SOUTH ABINGTON TWP. — Abington Heights head football coach Joe Repshis is hopeful the return of many experienced players will translate into more victories.
The Comets have won a combined nine game the past two seasons after making the District 2 Class 3A playoffs five of the previous six years.
This season, Abington Heights will make the move to Class 5A as the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) switched from four to six classifications for football. They will by joined by Wallenpaupack and Wyoming Valley West among District 2 teams.
“We’re a pretty veteran group,” Repshis said. “The senior class has played a lot of football throughout their career, especially during the last two years and they have game experience which you can’t simulate in a practice setting. That will be valuable for us as we enter the season.
“Our expectation every year is to work hard in practice to improve individually and collectively as a team. We focus on our effort, attitude and playing with a lot of passion and energy. Every year, we want to be competing to for the league championship, district championship and a spot in the state playoffs.”
Abington Heights has five returning starters on offense, including senior Colin McCreary who is back at wide receiver, kicker and punter.
Senior Brandon Hardy also returns at wide receiver and seniors Tom Rothenberger and Brad Bauman along with juniors Matthan Sherman and John Rama are expected to contribute.
Senior Nick Emmett is the projected starter at quarterback. Sophomore George Tinsley and McCreary were also working at the position during preseason practices.
“He’s been in the program for three years and has progressed nicely,” Repshis said of Emmett.
Senior Anthony Duboski and sophomore Kaleb Sherman are expected to be the main running backs. Seniors Ben Vale and Ryan Harvey should get the majority of snaps at fullback.
Senior Nick Kerekes will likely start at tight end with senior Adam Wellard, junior Owen Hivner and freshman Mike Malone providing depth at the position.
On the offensive line, senior Ryan Davis returns at right tackle, senior Nick Badalamente returns as the starting center, senior Corey Justave returns at left tackle, senior Tommy Yocum is expected to start at right guard and senior Logan Hivner is the projected starter at left guard. Senior Ty Newman, juniors Nate Gronsky and Sage Santarsiero, and sophomore Chris Callahan should add depth.
On the defensive line, Kerekes is back as a starter at defensive end, and Logan Hivner and Badalamente return as defensive tackles. Davis, Yocum, Newman, Malone, Justave and Gronsky are expected to be in a rotation for playing time.
McCreary returns at the team’s starting free safety, Emmett is back at strong safety and Rothenberger and Hardy return as a starting cornerbacks. Sherman, Duboski, junior Chase Overholser senior Quentin Nikl, and Bauman will also be competing for time in the secondary.
Owen Hivner returns as a starter at middle linebacker and Vale returns at outside linebacker. Harvey is expected to be the other starting outside linebacker. Sherman, Bauman senior Nate Rehder and freshman Matt Lastauskas should add depth at the position.
“We’ve had a lot of guys get some repetitions in the preseason,” Repshis said. “That’s going to help us as the games and season wears on. A lot of guys have performed well so far.”
Abington Heights will open its season at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday Aug. 27 at Scranton Prep.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.