Coaching the UNICO All-Star Football Classic is like that television show ‚??The Iron Chef.‚?Ě
You get some of the best ingredients with which to work and a short time to prepare them.
The East and West teams had just six practices to prepare for today‚??s annual game between the top seniors from the Wyoming Valley Conference, which will start at 7 p.m. at Wyoming Area‚??s stadium in West Pittston.
‚??You can do more than you expect,‚?Ě said Tunkhannock coach Rod Azar, who will coach the West with Wyoming Valley West‚??s Pat Keating. ‚??These kids are all great football players. They‚??re all football smart, so they learn really fast. We‚??ve been able to put in a lot of stuff.‚?Ě
Holy Redeemer‚??s Pat Reece will be trying to cook up an East victory for the first time since 2005. He concurred with Azar.
‚??Really, there hasn‚??t been a tough part about it,‚?Ě Reece said. ‚??The only thing is teaching them our style of offense in six days. We‚??ve dummied it all the way down to where we can do that to learn the routes and learn the formations.‚?Ě
Redeemer threw the ball a WVC-high 296 times in its 10 games. So expect East quarterbacks Corey Moore of GAR and Teaguen Labatch of Meyers to do more than just manage the game. Scheduled to play for the East are two of the top receivers in the conference ‚?? GAR‚??s Lucas Benton and Crestwood‚??s Kota Kishel.
‚??Oh yeah, we‚??re going to be throwing the ball,‚?Ě Reece said. ‚??But we‚??ll run it, too. We have some running backs and some linemen that can block. So we‚??ll be basically mixing it up.‚?Ě
Then Reece added with a laugh, ‚??The ball will be in the air.‚?Ě
The line is expected to have University of Pittsburgh recruit Shakir Soto and his GAR teammate Christian Skrepenak, who at 6-foot-9, 330 pounds is among the biggest blockers in the area.
While Reece ran a pass-happy offense at Redeemer, Azar‚??s offensive scheme was the opposite at Tunkhannock. The Tigers used a Wing-T concept that requires quarterback reads, misdirection and pulling by the linemen.
‚??We‚??re not going to just stick to the Wing-T,‚?Ě Azar said. ‚??We‚??re obviously not going to run the full Wing-T offense. It takes longer than six days to teach that. We‚??re going to run a variable offense. We‚??re going to open it up a little bit and run some basic run plays.
‚??We wanted to keep it simple so the kids can learn it in that time, but we‚??ve added some wrinkles and some stuff.‚?Ě
The West was hamstrung by the District 2 and Eastern Conference playoffs early on as it was missing players from four teams initially. It will be without the services of seven Wyoming Area players, who will be playing Saturday in the PIAA Class 2A playoffs.
Alternates have been brought in to fill the voids not only for the missing Wyoming Area players but also any players on either team who won‚??t play due to injury. That‚??s why the selected teams and the ones on the field tonight usually differ.
If Azar had the time to install a full Wing-T, he‚??d have an incredible backfield with three 1,000-yard rushers ‚?? Berwick‚??s Matt Cashman, Northwest‚??s Tony Politz and Wyoming Valley West‚??s Derrick Simms.
Then again, the West has strong-arm quarterback Ryan Zapoticky on the roster along with talented receivers such as Berwick‚??s Jake Pecorelli, Dallas‚?? Jason Simonovich, Pittston Area‚??s Joe Starinsky and Wyoming Valley West‚??s Lucky Williams.
UNICO FOOTBALL CLASSIC
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Wyoming Area‚??s stadium, West Pittston
All proceeds go to local charities.
NOTE: These are the players originally chosen by the Wyoming Valley Conference coaches. The rosters do not include any deletions or additions since they were selected. Wyoming Area will not participate because it is still playing in the state playoffs.
UNICO WEST TEAM
Berwick: Matt Cashman, RB/DB; Brandon Dalberto, TE/DL; Zach Ladonis, WR/DB; Jake Pecorelli, WR/DB; Travis Potter, LB; WR/DL; Jeff Steeber, WR/DB.
Dallas: Logan Bullock, OL/DL; Zach Macosky, WR/DB; Kris Roccograndi, RB/LB; Buddy Shutlock, OL/DL; Jason Simonovich, WR/DL; Ryan Zapoticky, QB.
Lake-Lehman: Zach Chabala, WR/DB; Tom Chipego, OL/DL; Brian Derhammer, OL/DL; Tom Donovan, WR/DB; Bill Hillman, QB/DB; D.J. Scavone, OL/DL.
Northwest: Rich Dillon, WR/DB; Taylor Kishbaugh, TE/DL; Tony Politz, RB; Wyatt Reese, OL/DL.
Pittston Area: Sam Falcone, WR/DB; Joe Giambra, RB/LB; Jordan Houseman, WR/DB; Joe Starinsky, WR/DB; Steve Starinsky, WR/LB.
Tunkhannock: Josh Colley, WR/DB; Andrew Muckin, TE/LB; Josh Robinson, RB/DB.
Wyoming Area: Joe Erzar, OL/DL; Trent Grove, TE/DL; Zak LaNunziata, RB/LB; Nick O‚??Brien, QB/DB; Cody Schmitz, WR/DB; Joe Taylor, OL/DL; Jordan Zezza, WR/DB.
Wyoming Valley West: Trey Cowman, TE/DL; Brett Good, RB/LB; Tony Le, OL/DL; Mike Narvid, DB; Alan Sakosky, RB/DB; Derrick Simms, RB/DB; Lucky Williams, WR/DB.
UNICO EAST TEAM
Coughlin: Hunter Bednarczyk, WR/DB; Pat Hall, OL/DL; Corey Keen, WR/DB; Josh Moules, WR/DB; Jordan Phillips, OL/DL; Nick Scupski, OL/DL; Aaron Tohme, OL/DL.
Crestwood: Evan Callaghan, RB/LB; Dean Gregory, OL/DL; Kota Kishel, WR/DB; Bernie Popson, OL/DL; Chris Yokimcus, OL/DL.
GAR: Lucas Benton, WR/DB: Elijah Gresham, OL/DL; Corey Moore, QB; Vinnie Phan, TE/LB; Christian Skrepenak, OL/DL; Shakir Soto, OL/DL.
Hanover Area: Brandon Holmgren, OL/DL; Jared Langdon, OL/DL; Dillon Ropietski, FB/LB; Tim Saltz, OL/DL; Chuckie Schmoll, TE/LB.
Hazleton Area: Devion Barlow, WR/DB; Henderson Concepcion, RB/LB; Brett Finkelstein, OL/DL; Zack Kehler, WR/DB; Joe Komar, OL/DL; Jonathan Probert, OL/DL
Holy Redeemer: Gabe Dalessandro, WR/DB; Tyler Kastendieck, RB/LB; Matt Kotulak, OL/DL; Tyler Margalski, OL/DL; Scott Sasie,
Meyers: Parrish Bennett, RB/DB; Amir Blake, WR/DB; Rudy Goodwin, FB/DL; Teaguen Labatch, QB.
Nanticoke: Cairee Walker, OL/DL; Maurice Wood, RB/LB.