North Pocono's football team is set to begin District Two title defense
North Pocono surprised many local high school gridiron pundits last season.
Under the direction of head coach Greg Dolhon, the Trojans powered their way to a sparkling 7-3 record in the Lackawanna Football Conference.
They finished fourth in a rugged Division II, but still earned an invitation to the District Two tournament.
There, they reeled off three more wins en route to the Class 4A championship, sealing the deal with an unforgettable 21-6 victory over Berwick in the finals.
On Monday, however, Coach Dolhon didn't want to spend a great deal of time talking about past accomplishments.
“That was quite a ride,” he said just moments after arriving on the scene at this year's LFC Media Day.
The event was held at the Regal Room in Olyphant, attracting players and coaches from every team.
“Winning a district title was so much fun and I was so happy for the kids. But, now it's time to focus on the new season. I'm very excited to get out there and see what we have.”
What they have is a battle-tested team chock full of experienced players … which is fortunate because North Pocono's schedule is a challenging one.
The Trojans open up on Friday, August 25 on the road at perennial Class AA powerhouse Riverside.
They host Abington Heights in Week Two, then face back-to-back battles with Wallenpaupack Area and Scranton High.
“There are no easy games this year,” Coach Dolhon admitted. “We can't afford to take any days off. If we want to get back where we were last season, we'll have to work hard, stay healthy and remain focused.”
Heat acclimation work-outs commence on Monday, August 4, followed by a week of double sessions leading up to that all-important first scrimmage.
Another exhibition game follows, setting the stage for Opening Night.
“It's hard to believe that we're less than a month away from our first real game,” Coach Dolhon said.
“We have a lot of work to do between now and then, but I'm confident that we'll be ready to go.”
Ready to Go
We may just be entering the “dog days” of summer, but the Trojans are already deep into preparations for their title defense.
Off-season workouts have been well-attended and a strong senior class should ensure a smooth transition from title contenders to defenders.
“I'm very pleased with where we are at this stage,” Coach Dolhon said. “We have a good group veteran players who set a great example for the younger kids on and off the field.”
Monday's festivities at the Regal Room gave local media members a chance to meet players and rekindle relationships with coaches.
On hand representing North Pocono were Brett Butler and JC Gaughan. Both are seniors and each is expected to play a key role for the Trojans this fall.
Butler is a three-year starter who excels both at inside linebacker and tight end. He is expected to be a physical force on the offensive line and a run-stuffer defensively.
“One of my favorite things about Brett is that he just relishes hitting people,” Coach Dolhon said with a smile. “Brett is a very tough and very physical football player. He's going to have a really big season.”
Gaughan is also a two-way standout who lines up at tailback and linebacker. He recorded a team-high 14 sacks as a junior.
“We're expecting big things from JC this year,” Coach Dolhon said. “He's getting quite a bit of attention from recruiters so I'm excited to see what he can do in the spotlight.”
Gaughan will combine with Jeremiah Acker to form a potent 1-2 punch in North Pocono's offensive backfield this fall.
Trojan fans should be excited at the prospect of seeing Donny Blaine back under center.
A big, tall pocket passer blessed with a cannon arm, Blaine is a junior with two years of varsity experience under his belt already.
“Donny is going to be a real weapon this season,” Coach Dolhon said. “We have a couple of kids who should be really good receiving targets for him and that's exciting. I really thing Donny is poised to have a big year.”
And, while North Pocono had a reputation for being very physical on both sides of the ball last fall, Coach Dolhon wants to take that even further in 2017.
“We ran the ball well and controlled the clock for the most part,” he said. “But, we've been really focused on stopping the run more consistently.
“Especially in this league, if you can stop the run you have a big advantage.”
Over & Out
North Pocono's catch-phrase last year was “Why Not Us?”
Trojan players wore matching shirts with this question plastered across the chest in huge letters.
This year, though, a new team will have different motivation. Coach Dolhon knows his squad will have a target on its back, so he's chosen a phrase he thinks addresses that reality.
“Build the standard,” he said. “That's what it's going to say. I want this program to reach a place where we are expected to compete for a championship every year.
“I think last year was a very good step in that direction. Now, it's time to take another step and keep on building.”