Are you ready for some football?
brad hurley/times news Players from TIMES NEWS area teams who represented their schools at the Schuylkill County Football Coaches Association Media Day on Wednesday were, from left, Mike Rodgers of Jim Thorpe, Tyler Hope of Tamaqua, Richard Nase of Panther Valley and Anthony Agosti of Marian.
Orwigsburg Four TIMES NEWS area teams were on hand on Wednesday for the ninth annual Schuylkill County Football Coaches Association Media Day.
Players and coaches from Tamaqua, Marian, Panther Valley, and Jim Thorpe were at Roman Delight's Restaurant in Orwigsburg to discuss their aspirations for the 2013 season.
The Tamaqua Blue Raiders football team will have a little bit of a different look heading into this season. They will now have a red target on the front and back of their jerseys that the other eight Anthracite teams will be gunning for.
Obviously, that's figuratively not literally, but the Raiders, who were picked in the middle of the pack last season, surprised everyone by going 10-0 and winning the Anthracite League title.
This season, everyone knows what the Raiders can do, which means Tamaqua will be getting everyone's best shot in 2013.
"We know, especially in this league that every team will be gunning for the champs," said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. "We've been getting good turnouts this year and the kids have been really working hard. Losing in districts, I think made our kids hungrier than ever before heading into this offseason.
"It's important for this team to establish its own identity. We're not last year's team and we've talked about that. We have a good group of kids, we're not as deep, but we're certainly as talented, so we're just looking forward to getting the season started."
For the Marian Colts, it seems that team speed could be the main ingredient to finding success this season. The Colts lost some skill players due to graduation, but Coach Stan Dakosty believes he has a crop of young, fast playmakers that can make some noise in 2013.
"There's no doubt we need some young guys to step up," said Dakosty. "We have some talented younger athletes in our program and they've all had a good offseason. Now, it's time to put the pads on and see what we have. There are definitely some opportunities for younger guys to come in and be impact players for us and that's always exciting for a coaching staff."
The team from the TIMES NEWS area that appears to be undergoing the most change is Panther Valley. The Panthers, who have been primarily a running back oriented offense under Coach Lon Hazlet will now put the ball in the hands of quarterback Kyle Ferryman.
Ferryman, who racked up over 1,700 in total yards in 2012, is making the switch from wide receiver to the Panthers signal caller and will be called upon to make plays with his feet and sometimes his arm rather than his hands. Hazlet believes the offense will be successful, but it's the Panthers "D" that needs to take a big step forward this season.
"Defense is and has to be our pride," said Hazlet. "I told the guys that I know we're going to score some points, but it's time to start stopping people. I've been doing this for a long time and the old adage defense wins championships couldn't be more true. It's time for our guys to toughen up and make some plays on the defensive side of the football. We don't hope to turn the corner this season we plan to."
For veteran Coach Mark Rosenberger and the Jim Thorpe Olympians it's been a rough couple of seasons. The Olympians, who used to be known for their aggressive, fast, and hard-hitting defensive play have been lackluster in that department over the last few seasons. Giving up the big play in 2012 quite possibly kept Jim Thorpe from being a .500 team and qualifying for the playoffs.
"I believe that part of it has been the youth of our football team over the last couple seasons," said Rosenberger. "We're definitely more experienced now than we have been, so I think now it's just a matter of getting our confidence up early. We had a good summer and defensively we've showed progress.
"We have eight guys coming back on both offense and defense, so if we can get our confidence high, hopefully it will all come together and show up on the scoreboard."
The consensus among the coaches is that 2013 Anthracite League title looks to be up for grabs more than in any recent season.
Rosenberger added the parity created by the league this season should be exciting for teams and fans alike in 2013.
"Our league is a very unique league in that it seems everyone is always so competitive with each other," said Rosenberger. "Besides the recent stretch with North Schuylkill dominating there for a few years there has always been that sense where anybody can't beat anybody on any given night. It will definitely create a lot of excitement for the local coal region fans this season."