AVOCA — As far as Thor Balavage sees it, the questions have been answered.
“Last year, the big question mark was on the line and whether we wouldn’t be able to run the ball and stuff like that,” said Balavage, of Avoca, a Scranton Prep lineman and team captain. “This year, I don’t really see any question marks on the field.”
The 2013 Cavaliers went unbeaten in the regular season and won the Lackawanna Football Conference Division 1 title.
At this time a year ago, Balavage was getting ready to be a two-way starter as part of a group surrounded with uncertainties.
Could the Cavaliers accomplish enough up front to help a talented passing and receiving combination keep them near the top?
An 8-2 regular-season record put Scranton Prep back in the District 2 Class AAA playoffs, gave the team its fourth straight winning season and allowed for confidence going into this season. As two-a-day practices get ready to start Monday, the Cavaliers have reached the point where they are counted on to be in title contention each year and Balavage is one of those leading the way.
“I don’t feel that there’s any lack of confidence in each other as far as team success,” Balavage said.
Roles are reversed somewhat with a veteran line and less experienced players in the quarterback and receiver positions, but Balavage said considering who this year’s starters were behind and how they performed when they had a chance, the uncertain is not there now.
Balavage’s teammates clearly have expectations of him, as well.
When it came time to vote on captains from among this year’s seniors who had lettered in the past, Balavage was picked to share the responsibility with fullback/linebacker Tyler Stafursky and tailback/linebacker Justin Weckel.
Balavage said the official leadership role only extends as far as being in the front of the line for stretches and at midfield for the coin toss. “Senior” means more than “captain,” he says.
Scranton Prep has 10 seniors who have been teammates since going 10-0 as a freshman team and are now 18-4 as varsity players, but looking for their first playoff victory.
“We look at everybody as, if they’re older than you, they’re your captain, almost,” Balavage said. “ … We’ve been the 10 to stick it all the way through.
“If any one of them says something, it’s just as valuable.”
At 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, Balavage will try to carry momentum over from wrestling season where he was a District 2 Class AA champion as a junior. He remains at center and is at defensive end after moving from the interior defensive line late last season when Justin Belardi was injured.
“Both positions have their good points, but at defensive end, I have more opportunities at speed rushing,” Balavage said. “There are more opportunities for sacks and I’m a little more active because there’s more space.”
Balavage finished last season with 67 tackles, just two less than team leader Stafursky.
Scranton Prep coach Nick Donato is hoping for more good things from Balavage, who is up 35 pounds from last year.
“Wrestling is always a plus, as long as they don’t lose too much weight, which with Thor being a heavyweight, didn’t happen,” Donato said. “ …. They use that strength that you can’t teach.”