Wyoming Area will look to rebuild the line on both sides of the ball in search of the combination that will allow the Warriors to repeat as Wyoming Valley Conference Class 4A Division champions.
“A point of emphasis this year will be our offensive line,” Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer said. “We’ve got talented players there. It’s a matter of developing them.”
The defense goes into the season with a similar look. It is loaded with experience at linebacker and defensive back, but will have new faces battling at the line of scrimmage.
“Defensively, especially on the back end, secondary and linebackers, we return some outstanding talent and experience,” Spencer said.
Those players helped the Warriors go 9-3 overall in a season that ended against WVC rival Berwick in the District 2 Class 4A semifinals.
P.J. Angeli has had an increasing piece of a shared quarterback duties over the past three seasons. He took the majority of the snaps there the last two seasons and is back for his senior year.
In addition to throwing the ball and engineering the offense, Angeli is the team’s leading returning rusher following the graduation of 1,000-yard runner Brian Miles.
Justin Joseph took over at fullback when Wyoming Area lost Dylan Kostak for the remainder of the season early last year. He is working there this year, along with Corey Mruk.
Donovan O’Boyle and Darren Rodney are working at tailback.
Marc Anthony Minichello, the team’s leading receiver last season, is back for his fourth season as a starting receiver. He also could be a threat to run the ball in some situations.
Robbie Trottini, Stephen Yorday, Brian Williams and Dominic DeLuca are also working at wide receiver. Shane Eslick is the tight end.
Stephen Sokach-Minnick will be the center and Damon Barhight will start at guard in the rebuilt line.
They could be joined by Thomas Wycoski, Cameron Carr and Noah Johnson.
Patrick Nelson, Michael Amato and James Gashi are the other options.
“They don’t have a lot of game experience entering the year,” Spencer said of the line candidates. “What we’re hoping for is an opportunity to get those guys to grow and develop quickly to get us in our best position.”
Barhight is the only returning starter in the defensive line where Spencer hopes to develop a rotation since most of the same players will also be working in the offensive line.
Jesse Cegelka is at nose guard and Barhight at one tackle. Wycoski could also start in the line.
Carr and Eslick are the defensive ends, who can also play outside linebacker in some alignments.
Joseph and Mruk are returning starters at linebacker.
“Defense, I feel is our strength going into the season,” Spencer said. “We’ll run to the ball well.”
That includes Angeli, who may spend some time at outside linebacker – or end in some defenses – after starting at safety throughout his career.
Minichello is back at play cornerback.
Darren Rodney started at corner last season, but will move to safety.
Trottini and Williams could join them. DeLuca and O’Boyle are also battling for starting spots or to be among the players used when Spencer goes with five or six defensive backs.
An inexperienced line can be difficult to overcome, especially for a team expected to have a say in title races.
If the holes and the time are there, Angeli and Minichello are proven producers.
An aggressive defense, which held seven of the first eight opponents to 14 points or less last season, should remain strong.