No Wyoming Valley Conference team had a rougher season than Pittston Area.
The Patriots were the only team in District 2 to go winless. They’ll carry a 14-game losing streak, the longest in the district, into 2016. Not exactly the way the seniors planned out their final season.
The UNICO Charity Football Game, though, offers a handful of Patriots a chance to go out as winners. They’ll be part of the UNICO Pioneers, who will face the UNICO Miners at 1 p.m. Saturday at Wyoming Area’s stadium in West Pittston.
“It was tough,” Pittston Area receiver/defensive back Paul Brady said. “We had to face a lot of adversity with injuries and a young quarterback. A lot of young kids had to step up. So to be able to play with the best kids in the conference is a real privilege. I’d love to go out with a win.”
The Pittston Area seniors nearly had that elusive win in Week 4 at Crestwood. The Patriots rallied from a 35-21 deficit to tie the score with 2:12 left in the fourth quarter. Then disaster struck. They lost a fumble deep in their own territory with 9.4 seconds remaining, leading to a game-winning field goal by Crestwood.
“We came out at halftime all pumped up. Came out of the locker room psyched,” Pittston Area lineman E.J. Herron said. “We came back and just made mistakes at the end of the game. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Three weeks after concluding their season with a 42-10 loss to rival Wyoming Area, the opportunity for a victory is a few days away. Preparation has been a fun part of it.
“It’s exciting,” Pittston Area running back/defensive back Ryan Davis said. “It’s interesting to see the best talent the Valley has to offer and to get to compete with everybody. It’s awesome.”
The Pioneers roster received a boost this week as the Berwick players were eligible to play after losing to Scranton Prep in the District 2 Class 3A championship game last Friday. Most of them showed up Monday except for a few still nursing injuries.
Turnout for practice hasn’t always been stellar since the game was moved from the summer to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2003. Winter sports would siphon some players. Others just decided not to play after being selected.
Holy Redeemer coach Scott Dennis, who will be running the Pioneers, said only one player so far has backed out due to a family commitment. There’s still plenty of talent. The trick is figuring out where everyone fits in.
“We try to find out what pieces we have and then we try to put the puzzle together,” Dennis said. “And you try to do it in two weeks.”
Dennis is familiar with many small school players as his team faced them during the Wyoming Valley Conference season. He said two UNICO assistants — Pittston Area head coach Jim Norris and Berwick assistant coach Mike Hall — have been helpful with their knowledge of the players from the bigger schools.
“Every school kind of brings a unique touch to this team,” Dennis said.