PITTSTON – An offense full of returning skill position players and a new coach with a defensive background will join forces to try to turn around the struggling Pittston Area football program in 2017.
The Patriots return all six players who produced at least 100 yards rushing, passing or receiving last year, including Keemar Woodruff, Walter Coles and Kevin Krawczyk, the leaders in those categories.
Nick Barbieri returns to his alma mater for his first high school head coaching assignment. Barbieri’s most recent coaching experience was as defensive coordinator at Lackawanna Football Conference Division 1 power Delaware Valley.
“Offensively, we have a lot of skill,” said Barbieri, who spent 20 years at Delaware Valley and four as an assistant at Bishop Hoban. The challenge is on the defensive side.
“We have to make strides defensively if we want to be competitive.”
After going winless in 2015, Pittston Area scored at least 19 points in eight of 10 games while going 2-8 last season. It still gave up 35 or more points six times.
“We have a complete change in defensive philosophy from last year,” Barbieri said. “They were an even front. We’re going to be an odd front. It was more of a 4-4 look. We’re going to be a 3-4 look.
“We have more skill guys than down guys, so we’re going to utilize what we have.”
The same is true on offense where all the backs and receivers are experienced but some changes are needed up front.
“We have the nucleus of our offense,” Barbieri said. “We have a few returning linemen up front. We’re replacing three. That’s going to tell us how quickly we’ll improve.”
Coles at quarterback, Woodruff at tailback, Krawczyk and Rich Wallace at receiver and John Delucca at tight end all return to the starting lineup. Dorian Ryans, a two-way starter at Holy Redeemer, has transferred and the 6-1, 225-pounder is likely to take over at fullback and will also play linebacker.
Dylan Spurlin is another experienced option in the offensive backfield. He will move from inside to outside linebacker on defense.
Jake Rutkowski, the right tackle on offense, is a two-way returnee up front.
Franco Martinez, the other tackle, started the second half of last season.
Joe Jones is expected to be at center with Seth Johnson at one guard. Kyle Brady and Nate Lombardo are working at the other guard spot.
Johnson, Lombardo, Brady, Martinez, Josh Christ and James Murtha are among the players joining Rutkowski in what Barbieri hopes to develop into a rotation of at least six players at the three down lineman spots on defense.
Tyler Ferlick returns at one linebacker spot. Mike Coe also started some games there late last season.
Cornerbacks Woodruff and Wallace and safeties Krawczyk and Matt Starinski all return in the secondary.
Joe Perry is another option at safety while Trevor Tigue, who has some experience in the offensive backfield, is another cornerback.
Barbieri will make his head coaching debut Sept. 25 at home against Crestwood. The remainder of the Patriots’ schedule is: Sept. 1, at Tunkhannock; Sept. 8 at Dallas; Sept. 15 at Valley View; Sept. 22, GAR; Sept. 30, at Abington Heights; Oct. 6, BERWICK; Oct. 13, NANTICOKE; Oct. 20, Coughlin; Oct. 27, at Wyoming Area.