LEHMAN TWP. – More than ever, Lake-Lehman football coach Jerry Gilsky is thinking about his own team as the 2016 season approaches.
In Gilsky’s view, the latest wave of realignment in high school football has robbed the Wyoming Valley Conference of its big-school, small-school identity and has teams that are competing for the same rewards playing schedules of too much varying difficulty.
“I think people were more invested in themselves than the entirety,” Gilsky said of the approach to determining schedules for all the conference teams. “That’s why I’m taking the position I am.
“I only care about Lake-Lehman. I’m taking care of us. I don’t care about anyone else.”
The Black Knights will play six of the seven teams which it will fight against for District 2 Class 3A playoff berths, meeting all but Lackawanna Football Conference member Western Wayne. It will also face three large school opponents and just one smaller school.
When teams are getting ready for the playoffs in the final two weeks, Lake-Lehman will face Berwick and Dallas, a pair of large school playoff teams in 2015, back-to-back.
“You have to win your games to make the playoffs,” Gilsky said. “I like the challenge for the fact that it’s going to make us better.
“We earned the respect for a schedule like that because of what we’ve developed in the past seven years.”
Gilsky thinks District 2 and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association missed a chance to make sure playoff berths were determined through a point system that did more to try to judge difficulty of schedule.
“We want to be sure that if we earned that respect, there’s a system in place to take care of those teams,” he said.
Lake-Lehman will try to conquer that schedule to continue its recent run of success. The Black Knights won the District 2 Class AA title in 2013 and returned to the district championship game last season. Lake-Lehman also won two of the last three WVC Small School titles.
The Black Knights have the experience to threaten in both races again. They could end up in a battle with last year’s District 2 Class AAA champion Scranton Prep, the third-week opponent, for the Class 3A title in the new six-class system.
Even with Connor McGovern now at Penn State, Lake-Lehman remains strong up front.
Cole Spencer, Mason Rios and Kaleb Konigus are two-way starters in the line. Jeremya Stonier, a part-timer on offense, is a returning starter in the defensive line. Jack Symeon, a returning linebacker, moves from playing the second tight end when needed, according to formation, to playing left tackle.
Trey Borger returns as a tailback/linebacker and Noah Gorski returns at wide receiver/safety.
Vince Ferrari, a third-year starter in the secondary, gets another chance to be the starting quarterback after missing out last year when he suffered a broken collarbone in the opener.
“We’re going to be attacking the air more than we have,” Gilsky said.
Nate O’Donell took over at quarterback last year. He’ll be a tight end this time.
Other veterans are Jake Tomolonis at linebacker, Charlie Kuschke and Matt Myers as defensive backs and Ian Dawsey as kicker.
The following are expected to gain more playing time: fullback/linebackers Matt Kurtz and Tyler Wojciechowski, fullback Jesse Tomolonis, tight ends T.J. Meehan and Josh Durling and defensive backs Nate LaBar and Jarrett Daum.
The Black Knights open at home Friday night against Meyers, another Class 3A team in the WVC and District 2.
Aug. 26, Meyers
Sept. 2, at Northwest
Sept. 10, at Scranton Prep
Sept. 16, GAR
Sept. 23, at Hanover Area
Sept. 30, at Tunkhannock
Oct. 7, Nanticoke
Oct. 15, at Holy Redeemer
Oct. 21, Berwick
Oct. 28, Dallas