Western Wayne looks to take the next step up in LFC action

While it hardly seems possible, summer is quickly coming to a close and local sports fans are starting to turn their attention to the 2019 high school grid season.

Heat acclimation sessions are just a couple of weeks away, followed by two-a-days and then exhibition games. Before we know it, the race for Lackawanna Football Conference titles will be starting in earnest.

And, with that in mind, the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association hosted its 10th Annual Media Day on Wednesday afternoon.

In Attendance

This year's edition of the event was held at the Regal Room in Olyphant. Coaches and players from every team in the LFC attended, including all three local teams.

Honesdale sent Assistant Coach Gordy West along with junior Peter West and senior Walker Carney.

Paupack was represented by head coach Dr. Mark Watson. He brought seniors Brandon King and Anthony Dalessio.

Western Wayne checked in with head coach Randy Wolff along with veteran players Jack McAllister and Matt Valanda.

“I'm very excited about the season,” Coach Wolff said. “Our kids have been working hard and they're definitely ready to get out on the field.”

The 'Cats will kick-off their 2019 regular season campaign on Friday, Aug. 23 with a non-league battle with Lake Lehman. They'll then open up the LFC slate in Week Two with a road trip to North Pocono.

Looking Back

Western Wayne is coming off one of its best seasons in program history.

The Wildcats posted a 5-5 record in the always-rugged LFC last fall. They finished third in Division II and earned an invitation to the District Two playoffs.

Coach Wolff's squad then opened its Class AAA title quest with an impressive 50-6 win over Wilkes Barre Meyers.

Sadly, the local lads saw their season come to an end in the semifinals with a 28-7 loss to Scranton Prep. The Cavaliers then went on to capture the crown via a 28-7 victory over Lakeland.

This marked the third straight year Western Wayne qualified for the post season.

Coach Wolff began his tenure in Varden by leading his team to an Eastern Conference AAA title. The 'Cats went to districts after a decade-long absence in 2017, but suffered a heart breaking 27-26 loss at the hands of Lake Lehman.

Western Wayne was hit hard by graduation after the '19 season. However, the Wildcats return a solid nucleus of veteran players and talented youngsters.

“We've got very good balance and chemistry,” said Coach Wolff. “We'll need to stay healthy, though, and our younger kids are going to have to grow up fast.”

Looking Ahead

Coach Wolff had nothing but praise for his two senior leaders Wednesday.

McAllister battled injuries last fall, but still earned All-LFC honors at defensive tackle. At 6-3 and 265 pounds, Coach Wolff fully expects Jack to be the anchor of his lines.

“Jack is a big, strong and physical kid,” Coach Wolff said. “I'm very excited to see what he can do for us on both sides of the ball.

“Jack is a versatile kid. Even though he's big, he's also athletic enough to play multiple positions. We're really going to rely on Jack to be a rock on the O-Line and D-Line this year.”

Valanda is a senior quarterback who can throw the ball and run it with equal efficiency. He passed for nearly 500 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a run-first offense last year.

As a junior, he hit on more than 50 percent of his attempts for 988 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“Having Matt back is a real comfort to me,” Coach Wolff said. “He's a three-year starter who brings a lot of experience to the field.

“Matt's seen a lot of action the past three years and come up with some big plays in big games. He's a good athlete with a strong arm. Matt takes charge of things and brings a calming voice to the huddle.”

Over & Out

Western Wayne hosts archrival Honesdale in Week Three action.

The 'Cats travel to Montrose in Week Four, then return home for a non-league battle with Hanover.

Coach Wolff's lads close out the campaign with key games against Lakeland, Valley View, West Scranton, Dunmore and Scranton Prep.

“We definitely have a tough schedule,” said Coach Wolff. “We can't take anything for granted.

“There are no easy games out there so we'll have to remain focused, stay healthy and keep working hard if we want to be competitive every week.”

Last year's LFC champs were...

•Wallenpaupack Area (7-3, 4-0); Division I.

•Valley View (10-0, 4-0); Division II.

•Lakeland (7-3, 4-0); Division III.

•Old Forge (8-2, 4-0); Division IV.