Here we are once again at the start of a new school year. As sure as teachers will hand out new pencils and books, the football season brings excitement and school spirit to each school.
In this, my 21st year of coaching high school football, I have seen and coached both successful and unsuccessful teams. At this time, the final week of double sessions, there is only one thing that is for sure: Every team is undefeated with each full of optimism for the upcoming season.
Although I coach at a school outside of the TIMES NEWS area (Southern Lehigh), I have made a connection with many of the area coaches. This is my hope and wish for each of them as the season starts.
Tamaqua: I coached with Sammy Bonner at Northern Lehigh and seeing what he has done with the Blue Raider program is remarkable. A district birth and a tough overtime loss to rival Panther Valley (32-26) in the first round were tough pills to take in the off-season. Getting back to districts will be tough with the four team playoff format. They have a lot of talent back and if the pieces fall right, they could nab one of them.
Panther Valley: Frank Damian took the talented group of kids that he had and put together tow great seasons for the Panthers. In doing the previews for the TIMES-NEWS and seeing Coach Damian at weight lifting competitions in the off-season, Coach Damian has been energetic and excited about teaching his kids. This year he has his work cut out for him in needing to replace a good senior class. His excitement for his team has not changed. With that said, mark down the rivalry game with Tamaqua as a must-see event.
Jim Thorpe: I have not spoken to Coach Rosenberger in a bit, but he has proved himself as a head coach as the Olympians have been a formidable opponent until last years hiccup. The 4-6 season was quite uncharacteristic but with improved talent in Panther Valley and Tamaqua, it is understandable. Look for Roseberger to retool and put the Olympians in the hunt for the post season again.
Marian: I was coached by Colt mentor Stan Dakosty at the Kutztown University Football Camp long ago. In that time, there were very few Marian seasons that ended with a 3-7 season. Coach Dakosty is too good of a coach to have a repeat like that. Look for his talent as a coach to put the Colts back near the top of the standings.
Palmerton: After losing to Coach Paul McArdle's bombers by a point for two years in a row, we were able to slip past them with a big second half last season. After turning the program into a champion, last season's year was quite unexpected. McArdle's team will be much stronger this season and our matchup will most likely be a nail biter once again.
Lehighton: If there was anyone who deserved a break it is head coach George Ebbert. After surviving off-season turmoil, coach Ebbert is working a group of kids into shape that could lead to a much better season. A few wins early will go a long way to silencing critics and lead to bigger things.
Northern Lehigh: Coach Joe Tout did nothing but keep the river of talent flowing since taking over from Jim Tkach. Now that Tkach is back as an assistant, the Bulldogs, who are led by 2,000-yard rusher Cody Remaley will be pushing for a Colonial League title. If so, they could grab one of the district playoff spot and put themselves in a position to avenge last year's heartbreaking loss to North Schuylkill in the finals.
To the coaches I don't know…
Northwestern: No change this season is greater than the sidelines of Northwestern. Filling Bob Mitchell's shoes will be difficult is an understatement. While I do not know coach Tom Linette, I do know his value as an assistant was a reason for the many years of success. That can only set the team off into a fresh direction and the program should continue to thrive. Bet on it.
Pleasant Valley: I was told that the bears could be a sleeping Giant. Coach Terwilliger. After a turnaround season (5-5), building on it will change the people calling it a "one-hit-wonder" into believers as the Bear-uprising continues. They have quite a few rungs on the ladder to climb in order to top the cream of the MVC in East Stroudsburg. I see them taking another step this season.
So get the drums beating , the horns tooting, and pom-poms shaking, it's football season again on September 3.
This is my good luck wish to all of the coaches above and players. May all of the work they put into the season bring them the successes they desire. Although few will raise a trophy at the end of the year, may they bring us memories that we will talk about for years to come.