Western Wayne football team looks to build on 2016 EC playoff win
The tale of Western Wayne's 2016 varsity football season was clearly divided into two very different chapters.
Under the direction of rookie head coach Randy Wolff, the Wildcats roared out to a 5-1 start.
However, the local lads then proceeded to lose their final four games and finish out the Lackawanna Football Conference campaign at 5-5.
Fortunately for Varden fans, that mark was good enough for a berth in the Eastern Conference tourney and a home playoff game.
The 'Cats made the most of this opportunity, rallying for a wild 26-21 win over Wilkes Barre Meyers before a huge crowd at Sharkey Rosetti Memorial Stadium.
Coach Wolff began the process of building on that historic victory this week, starting the season with an appearance at the 6th Annual LFC Media Day.
This year's edition of the event was held Monday afternoon at the Regal Room in Olyphant. It was hosted by Hall of Famer and former Paupack head coach Stan Kucharski.
Representatives from all 20 member schools attended the event, which serves as the official kick-off to the local high school football campaign.
“I'm excited about the season and happy to be here,” Coach Wolff said.
“We have a great group of kids out for the team. I'm hoping we can capitalize a little bit on what we accomplished last year and build on it going forward.”
Heat acclimation work-outs commence on Monday, Aug. 4, followed by a week of double sessions leading up to that all-important first scrimmage.
Another exhibition game follows, setting the stage for Opening Night. The Wildcats will kick-off their regular season campaign on Friday, Aug. 25 at home versus Carbondale Area.
Coach Wolff brought senior stars Ben Burkhardt and Bailey Walck to the Media Day luncheon.
Both are seniors and each brings something special to the football field.
Burkhardt is a versatile player who'll be starting both ways this fall. He'll split time between fullback and tight end on offense, while playing inside backer defensively.
“Ben does a lot of things for us,” Coach Wolff said. “He's a hard working kid who we can plug in at a bunch of different positions. We're expecting big things from Ben this year.”
Walck will also go both ways in 2017. He's slated to see action as a receiver offensively and at outside linebacker on defense.
“Bailey got pushed in to tight end last year because of injuries and he did a great job,” Coach Wolff said. “This year, Bailey's moving back to the outside and I think he's going to have a big season.”
While Burkhardt and Walck are already providing leadership for the 'Cats, one huge question currently looms over the varsity squad.
Who will succeed All-Regional performer Scotty Walck at quarterback?
“Scotty was a really big presence in the program,” Coach Walck said. “He was a leader, on and off the field, and he holds a ton of school records.
“It won't be easy trying to fill Scotty's shoes. So, what we're trying to do is create a healthy, competitive atmosphere that will bring out the best in our kids.”
Among those vying for that coveted starting spot are Dylan Walck (Jr), Matt Valanda (Soph) and Ezra Tetreault (Soph).
“All three of them will get a shot and we'll just have to wait and see which one of them rises to the top,” Coach Wolff said.
Wrapping It Up
Western Wayne comes into the 2017 campaign as the reigning Eastern Conference Class AAA champion.
As such, the Wildcats will have the proverbial bullseye on their backs. However, Coach Wolff believes this will serve as motivation in taking things to the next level.
“Our main focus this year will be getting the kids to play at a high level every week,” he said.
“Last year, we played really well in some games and not so well in others. I want us to be a little more consistent in all three aspects of the game: offense, defense and special teams.”
The local lads will face several quality opponents en route to what they hope will be a second straight playoff appearance.
A particularly brutal stretch of the schedule sees them playing District Two Class 4A champion North Pocono (Oct. 6); Scranton Prep (Oct. 13); Valley View (Oct. 20); West Scranton (Oct. 27).