Teams gear up for opening week of action on Friday
By Rob Wheary, Staff Writer • firstname.lastname@example.org
If there’s anyone in District 4 who would have liked for the PIAA to continue allowing two football scrimmages during the preseason, it’s probably first-year Line Mountain head coach Brandon Carson. Fortunately for Carson and the Eagles, there wasn’t much to complain about as far as performances go during Saturday’s scrimmage at Muncy.
“For the most part, we played very well. That was the pleasant surprise for us — everyone seemed to live up to exactly what we expected,” Carson said.
Carson said there were some missed play calls and other minor errors that are to be expected during a season opening scrimmage, especially when the Eagles were tasked with learning a revamped offensive scheme during the offseason.
“We had a few incorrect play calls and (linemen) made a few mistakes,” Carson said. “Not so much missing initial assignments but there were some problems with second and third assignments. We carried out blocks longer than two or three seconds and we have some work to do there, but we have the talent to make it work.”
Carson said the scrimmage was run in a 10 defensive-play, 10 offensive-play format followed by a simulation of the first half of a game.
“For the first portion we played strictly first string guys and then got some subs in after that,” he said. “The great thing is a lot of the players are on the same level. We have a bunch of areas where backups are probably just as good as our starters, so they got a lot of playing time as well.”
For those wondering if what they saw Saturday was Line Mountain’s complete repertoire, Carson said there are additional layers to the team that have not been shown yet.
“It would have been nice to have two full weeks of practice in with two full scrimmages,” he said. “We could use that time to correct mistakes and see how much progress we can make but we don’t have that luxury this year. It is what it is and we just move on and hope we can correct it in a weeks time so we’re ready to go.”
“I was proud of the kids for their effort and we were happy with the results,” Carson concluded.
Tri-Valley head coach Mike Ulicny liked what he saw with his team Saturday against cross-county rival Nativity BVM during their scrimmage in Hegins.
“The scrimmage went fine, no one got hurt and our players on both sides of the ball saw plenty of action. I thought our conditioning was pretty good and we executed well on some plays.”
Tri-Valley and Mahanoy Area scrimmaged both JV and varsity squads with both teams getting two series of 10 offensive and defensive plays. After that, the team played one-half of football without kickoffs or kick returns.
“Our big focus in a scrimmage is to see what players can help us out on the varsity level and what type of extra work they are going to need to improve themselves.
Tri-Valley opens its season against a new-look Line Mountain team and Ulicny realizes there are a couple of improvements that they need to make before they take the field in Mandata.
Ulicny said that the offensive line will be tested Friday night by Line Mountains large, aggressive defensive front, saying the team needs to sustain their blocks better. They will also need more discipline defensively.
“Besides running ‘smashmouth’ power plays out of the backfield, Line Mountain does a very nice job of running the option,” Tri-Valley’s coach said. “If we do not improve our ‘assignment football game, the Eagles are more than capable of hitting a big play.”
Ulicny praised his team for their training time, working hard in the hot, humid conditions last week, noting that he saw improvement every day.
“Hopefully, we have improved enough to be competitive on Friday night at Line Mountain,” he said.
Talking to Williams Valley head coach Tim Savage on the phone the Monday after the Vikings’ scrimmage with Mahanoy Area and one could just hear the excitement in his voice.
“We are all set to go. It is full steam ahead,” Savage said about the upcoming season.
Savage said Saturday’s scrimmage was giving each team 10 offensive and 10 defensive plays and then running a few series, playing about half a football game. In that short amount of time, Williams Valley appeared to have found its offense.
“We emassed about 400 yards of offense in that scrimmage,” Savage said. “It was balanced, too, as we had 220 yards on the ground and 180 passing yards.
The defense didn’t let up either, holding Mahanoy Area to just one score, but not for a lack of trying.
“When we were on offense, our quarterback made a poor decision and gave them the ball deep in our territory.”
With a team returning all their starters from the last two seasons, the Viking squad can’t wait to get to Elizabethville to open up the 2016 campaign against Upper Dauphin.
“The rest of the week we are just going to polish a few things and the guys are just waiting to play a full game, get on the field and play some football, Savage said.
Indian head coach Brad Hatter said Saturday’s scrimmage against York Catholic was a mixed bag of results, but good for the team to get some big-time experience.
“York Catholic is a good football team, they are moving up to AA ball this year and got some kids back that did great things for them. They were a good test for us in our first action.
During the scrimmage, both teams worked on their special teams play, then 10 plays for each on offense and defense. After that, Hatter said, the teams worked with a 20 minute running clock with different game situations.
“Looking at the game films from Saturday, I thought we struggled a little bit offensively in the beginning, has some hiccups running the offense, but I think we did some good things too. We will be making some coaching adjustments,” Hatter said. “We want to try to correct some of the things we saw.”
The corrections will have to come quick as Millersburg opens the season with cross-town rivals Halifax on Aug. 26, and Hatter hopes his team is ready for them.
“Halifax is a good well-coached football team, and they’ve only lost one senior from last year’s squad,” the coach said. We will be prepared to play a good football team. The biggest things we have to do is control the football and the line of scrimmage. Hopefully we can sustain some drives on offense and come home with a victory.
Head coach Bob Folk if anything was gained with his team scrimmaging Hanover on Aug. 20, it was confidence.
“We grew stronger and more confident as the scrimmage went on,” Folk said Tuesday, “We gained confidence.”
Folk said the combination of offensive and defensive plays and game clock situations helped the team out immensely but there is still work to be done.
“Timing was an issue for us on offense,” the coach said. “The defense is ahead of the offense right now. We have a few days to fine tune a few things before Friday.”
Their first test comes Friday night when they open at home against the Millersburg Indians, but Folk said the start of the season this year will be different than previous ones.
“We are further ahead this year compared to the last two. As a coaching staff, we went to the next level early in the summer, and the players followed right along with us. We have an experienced core of athletes this year,” Folk said.
Reports from Upper Dauphin and Pine Grove were not available as of press time
(News-Item sports editor Tim Zyla contributed to this story)