The Schuylkill County Football Coaches Association held its annual Preseason Media Conference Wednesday at Maroon's Sports Bar and Grill in Pottsville. Four TIMES NEWS area schools were represented at the conference with Tamaqua, Marian, Jim Thorpe, and Panther Valley all being in attendance.
Tamaqua is looking to build off a 6-6 record from last season where it advanced to the Eastern Conference Division 2 Championship, eventually losing to North Penn 34-28. The Raiders defeated Catasaqua 33-32 in double overtime to get to the championship game.
"Our number one goal to start this season is to get some continuity up front with our offensive line," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "We have four out of our five starters back on the defensive line, but only two returning starters on our o-line. Some of our guys who haven't got much time in recent years are really going to have step in and fill the voids left behind."
Coach Bonner may have some issues on his offensive line, but his skill spots are looking pretty good for 2012.
"We have three or four running backs, two experienced quarterbacks, and two good receivers back," said Bonner. "We depended on Jarred Muffley a lot last year due to some injuries, but actually between Tyler Hope and Dalton Nunemacher they almost had 1,000 yards between them and they're back. We also have some talented quarterbacks coming back, who both have good size at 6-4 (Nate Edmund) and 6-6 (Brett Kosciolek) so I think if we solidify our play up front we're going to be a real competitive team."
Marian is looking to bounce back from a 5-5 season that left them out of the post season. The Colts haven't made the post season in the last three years and that's something coach Stan Dakosty and company wants to change in 2012.
"Our main goal is to always make the playoffs," said Dakosty. "Last season, in the the games we lost we just didn't protect the football. We have stressed that immensely this off-season and in order to compete at a high-level in this league that's paramount."
The Colts, much like the Raiders have lost some of their guys up front and Dakosty believes that's the area where they need to improve on during the season.
"Our guys have been working hard it's just a matter of going out there and getting the job done," said Dakosty. "We need guys who have played JV in the past to come in and be productive for us on the defensive and offensive line. Our depth and strength lies with our skill players. We have a real good running back in Dylan Quirk and some other backs that we can run at teams that can give the opposition some problems."
Jim Thorpe had its worst season ever under coach Mark Rosenberger, going 1-9 last season. Jim Thorpe, which is usually right at the top of the Anthracite League vying for a championship went through some growing pains last season and Rosenberger is set on getting the Olympians back to the basics.
"Defensively is obviously the area that we need to be better at this season," said Rosenberger. "We did a poor job of getting off blocks and making good reads. We're going to slow things down at camp this year and really get back to the fundamentals of playing good defensive football. That being said we have a ton of speed so it's important for us to be aggressive on defense in order to take advantage of our speed."
Offensively the Olympians put points up on the board, but their offensive line play really hindered any type of consistent attack. The Olympians lived off the big play and that's something that Rosenberger believes will change this season.
"Our offensive lineman have improved tremendously and will really surprise some people this year," said Rosenberger. "They have been incredibly hard and their work effort has been transferring over to other kids on our team. Skill-wise we have a bunch of talented kids with a lot of speed, so if we can put together a solid defense and play well up front we'll be a much better football team in 2012."
Panther Valley and Coach Lon Hazlet are also looking to avenge a 1-9 season from a year ago. Injuries really hurt the Panthers last season and coach Hazlet believes his team has to stay healthy and challenge themselves to get better and perform better.
"Our goals never change here and that's to be a playoff team," said Hazlet. "We really have to watch out for the injury bug this year and it's important for us to stay healthy. Last year alone we lost three starters on the first day of camp so we're going to be aware of that. Simply put we have to go out there and get the job done. We have a good group of tough kids here. We just need to get back to playing sound fundamental football and just play hard. If we do that we'll be in every game this season."