2019 Season Preview: WVC Big School

Coaches Consensus Predictions:
1. Dallas
2. Berwick
3. Williamsport
4. Wyoming Valley West
5. Hazleton Area
6. Wilkes-Barre
7. Crestwood
8. Pittston Area
9. Nanticoke
10. Tunkhannock

Two Class 4A schools are on top of the WVC Big Schools and for good reason. Both Dallas and Berwick are coming off oustanding seasons and have plenty back to win district titles. The four largest schools – Williamsport, Valley West, Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre all seem to be pretty even. After them, we see the other four Class 4A schools listed

*Editors note: Some coaches did not respond to requests for information.

Dallas Mountaineers
Coach Rich Mannello (5th season, 26-20)
Class 4A
2018 Record: 11-2 (8-0)
Stadium: Mounaineers Stadium

When Coach Rich Manello played many of the current seniors played as freshman, Dallas took their lumps. Now, they are the one delivering this lumps to other opponents.  His philsophy is the same as it was when he got here. “We have to stick to the daily process that this group of seniors has grown up on. We have to manage the “unavoidable’s” and minimize the “avoidable’s”.

Almost the entire offense and defense return. Michael Starbuck is back at quarterback after missing the playoffs last season. Lenny Kelley returns running behind Danny Meuser. Both receivers are back in Luke Delgaudio and Matt Maransky. Tight end Jack Farrell also returns. Xander Shaner, Andy Molitoris, Josh Balara and Taylor Bolesta return on the offensive line. Ryan Fisher who kicked some game winners last season is back as the placekicker.

On defense, the line will get back Balara, Bolesta and Shaner. All three linebackers return – Nikolus Gashi, Kelley and Meuser. In the secondary, Dylan Schuster, RJ Wren and Jake Esposito all started last season.

Berwick Bulldogs
Coach Carm DeFrancesco (1st season at Berwick; 23rd season overall, 152-97)
Class 4A
2018 Record: 9-3 (6-1)
Stadium: Crispin Field

New head coach Carm DeFrancesco has been around at several different programs and seem satisfied with his career. When the Berwick job opened, he jumped at it. He will be tasked with trying to get the Dawgs past Valley View and Dallas in the district.

Ryan Laubach was the starting quarterback at the end of the season last year and should be the starter in 2019. Aiden Mason steps in at running back while East Carolina recruit is the leading returning receiver.  Noah Craig and Mike Zalutko will anchor the offensive line.

The defense should be very good again led by all-state lineman Mason Laubach. Eric Montes is also getting Division 1 looks. Blake Cleaver leads the will move the safety while Wilk will be the leader of a secondary that will add some speedy youngsters.

Williamsport Millionaires
Coach Chuck Crews (6th season at Williamsport, 30-17; 9th season overall, 41-46)
Class 6A
2018 Record: 5-6 (3-2)
Stadium: Millionaire Stadium

Coach Chuck Crews has a lot of players he needs to replace. But Williamsport usually has a well of talent.

Sophomore Dallas Greiss takes over at quarterback while Drak Mankey and Keith Freeman will get a shot at the tailback position. Brock Moyer is the leading returning wide receiver. Tight end Nasir Jones is one of the best in the WVC. Beau Smith is the only returning lineman who had significant playing time.

Williamsport’s defense wasn’t good last year. Jones is very good and will also lead the Millionaires up front. Mankey is the leading tackler returning at linebacker. The secondary will be the strong point with Greiss, Mankey and Moyer with experience.

Wyoming Valley West Spartans
Coach Jack Baranski (1st season)
Class 5A
2018 Record: 5-5 (4-2)
Stadium: Spartan Stadium

Former assistant Jack Baranski is now the head coach after Pat Keating stepped down in June. He is very familiar with the program and the transition should be fairly seamless. “We expect to be competitive week in and week out in the Wyoming Valley Conference.” The Spartans were 4-2 last season against WVC foes, but will need to play better to beat outside foes and get into the subregional in Class 5A.

Dontae Rhodes will be the new quarterback for Valley West. Zack McDaniels, Brendan Woods and Darius Redguard will all play both backfield spots.  The big playmaker should be Nah-Syr Garner who returns at wide receiver. Dylan Nastanski, Jerimiah Williams and Salem Diop will also get looks at the position. Jon Stochla and Jordan Evans will compete for tight end playing time. Brandon Tirado, Nate Mooney and Donald Messersmith are returning lineman which should be a strength for the Spartans.  Mark Raskiewicz and Noah Anderscavage will fill the other two spots.

The defensive front will comprise of Tirado, Stolcha, Evans and Ja’Mir Murphy. The linebacker corp is very strong with Woods back. Anderscavage will also play linebacker. McDaniels, who was a linebacker last season, has moved to the secondary. Redguard, Williams, Garner and Nastanski will all see time at defensive back.

Hazleton Area Cougars
Coach Mike Brennan (6th season at Hazleton, 21-34; 21st overall, 134-96)
Class 6A
2018 Record: 6-6 (2-4)
Stadium: Harman-Giest Memorial Field

Hazleton had a disappointing start to 2018, but won four straight at the end of the season before bowing in the district title game to Delaware Valley. Coach Mike Brennan has to replace some talented players, and knows there could be some growing pains.

“We lost three All-State selections including our all-time leading passer and graduated over 92% of our offensive production. We could struggle until youth develops. ”

All new faces on offense with the exception of lineman Jason Biever. The Cougars will have some talent as Matt Fisher takes over at quarterback. Lance Johnson will be the new tailback, Kevin Meluskey the new fullback, Evan Matyas, Christian Price at wide receiver and Bryce Torstup at tight end. The new linemen are Richie Santos, Leo Kelly and Matt Minzola.

There are more returners on defense including three up front – Seth Hunsinger, Bryce Reed and Santos. Meluskey is a returning starter at linebacker and the overall best defensive player. Fisher will be the quarterback of the secondary as well as the only returning starter.

Wilkes-Barre Wolfpack
Coach Ciro Cinti (1st season at Wilkes-Barre; 14th overall, 71-73)
Class 6A
2018 Record: N/A
Stadium: Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium

It’s a fresh start for the players who called Coughlin, G.A.R and Meyers home. The Wilkes-Barre Wolfpack will debut with better numbers, but also more challenges as they play in the Class 6A. Former Coughlin coach Ciro Cinti will start the new program.

Kam Taylor will probably be the quarterback although Talee Swinney could see some time. Several players are in the mix at running back including Corey Brown and Noah Taylor. The receivers will be very good. Malachi Williams was an all-league player last year and Rafael McCoy is a speedster. Silas Armstrong looks to be the starting tight end. The Wolfpack will be big but inexperienced up front led by Randall Bednar and Greg DeLeon.

The defense will be solid with Noah Taylor the best returning linebacker. Up front, Armstrong and Bednar will anchor the defensive line. McCoy and Tyrere Dobson look to contribute.

Crestwood Comets
Coach Ryan Arcangeli (1st season)
Class 4A
2018 Record: 2-8 (2-7)
Stadium: Crestwood Stadium

The Comets bring aboard new coach Ryan Arcangeli in hopes to give the team a spark. He plans to make changes on and off the field.

“Success in football isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work and a full team effort. If we continue to make strides with our commitment to our new direction and adhere to our core values, we will put ourselves in position to have success.”

Crestwood will have a new quarterback as Ryan Petrosky moves to the position from wide receiver. Ryan Miller will be the new tailback while Logan Arnold takes over at fullback. The Comets actually have three wide receivers returning, but only one will play there in 2019 and that’s Garrett Swank. UConn recruit Brandon Niemenski moves to the position he will play in college, tight end. Brenden DeMarzo and Jesse Zaykoski will be the new faces at the wide receiver position. Crestwood does have three starters returning on the line – Derek Petrochko, Tyler Cesario and Matt Dean. Dylan Horn, and Mike Phillips will fill out the unit.

On defense, Petrochko is the only returning lineman. Ryan Harding, Jake Gower, Tyler Cesario and Dean will be the new linemen for Crestwood. Both linebackers, Arnold and Jimmy Hawley, are returning starters. Swank, Miller, DeMarzo and  TJ Kulakall got playing time last season in the secondary. Evan Burleson could also play at defensive back.

Pittston Area Patriots
Coach Nick Barbieri (3rd season, 10-12)
Class 4A
2018 Record: 6-6 (4-3)
Stadium: Charley Trippi Stadium

Coach Nick Barbieri is trying to establish a standard at Pittston Area. Kids are starting to buy in and the results will get better. However, there are still some obstacles.

“We have a solid group of skill players, but are inexperienced up front,” remarked Barbieri. “Our success will depend on how quickly we mature on the line of scrimmage.”

Quarterback Michael Nocito is back and will be looking for his number one target Andrew Krawczyk.  Brennan Higgins is the other wide receiver while Alex Anastasi takes over at tight end. Dylan Lukachko returns to pace the running game at tailback. The line has one returning starter in Steven Yanchis.  Adrian Colon, Hugh Bentham, John Galonis and Teagan Reboli will fill in the other spots.

Only one starter returns in the defense front seven and that’s linebacker Franny George.  John Symons, Alex Hoban and DJ Darbenzio will be the other three linebackers. Adrian Colon, Hugh Bentham and Steven Yanchis are slated to start on the defensive line. The secondary is in decent shape with Lukachko and Higgins back as returning starters. Anastasi and Krawczyk will play the other two spots.

Nanticoke Trojans
Coach Ron Bruza (10th season, 39-54)
Class 4A
2018 Record: 6-5 (3-2)
Stadium:  Nanticoke Footbal Stadium

Nanticoke ended last season with an Eastern Conference championship and winning season and hope to build on that. “We hope to be competing to be .500 and earn a playoff berth,” commented coach Ron Bruza.

Colby Butczynski returns at quarterback and will have some dangerous weapons in the passing game in receivers Keanu Emmons and Darren Boseman. Seth Pelton also returns at tight end. The fullback Collin Kudrako-Kashatus returns while the new tailbacks will be Pierson Park and Nate Penko. Four offensive linemen return including Kyle Bobeck, Braden Zaremba, Chris Shon and Elijah Collison.

On defense, the entire line is back including Henry Sedorchak, Bobeck, Shon and Collison. Also returning are linebackers Pelton and Kudrako-Kashatus. Oscar Kzynewski will be the newcomer to the unit. Boseman and Emmons return to the secondary and will be joined by a combination of Nate Penko, Dylan Tuthill, Joe Fox and Sincere Shiloh.

Tunkhannock Tigers
Coach Mike Marabell (2nd season, 3-7)
Class 4A
2018 Record: 3-7 (1-4)
Stadium:  Memorial Field

Tunkhannock showed some promise but they are going to have to continue to grow to compete with the other Class 4A schools in the district.

Jack Chilson returns as the quarterback and will be handing the ball to tailback Gavin D’Amato a lot. Jake Frisco will be the main target in the passing game while district wrestling champ Jhamal Zacharias will start at tight end. The offensive line is the biggest concern and is a work in progress. On defense, Zacharias and Alex Dailey will be up front while D’Amato is the heart of the unit at linebacker.