Western Wayne's varsity football team carries high expectations into the Lackawanna League campaign
If anyone out there in Wayne County SportsWorld is wondering whether or not folks are taking Western Wayne seriously as a Lackawanna Football Conference title contender, consider this:
North Pocono's entire coaching staff and 31 of its varsity players turned up at Peckville to scout the 'Cats as they battled Valley View in their final scrimmage.
“Western Wayne is much improved,” Coach Greg Dolhon told TWI Sports.
“They're big up front and they have a couple of skill kids who can really make plays. No one should take them lightly. They're going to surprise some people.”
Second year skipper Don McDonough was aware of the added attention and took it in stride.
“We saw them all there,” he said of North Pocono's contingent. “Valley View can be an intimidating place and that could have made it even worse.
“But, it didn't seem to bother the kids at all. It just didn't faze them. They went out there with incredible intensity right from the start and played great.”
Friday night's scrimmage was Western Wayne's final tune-up before the start of the Lackawanna Football Conference regular season.
The 'Cats open their 2014 campaign with a Week One road trip to North Pocono. Opening kick-off is slated for 7 p.m. in Moscow.
If last Friday evening's performance is any indication, Western Wayne fans are in for an exciting football season this fall.
The 'Cats dominated perennial LFC and District Two powerhouse Valley View in its final exhibition game, scoring twice on the Veterans Memorial Stadium turf while shutting out the Cougars on defense.
“I'm very pleased with what I saw,” said Coach McDonough. “I think we're going to be really balanced on offense and tough on defense.
“We have to stay healthy because we don't have a ton of kids on the roster. If we can stay away from injuries, we'll be in great shape.”
Western Wayne dressed only 27 players for its trip to Peckville. However, 25 of those kids saw serious action on offense, defense and special teams.
Kourtney Harp dazzled onlookers with several explosive plays at tailback position.
A junior who's getting his first chance to start after the graduation of Jayson Figueroa, Harp broke free for an electrifying TD run on the second play of live action.
He took a hand-off from quarterback Scotty Walck, cut back on a perfectly-execute counter play and raced 65 yards to paydirt.
Kourtney followed the blocks of two potential Division I college linemen in seniors Matt Witt and Andrew Sledzinski.
“We definitely controlled the line of scrimmage up front,” Coach McDonough said. “Valley View is big, so we wanted to run it right at them a couple of times and see what we could do.”
Western Wayne tallied on its next possession as well, marching all the way to the Cougars' five yardline before settling for a short Matt Lombardi field goal.
Scotty Walck and Kyle Haines each turned in stellar performances during the scrimmage.
Walck is the Wildcats' talented sophomore signal caller. He was a perfect 8-for-8 passing, good for just over 70 yards.
While receivers Kyle Coons and Kyle Smith were also in on the action, Coach McDonough was thrilled with the play of Haines.
The senior wideout made two outstanding catches, the first of which went for 25 yards and the second for 35.
“Scotty and Kyle have been working hard since last November,” said Coach McDonough. “They've developed a really good relationship on and off the field.
“It's going to be really hard for other teams to load the box against us, because those two kids are capable of really big plays.”
Another positive sign for Wildcat fans is the showing made by a young, fired-up and physical defense.
Last fall, Western Wayne was once again ranked near the bottom statistically in Division II. The 'Cats gave up nearly 400 yard of total offense per game, a number surpassed only by a woeful Riverside unit.
“It's not really a secret that we've struggled the past several on defense,” Coach McDonough said. “If we want to moving in the right direction, that absolutely has to change.”
Two players who are expected to help in that effort are Brandon Tuite and Dakota Swoyer. Both are junior linebackers and each is champing at the bit to make an impact in Western Wayne's 4-3 scheme.
“Dakota played very well, but Brandon was just lights-out,” said Coach McDonough. “He has the speed to go sideline-to-sideline, but he also comes up hard and makes big hits.
“I'm expecting big things from Dakota and Brandon this season.”