CLINTON TWP. — Lackawanna Trail’s football team advanced to the District 2 Class A title game last season for the first time since 2007.
A 49-14 loss to Old Forge in that contest left the Lions, who return many experienced players on both offense and defense, wanting more.
“We were happy making it to the district championship game, but we came up a little short,” senior wingback/linebacker Anthony Berrios said. “Once we get some of the younger guys on the line up to speed, I think we could have a pretty good year.”
Lackawanna Trail head coach Steve Jervis has been impressed with the team’s attitude in the first two weeks of practice and is excited for the start of the season.
“I like the way we approach every day,” Jervis said. “It’s a great group of kids who work hard. There are four things we really believe in at Trail: block, tackle, run and hit. I think our kids really buy into that and we’re looking forward to Friday nights.”
The maturation of sophomore quarterback Nathan Rolka could be a big factor in the team’s potential this season. As a freshman, Rolka passed for 672 yards and five touchdowns, but also threw 10 interceptions.
“I think anytime you’re running the Wing-T (offense), it’s definitely easier learning it the second time,” Jervis said. “I think he understood a lot of what we were doing last year and now it’s even more concrete. I think he understands his reads in the passing game a little bit better and his arm strength has really increased.”
Berrios and senior James Gillespie return as starters at wingback. Sophomores Jordan Edwards and Justin Carey along with junior Quinn Jagoe should also be in the mix for carries at the position.
Senior Thomas Huffsmith is back as the starter at fullback and junior Thomas Kohinsky is also expected to contribute at the position.
“In the Wing-T, we like to run to the perimeter a lot,” Jervis said. “Having guys that can do a good job not only running the ball, but also blocking on the perimeter is really important.”
Seniors Matt Bergey and Tyler Baltrusaitis return as starters at wide receiver. Sophomores Noah Coleman and Cody Moyle should add depth at receiver.
Junior Shawn Jones returns at the starter at left tackle. Senior Gregory Ellsworth is expected to start at center while junior Dillon Moyle is the projected starter at left guard. Sophomore Jacob Brim and Robbie Davis are the other projected starters on the offensive line.
“He had a great offseason in the weight room,” Jervis said of Dillon Moyle. “He’s one of those kids who plays a lot bigger than he is.”
Sophomore Zac Cost will start at tight end.
Baltrusaitis, a four-year starter, will anchor the team’s secondary.
“I’m hoping we have a good record and if we can get a district championship, that would be great,” Baltrusaitis said.
Bergey is a returning starter at cornerback and Jagoe, Coleman and Cody Moyle are in competition for the other starting corner spot.
Huffsmith, a three-year starter, and Kohinsky return as the starting inside linebackers.
Edwards and Berrios are expected to start at the outside linebacker positions.
Jervis expects to utilize a rotation on the defensive line. Along with Jones, a returning starter at defensive tackle, Cost, Carey, Gillespie, Dillon Moyle, Ellsworth and junior Nick VanFleet are all expected to contribute.
Jervis expects Old Forge to provide the toughest competition in District 2 Class A play this season.
Lackawanna Trail opens its season at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26 at Mid Valley.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.