 2 Class 6A championships and has a pair of D2-4A crowns in 2012 and 2014.
Now with three schools rolled into one team, WBA (2-1) is Class 6A and battling DelVal and three others for four playoff berths. WBA is second in the D2-6A power ratings standings and DelVal is third. Williamsport (2-1) sits in first.
“They’re outstanding. They’re a senior-laden team,” WBA coach Ciro Cinti said. “They’re physical and play nasty and play hard on every down no matter what the score is. It’s a tribute to their coaching staff and the kids up there. You watch it on film and it’s evident.
“That’s where we’d like to eventually get to.”
Football is only part of the equation with WBA. The program is based at Meyers, so students from GAR and Coughlin — where pupils are in two separate buildings — have to be bussed to practice. The buses didn’t show up earlier this week and GAR and Coughlin players walked to practice.
“It’s no one’s fault,” Cinti said. “It’s a hodgepodge right now because everyone has different schedules. Now you mix in playing (other sports) during the week. I’m just glad I’m not doing transportation because it’s a headache.”
Keith Olsommer had his share of issues when he took over as coach of DelVal in 1999. The former Penn State tight end inherited a six-year-old program that was 5-67 during that stretch. Many of the losses were ugly — 66-8, 66-6, 71-0 and 76-6 to name a few.
It took a few more seasons before the Warriors produced a winning record in 2002. Since 2005, they’ve been an annual participant in the postseason.
The season didn’t start well for DelVal as it stumbled out of the gates with a 13-0 loss to Pennridge. The Warriors, though, wiped out their next two opponents as they defeated West Scranton 61-7 and Wallenpaupack 70-0. The latter was the largest margin of victory in DelVal history.
Senior running back Josh Balcarcel is DelVal’s workhorse. He had rushed for 341 yards and six TDs and is averaging 10.7 yards per carry. Senior quarterback Zach Scillia has hit on 24-of-38 throws for 278 yards.
WBA started out with a 28-27 overtime loss to Crestwood, hung on to defeat Scranton 37-28 and then blanked Nanticoke Area 42-0.
Senior Rafael McCoy has been the Wolfpack’s biggest weapon. The gold medalist in the D2-3A 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, McCoy has run for three TDs, caught two TD passes and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. The running game has progressed nicely and finished with a season-high 242 yards vs. Nanticoke Area. The quarterbacking tandem of Kam Taylor and Talee Swinney has been effective.
Cinti said a big change from the opener is having linemen play only on one side of the ball.
“Our offensive and defensive lines are more of a platoon-type atmosphere,” Cinti said. “Our offensive line is basically staying on offense only and our defensive line is mainly on defense. … That’s helped us a great deal keeping us fresh in the four quarter.”
• Lake-Lehman hosts a Carbondale team seeking its first points of the season.
• Crestwood heads to Pottsville to take on a strong passing offense.
• Hanover Area is at Riverside where the Vikings make it difficult for visitors.
• Hazleton Area tries to rebound as it make the long ride to Williamsport.
• Holy Redeemer plays at Old Forge, the top-ranked Class A team in the state.
• Pittston Area travels to unbeaten Dallas.
• Tunkhannock tries to match last season’s win total at Honesdale.
• A winless Nanticoke Area team hosts undefeated Wyoming Area.
• Wyoming Valley West is at Berwick in a rivalry game that lost a bit of luster.
• Northwest gets the weekend off as its scheduled opponent, Holy Cross, shuttered the program due to a lack of players. Several sources said Holy Cross is unlikely to reboot the team in 2020.
WEEK 4 AT A GLANCE
Carbondale Area (0-3) at Lake-Lehman (2-1)
7 p.m. Friday
The Coaches: Carbondale Area’s Larry Gabriel (43-67, 11th year); Lehman’s Jerry Gilsky (64-40, 10th year)
Last Meeting: Lehman 40-0 in 2018
All-Time Series: Tied 1-1
Scouting Carbondale Area: The Chargers are still seeking their first points of the season, having been outscored by a combined 116-0. Scoring was an issue last year as Carbondale Area was shut out three times. QB Ray Ofner brings experience to the backfield and the offensive line is full of veterans. But so far, it’s been a struggle on both sides of the ball.
Scouting Lehman: The Black Knights defeated Hanover Area 36-9, but penalties were troublesome. Two TDs were wiped out by flags. RB Zack Kojadinovich ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns. Big senior lineman Justin James, who is in his first year of high school football, looks like he can develop into a force, especially on defense.
What To Expect: An outcome similar to last year.
Crestwood (2-1) at Pottsville (2-1)
7 p.m. Friday
The Coaches: Crestwood’s Ryan Arcangeli (2-1, 1st year); Pottsville’s Tim McGeoy (29-39, 7th year)
Last Meeting: Pottsville 33-6 in 2018
All-Time Series: Pottsville leads 3-2
Scouting Crestwood: Crestwood surprised just about everyone with a dominating performance in a 35-8 victory over Wyoming Valley West. RB Ryan Miller and QB Ryan Petrosky each rushed for over 100 yards. The defense was incredible, holding the Spartans to 31 total yards. Nice rebound for the Comets after a 42-0 loss to Dallas.
Scouting Pottsville: Pottsville pummeled Muhlenburg 50-13 last Friday as QB Damon Yost threw for 234 yards and three TDs. He’s halfway to a 1,000-yard passing season and has tossed nine touchdowns. Based on the returning players, it’s not surprising the Crimson Tide are using the airwaves. The running game has been nothing special, but it’s efficient enough.
What To Expect: If Crestwood plays like last week, it could come home a winner.
Delaware Valley (2-1) at Wilkes-Barre Area (2-1)
7 p.m. Friday
The Coaches: DelVal’s Keith Olsommer (144-86, 21st year); WBA’s Ciro Cinti (73-74, 14th year)
Last Meeting: never played
All-Time Series: never played
Scouting DelVal: DelVal posted its largest victory in school history by defeating Wallenpaupack 70-0. It was 35-0 less than 10 minutes into the game. Oh yeah, the Warriors scored 61 two weeks ago. RB Josh Balcarcel and QB Zach Scillia led the attack. Their stats aren’t gaudy, but that sometimes happened with consecutive blowout victories.
Scouting WBA: WBA rolled past Nanticoke Area 42-0. Speedster Rafael McCoy caught two TD passes, ran for a touchdown and returned a kickoff for a TD for the second time this season.The running game has gradually improved. Same goes for the run defense. However, this will be no doubt the Wolfpack’s biggest test thus far.
What To Expect: DelVal to take control after halftime.
Hanover Area (1-2) at Riverside (2-1)
7 p.m. Friday
The Coaches: Hanover Area’s Rick Hummer (1-2, 1st year); Riverside’s Harry Armstrong (56-24, 7th year)
Last Meeting: Riverside 42-0 in 2018
All-Time Series: Riverside leads 3-1
Scouting Hanover Area: Hanover Area’s 36-9 loss to Lake-Lehman was a mixed bag. At times, the Hawkeyes looked good with QB Joe Curcio throwing the ball and RB Hunter Karpowich running it. At other times, they couldn’t get anything going. That pattern will probably crop up a lot this season as Hummer builds the program.
Scouting Riverside: After a couple wins over weaker Lackawanna Conference opponents, the Vikings ran into Lakeland and lost 29-7. They had issues running the ball and committed five turnovers. All in all, though, the defense didn’t do a bad job. It was put in tough situations. As for the offense, it got on the board in the final minutes of the game.
What To Expect: Riverside to bounce back if it holds onto the ball.
Hazleton Area (1-2) at Williamsport (2-1)
7 p.m. Friday
The Coaches: Hazleton Area’s Mike Brennan (135-98, 18th year); Williamsport’s Chuck Crews (44-46, 9th year)
Last Meeting: Hazleton Area 47-13 in 2018
All-Time Series: Williamsport leads 20-10
Scouting Hazleton Area: After an emotional 35-34 win over Wyoming Valley West, the Cougars couldn’t stop Dallas’ mighty running game in a 41-13 loss. The defense allowed 337 yards on the ground and over 10 yards a carry. Although RB Kevin Meluskey had a pair of touchdowns, the offense as a whole is still trying to find its identity after graduation departures.
Scouting Williamsport: Well, Williamsport finally gave up some point, but not as many as expected in a 17-10 loss to Berwick. The yardage was lopsided – 436-80 in Berwick’s favor – but somehow the Millionaires pulled within seven with over five minutes to play. Crews was a little unsure what he had in this group, but so far it looks like a solid season is possible.
What To Expect: Williamsport in a competitive game.
Holy Redeemer (0-2) at Old Forge (3-0)
7 p.m. Friday
The Coaches: Redeemer’s Tyson Kelley (0-2, 1st year); Old Forge’s Mike Schuback (154-57, 18th year)
Last Meeting: Old Forge 42-0 in 2018
All-Time Series: Old Forge leads 6-0
Scouting Redeemer: The Royals had all kinds of trouble with Mahanoy Area’s option offense in a 53-0 loss. By the way, Mahanoy Area lost a week earlier 55-0. Redeemer has now been shut out in eight of its last 11 games. QB Colin Conway and RB Christian Leon tried to pump some life into the offense, but unless the blocking improves then it’s going to be more of the same.
Scouting Old Forge: The Blue Devils are ranked No. 1 in Class A by pennlive.com, a status a few have whispered is perhaps too lofty. True or not, Old Forge is a very good team and is definitely one of the best in the state in Class A. The schedule hasn’t been overly taxing and a tough stretch awaits starting in two weeks vs. Dunmore.
What To Expect: Can’t see the Blue Devils letting Redeemer on the board.
Pittston Area (1-2) at Dallas (3-0)
7 p.m. Friday
The Coaches: Nick Barbieri (11-14, 3rd year); Dallas’ Rich Mannello (29-20, 5th year)
Last Meeting: Dallas 41-21 in 2018
All-Time Series: Dallas leads 21-18
Scouting Pittston Area: Umm … where do you start? Up 32-7 with just over nine minutes left, the Patriots ended up losing 35-32 to Tunkhannock. The defense surrendered 284 passing yards, with many coming during those nine minutes. QB Mike Nocito threw for a career-high 332 yards, but that’s little solace when you blow a 25-point lead.
Scouting Dallas: Dallas powered its way past Hazleton Area 41-13 with the running game again churning out big yardage. QB Michael Starbuck threw just nine passes, but two were TDs to Matt Maransky. Considering how Tunkhannock passed vs. Pittston Area, Starbuck might put the ball in the air a little more although the running game should be enough.
What To Expect: Dallas to roll to a fourth victory.
Tunkhannock (2-1) at Honesdale (0-3)
7 p.m. Friday
The Coaches: Tunkhannock’s Mike Marabell (5-8, 2nd year); Honesdale’s Mike Jurkowski (7-37, 5th year)
Last Meeting: Tunkhannock 43-31 in 2017
All-Time Series: Tunkhannock leads 6-0
Scouting Tunkhannock: Down 32-7 with nine minutes left, Tunkhannock somehow rallied for a 35-32 victory over Pittston Area. QB Jack Chilson had a big hands in the comeback, including a TD pass to Jack Frisco for the game-winner. Frisco had career-highs with 11 catches for 123 yards, but the ball is spread around to several receivers. The running game took a slight step backward.
Scouting Honesdale: Honesdale was a darn good three-win team last season and nearly knocked off Dallas in the district playoffs. Alas, graduation has drained much of the offensive talent so it’s been tough going so far for the unit. Turnovers and big plays doomed Honesdale in last Friday’s 60-21 loss to unbeaten Western Wayne.
What To Expect: Tunkhannock to match last year’s win total.
Wyoming Area (3-0) at Nanticoke Area (0-3)
7 p.m. Friday
The Coaches: Wyoming Area’s Randy Spencer (63-50, 11th year); Nanticoke Area’s Ron Bruza (39-57, 10th year)
Last Meeting: Wyoming Area 35-7 in 2018
All-Time Series: Wyoming Area leads 33-7-1
Scouting Wyoming Area: The Warriors were able to overcome Northwest’s keep-away strategy for a 34-3 victory. RB Corey Mruk had 104 yards and three TDs on the ground. The defense held its third consecutive opponent to under 150 total yards. And once again, the Warriors turned an interception into a pick-6. After tonight they’ll be home four of the next six games.
Scouting Nanticoke Area: The Trojans haven’t been able to get the offensive engine cranked and with starting QB Colby Butczynski out vs. Wilkes-Barre Area things became worse. They managed just 88 yards in the 42-0 loss. The offense has scored just one TD with the other two coming via kickoff returns. Nanticoke Area should get some shots at returning kicks tonight.
What To Expect: One team is heading up, the other down. Take the up team.
Wyoming Valley West (1-2) at Berwick (3-0)
7 p.m. Friday
The Coaches: WVW’s Jack Baranski (1-2, 1st year); Berwick’s Carmen DeFrancesco (155-97, 23rd year)
Last Meeting: Berwick 40-24 in 2018
All-Time Series: Berwick leads 26-17
Scouting WVW: The Spartans enter off an ugly 35-8 loss to Crestwood. An offense that moved the ball well the first two weeks had 31 total yards. Likewise, the defense was acceptable the first two games yet gave up nearly 400 yards. All in all, it was probably one of the worst games Valley West played in a long, long time.
Scouting Berwick: The Dawgs slowed down a surging Williamsport team for a 17-10 victory. After three weeks, it’s become clear Berwick will be as good as its defense is. And the defense is extremely good. The offense piled up 436 yards yet didn’t find the end zone in the second half. The Dawgs, though, need to be cautious because this is a rivalry game.
What To Expect: Not a memorable game in the long-distance rivalry.
Wilkes-Barre Area has used Talee Sweeney (right) at quarterback along with Kam Taylor as the Wolfpack have opened their inaugural season 2-1.