Ron Arnold has been volunteering his time with the Wayne Highlands Youth Football Organization for 12 years now.
This season, however, he’s taken on a new leadership role within the group. As practice for the 2012 All County Conference season begins, Arnold is stepping up as head coach of the ‘B’ Team.
“I’m definitely a little bit nervous because this is a big step for me,” Ron told TWI Sports beneath a blistering August sun. “But, I’m really excited, too. I can’t wait for the season to get going so I can see what we have.”
On the surface, it appears as though Arnold has quite a bit...especially on the field.
The ‘B’ Team roster is packed with battle-tested, veteran players. This group of Stingers posted a respectable 4-5 regular season record and qualified for the ACCJFL playoffs.
Arnold is expecting even more this fall.
“We have a ton of guys back on the offensive line and two really good running backs,” he said. “If we execute the way I know we can, there’s no reason we can’t get back to the Super Bowl.
Arnold went on to say that it’s been six years since a Wayne Highlands ‘B’ Team has advanced to the league’s final game. He believes that, if these Stingers build on last year’s foundation, anything is possible.
“This is a great bunch of kids,” Arnold said. “They’re awesome to coach. They work really hard, but we have a lot of fun, too.”
The Stingers’ exhibition slate was scheduled to start Wednesday evening with an informal scrimmage against Wallenpaupack. From there, things begin in earnest.
On Friday night, Wayne Highlands travels to Sharkey Rosetti Memorial Stadium in Varden for a full slate of contests against Western Wayne. Opening kick-off for the first game is set for 4:30 p.m.
Arnold is champing at the bit to get his first season as head coach underway.
The Stingers are already deep into a rigorous summer practice regimen...one that should pay huge dividends down the road.
“Our only weak point right now is conditioning, but we’re taking care of that,” he said with a smile while watching his players drill in the afternoon sun. “By the time the season starts, we’ll be in great shape.”
Tanner Box, Kevin Bednar, Justin LoBasso, Ethan Dunn and Jacob Kabonick have emerged as on-field leaders. Each has been named a captain for the 2012 season.
LoBasso and Box will anchor a talented offensive backfield.
Justin, who is affectionately called “Boots” by coaches and teammates alike, presents a nightmare match-up problem for opposition defenses. LoBasso will be the Week One starter at tailback.
“Bootsy can lower his shoulder and pick up tough yards when he has to, but he also has the speed to score from just about anywhere on the field,” Arnold said.
Box will line up at fullback. He’ll provide lead blocking for LoBasso, carry the ball from time-to-time and even sneak out for the occasional swing pass or screen.
“Tanner’s a power back,” Arnold said. “He runs with his head down and his shoulders square. Tanner is really tough to tackle.”
Kabonick holds down the right offensive tackle spot and should figure prominently in the Stingers’ ground game. Jake is a hard-working, multi-sport athlete who also excels in wrestling.
“Jake hustles at everything he does,” Arnold said. “He’s the only lineman I know at this level who fires off the ball like a high school player. He’s going to mow some people down.
Dunn is the ‘B’ Team quarterback. He’s been in the system for a long time now and presents a double threat as passer and runner.
“Ethan isn’t the biggest guy in the world, but he plays hard and he knows the offense like the back of his hand,” Arnold said. “He has good presence in the huddle and he’s very tough.”
Bednar will see action on both sides of the ball. Kevin is slated to play on the offensive line and as a member of the linebacking corps.
“We’re expecting big things from Kevin this season,” said Arnold. “He’s been working hard in practice and he should be a difference-maker on gameday.”
Over & Out
Arnold was very specific when asked about goals for his team’s first two scrimmages.
“I really don’t care much about wins and losses in those games,” he said. “What I’m looking for is aggressiveness and execution. I want to see our kids hustling all over the field.”
Paupack and Pocono Mountain will present challenges for the Stingers in ACCJFL action this fall. North Pocono is also on Coach Arnold’s radar as a dark horse playoff possibility.
“It’s a really good league,” he said. “There aren’t any gimmes on the schedule. We’ll have to be ready to play every single week.”
Arnold is thrilled with the staff he’s assembled. He was quick to point out that he’s just one of four coaches working hard with Wayne Highlands players.
This year’s ‘B’ Team assistants are: Joe LoBasso, John Box and Mike Bancroft.