One thing is certain about Wyoming Valley West this season. The offense is going to look quite different.
No, the Spartans aren’t planning to re-haul their plan of attack. It’s going to be the people conducting it who will change.
Gone is Sean Judge, a do-everything breakaway threat. Also missing will be Aaron Austin, a dual-threat quarterback who ran the show for two years. Even some of the peripheral pieces to success also received their diplomas in June.
“Our system is our system,” coach Pat Keating said, “but it will be a different kind of team. Where we had Sean and a couple of those smaller running backs the past few years, we’re going to have a bigger and more physical group of running backs this year.
Judge scored 68 touchdowns in his career via rush, reception, returns and on defense. He even threw a TD pass.
“You don’t replace him as a player and all the intangibles he brought to the table,” Keating said of Judge, who is now playing at Shippensburg University. “At the high school level, you just don’t replace that. Our job as coaches is to be able to put personnel packages together to put our guys in the right spots where they can have success.
“Where Sean could do so many things, we’re going to have two or three guys do different things now.”
While Judge was small and extremely elusive, his replacements will be more power runners. Zach Davies and Sean Mikovitch are bigger guys who found success with limited carries in 2016. Davies averaged 6.6 yards per carry while Mikovitch averaged 5.5. Juniors Carson Canavan and Quaid Braddy are likely to get some carries as well.
Rob Dwyer had a solid season as a receiver last year, but will now shift to the quarterback spot. Wideouts Darrian Tyson, Derek Doreskewicz and Jake Blaski were all contributors to the passing offense last season. Receivers Dion Davis and Ricky Leon and tight ends Dylan Jockel and Cortes Adams also figured to make some catches.
The line is led by 6-foot-6, 305-pound Chris Bleich, who decommitted from Penn State and will now play across the country at UCLA. He and fellow senior Dom Alunni form a pair of big bookend tackles. Connor Mikovitch will be the center. Brandon Steidinger and Dave Wildey will be the guards, although Dylan Brown and Matt St. Omer could see time in those spots.
The Spartans return their top two tacklers in linebackers Davis (143 tackles) and Sean Mikovitch (110). Braddy and Canavan will round out the group.
The line brings back plenty of experience. Defensive end Sammy Solomon started as a freshman and tied for the team lead in sacks in 2016 with four. Jockel, the other D-end, also had four sacks. Bleich can clogged things up in the middle due to his size. Adams was a force at the other tackle spot last season, making 79 stops.
The secondary will need some tweaking after some losses to graduation, but there is plenty of promise there. Tyson had a couple of picks last year, while Blaski, Doreskewicz and Dwyer will round out the unit.
Valley West is already guaranteed a playoff spot since all three District 2 Class 5A teams make the postseason. Despite some key departures, the Spartans should have enough talent to unseat Abington Heights as the district champion.
As for Wyoming Valley Conference Division 6A-5A, the Spartans will likely duke it out with Williamsport for the championship.