First Posted: 8/7/2013
Some might say the Duryea Wildcats are behind the eight ball. But it’s more like the red-striped 11.
The youth football program from Duryea has seen its numbers drop over the past several years. And that problem is coming to a head with just days prior to the 2013 season.
Just 10 years ago, the Wildcats had more than enough to field a team with nearly 30 players on all four rosters. And now, with leagues beginning to expand to younger generations, there are four teams that need to be filled: A, B, C, D.
Over the past decade, numbers for the team have dwindled to a point where the Wildcats are struggling to fill one side of the ball, let alone everything else. But president Joe Krischak has come to the realization that the numbers will be low.
“Right now the numbers are going to be small,” he said. “It used to be a lot better but I don’t know what happened over the years.”
The Wildcat president explained that there are around 50 players in the four age groups. Do the math. That’s just over 12 players per team — a far cry from what the team has seen in the past.
Gene Scatena is a coach for the D-team, the youngest division of all the players in the league. According to the league’s 2012 bylaws, the D team “shall consist of participants at least five and not more than seven years of age on August 1st.”
Scatene said there are 13 players on the D team at the time this story was written. And there are a handful of 5 year-old players. The Wildcats open the season on Sunday, Aug. 18. Acting fast to add a few more players is a must.
“We’re barely playing with anyone right now,” D-team coach Gene Scatena said. “Then you go up against a Back Mountain team with 30 kids on their rosters.”
The league certainly didn’t want to blame other sports for the roster situation they are facing. But that’s the truth.
With Duryea’s Fall Ball league now running the same time as the youth football league, numbers can be expected to be lower. Throw in soccer, and other after school activities, and the amount of players will fall.
“Back in 2009 we had 30 to 31 kids,” Scatena said of his D-team. “Then Duryea’s fall baseball went down to tee ball aged kids. That knocked us out of players. I like the fact they are getting involved, however.”
According to Krischak, another reason for softer numbers is the seventh and eighth graders have started to play school-aged football.
Another piece of information that sticks out in the league’s bylaws is the ability for players on a younger team to step up in an emergency role if there are not enough players present. That can become more prevalent this season in the wake of roster limitations.
The bylaw reads: “If an A team has 11 players or less that show up to play, they can move B team players up to total 13. Not more than one A team player should be on the sideline at a time. All A team players must start the game. The B team player should not play more than any A team player unless the player is injured … The B player must be used only as a substitute for injuries or breaks … The B player will maintain his B status. The same emergency rule will prevail if the situation arises in a B game. C players may be used under the same conditions but will maintain their C status. If there are less than 12 rostered players the emergency rule may be used prior to any injury of a rostered player…”
Krischak said that the team has used the emergency rule before, but he doesn’t expect it to play much of a role this season.
“We’ve done it in the past but not a lot,” he said. “Under the emergency rule you can do that on Sunday. I’m hoping we can get away without doing that this year.”
Currently, the Wildcats are practicing four days per week. With a nine-game schedule prior to playoffs, the rigors of a football season will start to take a toll on players, especially those not accustomed to it.
Krischak and other members of the Wildcats got together and will have shorter practices once school starts. They will practice Tuesday through Thursday.
“That will certainly help with lower numbers,” he said.
The Duryea Wildcats are part of the 10-team Wyoming Valley West Youth Football and Cheerleading Conference. There are three Greater Pittston area teams in the WVWYFCC: West Pittston Rams, Exeter Panthers and the Duryea Wildcats.
The Wildcats begin their season on Sunday, Aug. 18 at the Back Mountain Bobcats. West Pittston travels to Swoyersville, while Exeter will travel to Kingston.
If there are any players in the Duryea area interested in suiting up for the Wildcats, you are asked to report at 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the field, Foote Ave., Duryea.
Krischak said it’s never too late for a player to sign up. The Wildcats can take on new players up through the first four games of the season.