Football feels a little different around Wyoming Area and Hanover Area.
Winning will do that.
“Of course,” Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer said. “When you’re winning, it brings a lot energy and enthusiasm. Not just from inside but outside the program. It’s great to get off to that kind of start. Again, these kids have a strong senior class and some juniors who played with the seniors. Experience is kind of driving that and it was great to get out to that kind of start.”
Wyoming Area (4-0) is off to its best start since the 2007 version of the Warriors won six in a row to begin the season. Getting a fifth win will be quite difficult as the Warriors host defending District 2 Class 3A champ Scranton Prep (3-1) at 7 p.m. Friday. Prep is favored to win the D2-3A title again.
A bit south and also at 7 p.m. Friday, Hanover Area (3-1) hosts Lake-Lehman (2-2) in a game for the top spot in Division 3A-A of the Wyoming Valley Conference. The game is also key in the hunt for one of four D2-3A playoff spots. Hanover Area is currently second and Lehman is fourth. A Lehman victory could reverse those spots.
Hanover Area will also have interest in what’s happening at Wyoming Area. The Hawkeyes trail Prep by 20 state points in the D2-3A playoff race and they host Wyoming Area next Friday.
Hanover Area was 1-3 at this point last year on the way to a 2-8 finish, its worst record since going 0-10 in 2012. So being in the thick of the district playoff race is something new for the players and second-year coach Mike McCree. The Hawkeyes haven’t made the district playoffs since 2008, but have made the Eastern Conference tournament three times since then.
“No doubt about it,” McCree said, “last year was tough. It was kind of a transition year where you still had the feeling-out process with the kids where it probably wasn’t 100 percent my team or our team. This year it’s a different team. You hear a lot of our guys talk that it really is a family.”
A family that’s had some tumultuous situations along the way. Hanover Area knocked off Class A power Old Forge 10-7 in its opener, scoring the only points of the second half via two safeties. After being manhandled by Blue Mountain, the Hawkeyes defeated Meyers 20-14 in overtime and scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes to defeat Mid Valley 36-35.
“A little too exciting at times,” McCree said. “We had to come back and win all three of our games. I don’t think we’ve put it all together. Early on, the defense carried us. Last week, the offense carried us. I’m really looking forward to when we could put it all together.”
The offense is coming around. After relying on the running game, senior quarterback Brandon Chafin threw for 168 yards and two touchdowns against Mid Valley. Chafin, a multi-sport athlete, is still learning the quarterback position. He was a wide receiver as an underclassman.
Lehman is doing the same as well. The Black Knights lost two 1,000-yard rushers to graduation and their Wing-T offense hasn’t click yet. There have been glimpses as Trey Borger rushed for 131 in a 27-7 season-opening victory against Meyers and Charlie Kuschke ran for a career-high 209 yards and two TDs in last Friday’s 36-33 two-overtime win against GAR.
Wyoming Area came into the season with plenty of promise, but also three consecutive 3-7 season. The program started in 1966 and 2013-2015 was the first time it posted three consecutive losing seasons.
The Warriors opened the campaign with wins over Wallenpaupack and Crestwood, but the biggest test was three consecutive games against D2-3A playoff teams from a year ago. They knocked off Berwick 34-20 and rallied from 14 down to defeat Coughlin 38-14.
Now comes Prep, which is several ways mirrors Wyoming Area. Both have outstanding running backs — Prep’s Ricky Morgan and Wyoming Area’s Brian Miles. The quarterbacks can beat opponents with their arms or legs. Prep has Jake Ryan, while Wyoming Area has used two guys — P.J. Angeli and Steve Homza.
Neither teams has hulking linemen who will scare opponents when they step off the bus. But both units have been cited for their nasty, physical play so the outcome could be determined in the trenches.
“I certainly can draw some comparisons,” Spencer said. “They were a very well-coached team under coach (Nick) Donato. For years they established that. Coach (Terry) Gallagher and his staff have continued that. As far as consistency of their play in all three phases of their game, they’ve been very effective.
“I think at this point Scranton Prep is probably going to be the best overall team we’ve played this year. That’s what we’re expecting.”