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Area teams well represented at Schuylkill County Football Coaches Association media day

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    Representing area teams at the Schuylkill County Football Coaches Association Media Day were, from left, Marian’s Nick Goff, Lehighton’s Kyle Mayernik, Tamaqua’s Jake Barron, Jim Thorpe’s Kendall Herron and Panther Valley’s Ethan Reis. Visit for a video. PATRICK MATSINKO/TIMES NEWS

Published August 08. 2019 11:48AM


Rick Jones found himself at the front of the table once again.

Flanked by his players, it was a familiar place for the first-year Panther Valley head coach.

“It’s been a nice experience so far to this point. … The attitude, considering I’m their third coach in four years, has been great,” said Jones. “Our concern was getting numbers up; we went from 16 to about 38 right now. So we’re happy because we need to have a JV program for the program (to continue to develop).

“This is my 42nd year coaching, this is my 17th as a head coach. So I didn’t come into this naïve. I understand what we have to do.”

It was a sentiment Jones stressed at the annual Schuylkill County Football Coaches Association media day on Wednesday.

Jones knows the transformation of a program that has won nine games over the last four years won’t happen overnight, but the veteran mentor has liked what he’s seen so far.

“We have a number of kids that have worked extremely hard … but you have to set the tone as far as what you expect out of them,” he said. “Our goals are realistic. We just want to focus on the things that we can control, like effort, discipline, and if we’re lucky enough and we’re talented enough, we’re going to have some success. If not, we did everything we could.”

One of the focal points for Panther Valley will be senior quarterback Ethan Reis, who gained valuable experience under center as a sophomore before taking the reins last season.

“He’s a great kid,” Jones said of Reis. “The senior skill kids that we have have been very, very good leaders; good attitudes. To stick around for four years … they’ve been very receptive. I couldn’t ask for more.”

In addition to his role on the field, Reis knows he will be tasked with guiding the underclassmen as the Panthers look to get the program back on track.

“It’s helping me become a better leader, just helping out the younger kids, say if they don’t know a certain play or what we need to do,” he said. “Just coming in and being able to help them out every single play has been big.

“My freshman year, I learned a lot about the spread offense, the last two years I learned more about the Power-I. This year, it’s just a mixture of everything.”

Reis and Jones are hoping it’s a combination that adds up to more wins for Panther Valley.

“I’ve never been a guy that has set win-loss goals, because you just never know,” said Jones. “We just want to take it one game at a time, and go from there.”

While the Panthers preached patience at the league’s annual kickoff event at the Schuylkill Country Club, several others enter 2019 with aspirations of competing for a division title and making another deep postseason run.

Both Tamaqua and Jim Thorpe are coming off nine-win seasons, successful campaigns that ended with first-round losses in the District 11 playoffs.

“We’re excited,” said Olympians’ head coach Mark Rosenberger. “You work so hard from pretty much January to this point and time preparing for football, now it’s actually here. You can put the helmet and shoulder pads on – it’ll be even more exciting next week when we can put all the pads on and get out there and hit a little bit.

“There’s definitely a lot of excitement in this area, and also at Jim Thorpe.”

The same holds true at Tamaqua.

“We’re really excited,” said the Raiders’ Jake Barron. “We return a whole bunch of people. Losing (Matt) Amodea and Nick (Breiner), that’s going to be tough, but people are just going to step up and assume those roles.”

Replacing stalwarts such as Amodea and Breiner – who set the school’s all-time rushing and touchdown records and earned the Times News Running Back of the Year award this past season – will not be an easy task. But Tamaqua looks as equipped as any team in the league to handle such losses.

“The summer has been really nice. We got outside almost every single day that we could,” said Barron. “Everybody was showing up all offseason, lifting, just getting better each and every day.”

Thorpe’s season ended with a 16-7 loss to North Schuylkill, while Tamaqua fell 40-33 to Notre Dame Green Pond in the district playoffs.

“A lot of people have a sour taste in their mouth after last season’s loss, so we really want to just get back to where we were and expand upon that and just do better things,” said Barron.

The Olympians have won 19 games over the past two years, success that has laid the groundwork for this season’s squad.

“It helps tremendously, because it shows us that we know what we need to do in the offseason to prove to ourselves that we can actually finish off a season, finish it 10-0, or make a run at the district playoffs like we want to, because we were so close last year,” said Thorpe’s Dom Madera. “We’re so hungry for it, that we want to fight back this year and get it.”

Lehighton and Marian are both coming off four-win seasons, and first-round losses in the district playoffs.

“We have linemen coming back, but as far as skill players go, it’s just Mason (Miller, quarterback) and Dakota (Streisel, quarterback/wide receiver), so they have to really step up their leadership, take these young kids under their wings and show them the ropes and get them acclimated to what varsity football is all about,” said Colts’ head coach Pat Morgans. “Because there are a lot of young kids that are going to have to contribute that have never even played high school football – freshmen or JV – now we’re asking them to come out and step up and be a varsity player. So the key to our season is going to be how well those young kids develop.”

Miller is eager to take charge and make his final season at Marian a memorable one.

“Last year, we lost 18 seniors, and now we have 18 again in my class,” Miller said. “But now we also have 15 incoming freshmen. So not only me as a quarterback, but the rest of our seniors have to step up our leadership to point them in the right direction that we want to go, and that’s to win the district championship and more.”

Marian also features kicker Lucca Stroia, who recently placed first overall at an event at Colgate University.

The Indians’ aren’t far removed from a league title, undefeated regular season and a trip to a district championship game in 2017.

The team’s upperclassmen are eager to return the program to glory in 2019.

“I do believe that we have a chip on our shoulder,” said senior Brett Gasker. “We’re going to play every game like we have a chip on our shoulder.

“We have a lot of guys coming back from last year, returning starters. I think we’ll be pretty good.”

EARLY RETURNS … It was a clean sweep for North Schuylkill and Schuylkill Haven coming out of the annual Schuylkill County Football Coaches Association Media Day on Wednesday.

The Spartans were tabbed as the top team in Division I by both media and coaches, while the Hurricanes earned the top spot in Division II.

Coming off a District 11 Class 3A title, North Schuylkill received 15 of 21 first-place votes and tallied 118 points in the media poll, followed by Tamaqua, which had three first-place votes and 99 points.

Pottsville (83, three first-place votes), Jim Thorpe (70), Lehighton (38) and Blue Mountain (33) rounded out the voting among Division I teams in the media poll.

Coming off back-to-back District 11 Class 2A titles, the Hurricanes were the heavy favorite to win their fourth straight Division II crown with 124 points as the top team on 19 of the ballots.

Mahanoy Area (93, one first-place vote), Marian (78), Minersville (77, one first-place vote), Panther Valley (45) and Shenandoah Valley (24) made up the rest of the poll.

In voting by the coaches, North Schuylkill garnered four first-place votes and tallied 34 points as the top team in Division I, while Schuylkill Haven (four first-place votes, 34 points) led the way in Division II.

Tamaqua (31, two first-place votes), Pottsville (22), Jim Thorpe (18), Lehighton (12) and Blue Mountain (nine) followed in voting by Division I coaches.

Mahanoy (28, one first-place vote), Minersville (24, one first-place vote), Marian (21), Panther Valley (10) and Shenandoah Valley (nine) completed the top-six in the Division II poll.

Teams were ranked 1-6 in projected order of finish, and points were awarded from 6-1 based on the ranking in each division.


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