SCRANTON — The Scranton Prep football team has made four consecutive postseason appearances and with many talented players returning to the squad, the Cavaliers might be primed to exceed their past accomplishments.
Corey Christian, who is attracting the attention of several college programs, returns to anchor the offensive and defensive lines. The senior believes the team has to stay energized and focused in order to continue its run of success.
“We have to keep (positive) attitudes and an excitement for the game,” he said. “Last year, everybody was banged up by the end of the season. If we stay healthy this year, we can keep going.”
Christian, at offensive tackle, is one of three returning starters on the offensive line. Seniors Thor Balavage and Matt D’Andrea will start at center and guard, respectively. Junior Max Borgia is expected to step in at guard and sophomore Kyle Polishan will start at the other tackle spot.
Junior Jake Ryan, who served as the junior varsity team’s quarterback last season, is expected to replace Nick Solfanelli, who graduated.
“He has a lot of good experience,” Scranton Prep head coach Nick Donato said of Ryan. “Between the junior varsity games and throwing the ball against our first group last year, hopefully, he’ll be ready.”
Senior Justin Weckel returns as the starting running back after accounting for 755 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Junior Ricky Morgan will also be in the mix for playing time at the position. Senior Tyler Stafursky returns as the starter at fullback.
With three returning players in the offensive backfield, Donato hopes to establish a stronger rushing attack this season.
“Last year, we threw the ball really well and were only so-so in the running game,” Donato said. “I think we’re going to need to have more balance this year to be successful.”
Seniors David Horvath, Kevin Holmes and Joe Skoff will be the team’s top threats at wide receiver. Senior Chris O’Brien is the projected starter at tight end.
Holmes returns at punter and junior Biagio D’Appolino is expected to handle kicking duties.
On defense, Stafursky returns at linebacker after leading the team with 69 tackles last season. Weckel and senior Will Mulligan, who totaled 60 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions a year ago, also return as linebackers.
Stafursky credits advice from former teammates, now playing at Division 1 college programs, for his development as a player.
“I learned that no matter where you are, whether it’s a game or practice, you should always go as hard as you can,” he said. “You can always get better, and there is always someone bigger and better than you.”
Christian returns as a starter at defensive end after leading the team with eight sacks last season. Thor Balavage returns as the other starter at defensive end. He accounted for 67 tackles and five sacks last season. D’Andrea returns at defensive tackle after recording 45 tackles and two sacks last season. Borgia is projected as the other defensive tackle and Polishan should see time at defensive end. Skoff, Holmes and Horvath will likely make up the defensive secondary.
“We’re returning a solid nucleus up front on both sides of the ball,” Donato said. “If those kids continue to make progress and we can get some guys to step in and do the job at the skill positions, it could be a good year.”
In his ninth season as the head coach at Scranton Prep, Donato expects Abington Heights, Delaware Valley, North Pocono, Scranton, Valley View and Wallenpaupack to provide the toughest competition in Lackawanna League Division 1 play.
Scranton Prep will open the 2015 season at Dunmore in a non-conference game at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.