By: Brian Fees | Towanda Daily Review | August 30, 2013 | Photo courtesy Brian Fees
Kids are heading back to school, summer is coming to an end and it's time once again for high school football to get started.
Throughout Pennsylvania tonight the lights will come on again as football teams begin another season.
This season things start off with a number of teams making long trips to begin the year, while the season doesn't begin in New York until next week.
(All games today 7 p.m. starts)
The Black Knights will travel to Bucknell University to kick off their season against the Green Dragons.
"They sure are ready to start playing football," Towanda coach Jamie Wecker said. "They have been practicing for three weeks, they are ready to hit somebody else."
For Towanda it's a long trip, but for Wecker the bigger concern is the fact that Towanda doesn't begin the school year until September 9.
"We have taken long trips before, we will plan accordingly, there are certain things we do with long trips to give them time to walk around and get adjusted," Wecker said. "This year is a little different, usually we are in school, we need to make sure the kids are up, that they don't sleep in late and they get up and get moving."
For Wecker there are advantages and challenges to the kids not being in school when the season begins.
"In one way it is easier, we don't have to worry about school and getting out at 3 o'clock, on the other hand when they are in school you can control them," Wecker said. "We have a plan for Friday to make sure the kids are getting ready and focused early in the day."
Wecker knows that Lewisburg will be a good test for the Black Knights to begin the season.
"No doubt, we are going to know a lot about our character and our team as a whole on Friday night," he said. "They are a solid team, they have a good quarterback, a good running back with the wing T. Our focus is Lewisburg and doing what we need to do to be successful when we go down there."
New coaches James Buchman at Wyalusing and Matt Hildebrand at Wellsboro will look to get their teams off to a strong start this year.
"They are excited," Buchman said of the Rams. "We worked all summer competing against each other, the scrimmages are nice, but they are looking forward to actual game competition."
Hildebrandt knows that his kids are ready for the game.
"They are very excited, they put in a lot of hard work over the summer," he said. "We haven't gone back to school yet, so we had a lot of extra practices we haven't had in the past."
For the Green Hornets they are happy to begin the season at home.
"They are definitely looking forward to it," he said. "Being able to play in front of the home fans, they are looking forward to that."
Wyalusing knows it's a long trip, but they will be ready for it.
"It is something we also have to deal with, they had to deal with the same thing coming from Wellsboro to Wyalusing last year," Buchman said. "We will have them prepared for it."
Both teams know the first game will be a big challenge.
"I see Wellsboro has a lot of athletes on their team," Buchman said. "It will be a good challenge to see how the kids play week one on the road."
Hildebrandt knows that his team needs to be ready for the Rams size.
"Wyalusing, they are always tough, they are known for power football," he said. "They always seem to have big kids every year and we expect more of the same this year. It will be a tough team like it always is and we are going to have to play well."
For both squads getting the season off on the right foot is key.
"It's extremely important, we kind of harped on that going through camp," Hildebrandt said. "We will take it one game at a time, the first game is very important for our team. If we want to get to our goals at the end of the year, we need to start by getting this first one."
With a young squad the Rams know that playing well early in the year is crucial.
"Especially because our team isn't full of upperclassmen, a lot of our team is younger players and they need that confidence early in the season to build as the year goes on," Buchman said. "It's important to get off to a good start. Not necessarily with wins or loses, but competing in every game."
After reaching the District 4 playoffs last year the Troy Trojans have high hopes for this year and they are ready to get the season started today.
"Emotionally we are an excited football team," Troy coach Jim Smith said. "We are ready to get the season started. We are still growing, we are replacing a couple seniors that left us. The kids are in the process of gelling and trying to become better every day."
The Trojans know there are areas they need to keep improving on as this season gets started.
"Athletically we are in pretty good shape," Smith said. "We lost a couple really good linemen to graduation, but we've got some pretty capable kids. They are doing a good job, they are doing the best they can and learning every day. I feel that our strength will be our defense. We return nine of our 11 guys.
"Until we can get our offense up and running, I think our defense will keep us in a lot of football games."
Smith knows that the Trojans will face an improved Jersey Shore team this year.
"Our focus is really one week at a time, on film I can tell you Jersey Shore is a different team than we played last year," he said. "I see a lot of the same faces from last year, but they are much improved. Our kids are going to have to really, really play their best brand of football off the bat to compete with this football team. Our eyes are on Jersey Shore and that's it."
Last season wasn't what the Warriors were hoping for record wise and now Canton is ready to get this season started and bounce back with a big season.
"They are very excited as well as the community," new coach Jay Perry said. "Our seniors, we have a large group of seniors, they won three games last year and they have a chip on their shoulder and have something to prove."
Perry knows the Warriors will have a tough test week one.
"Muncy is a very well coached team, they have a lot of good skill players," Perry said. "Defensively they move well, they are just going to be a tough opponent from top to bottom, they are just coached very well.
"No doubt, we will find out what we have against Muncy. We just came off two very tough scrimmages without any major injuries. We are just excited to go down there and see what we have. They are the real deal."
While the Warriors are hoping for a successful season, there only concern today is Muncy.
"We are trying to preach every day in practice, it starts one game at a time," Perry said. "We are only looking at Muncy right now on Friday night and we are not looking at anything else."
The plan originally was for the Wildcats to open the season with Waverly.
However, after New York pushed the start of their season back by a week, Athens wound up with a long trip to begin the season.
After a nearly three hour trip the Wildcats will take on a Port Allegany team that was in the Class A state semifinals last year.
"It's that time of year again," Athens coach Jack Young said. "They've worked hard in the summertime, doing their thing then two long weeks of pre-season. I felt they were two pretty good weeks. We're playing a very strong program, a team that played in the state semifinals. We feel like it's going to be a very competitive, good ballgame for us."
While there are plenty of new faces for Athens this year, their approach won't change much this season.
"Running the football, our approach isn't going to change," Young said. "We've got new people and we need to find a new identity, but when we run the ball, that's who we are. In the first game of the year, the team that makes the least amount of mistakes really has the advantage."
Young knows that Port Allegany is going to be a tough test.
"They're doing the same exact thing as in the past, they had a very good quarterback, player of the year in Single A, he's gone, but they will still spread the field no huddle. I think this quarterback is different, very athletic, but doesn't throw the ball as well. We have to handle the pace and communicate on defense. We have to do a really good job defensively of containing people and tackling. Tackling is a big part of the ball game."
While both teams had success last year Young knows this is a new year.
"We talked about that a little tonight, I'm sure they know about us like we know about them," he said. "This is a new year, they are coming off a great season playing in the state semifinals and having great stuff happen for them. Hopefully we can come in there and take it to them and make sure they are ready to go. We hope to take it to them and weather the storm that way."
Sayre coach Larry Hanafin has seen what CMVT did in scrimmages, he knows what they did last year, but this is a new year and the first game of the season and everyone will be trying to find out about each other as the season begins today.
"That's the whole thing, you never know," he said. "You just don't' know for sure what their base of attack is or what they are trying to experiment with. We look at it every year and we are just going to focus on making ourselves better."
Hanafin expects a test in the season opener.
"They are always physical, they are always tough, they always play hard," he said. "The first game when you look at scrimmage tape it's hard to tell what they are holding back and what they are going to emphasize. We know they are always tough physically. We have to focus on fixing all the mistakes we had in our previous scrimmage."
Sayre's schedule is set up to have a very tough finish this year, but while Hanafin knows it's crucial to get off to a fast start, he knows he can't look past any opponent.
"I was talking to a neighbor about that and I said every single game we play is a tough game," Hanafin said. "For us to look past CMVT would be a crucial mistake. Every part of our schedule is tough, because every team we play is a tough team. We look at one game at a time and just prepare for that game."
The Panthers are excited to get the season started and begin the year at home this year.
"They are excited, they have had two good weeks of camps and they are looking forward to Friday night," North Penn coach Tom Dickinson said. "It will be nice, we only had four home games last year. This will be nice to start the season at home, it's on our grass field and not down at their turf."
Dickinson knows that they will face a tough test in Loyalsock.
"Their key is (Kyle) Datres at quarterback," Dickinson said. "We will see what happens with him. He hasn't scrimmaged in both scrimmages. We have to prepare for him. We have to prepare for their team without him and their team with him.
For the Panthers it will take some planning to prepare for Loyalsock both with and without Datres.
"I was on my cell phone with my defensive coordinator and we will have a package of what they are doing this year and then also look at film of last year," Dickinson said. "We will tell our defense that we have a Datres package if he plays. We will work both ways to get their mindset to be ready for whoever is in the ballgame that they might see."
While last year wasn't what the Panthers wanted record wise, Dickinson knows a lot of young players gained experience and are ready for this year.
"There are a lot of players playing this year who played a lot last year," he said. "They are excited. They are trying to show people what they can do. We were playing a lot of sophomores who are juniors this year and this senior class has something to prove."
A year ago the Indians started the season on the right foot and that is giving them confidence as they head into this year.
"I think the kids are really excited," Cowanesque Valley coach James Burns said. "I think they have a little different confidence after starting the season with a couple wins last year."
CV hopes to get off to a good start again this year, only this time they hope that carries over throughout the rest of the season.
"I think that's really big, they just can't settle," Burns said. "Last year after winning against Wellsboro was such a huge thing I think they thought okay, that's good enough. They are so used to going winless or one win that two wins they thought was good enough and we can't settle for that this year."
Burns isn't sure exactly what to expect with a Montgomery team that has a new coaching staff.
"Montgomery has a new coach, a new offense, a new defense," Burns said. "He is their baseball coach who has gone pretty far in states, so he might teach them how to win."
Burns is happy with what he has seen from his team so far.
"I am really happy with the team," he said. "It's the second year with my offensive and defensive system in. I told my wife tonight how proud I am with the boys. I am excited. I think we have some athletes, but we are thin, with only 30 or 35 guys on the team."