PLYMOUTH – Pittston Area saw immediate results in Nick Barbieri’s first season as head coach.
The Patriots may be seeing more results in the fact that the roster Barbieri carried into Thursday’s Wyoming Valley Conference Media Day at Wyoming Valley West High School was two pages long.
Now, the Patriots will try to maintain that progress while balancing many significant graduation losses with the positive sign of growing numbers within the program. They have more than 50 players on the varsity roster and a growing junior high program.
Pittston Area won just two games in two seasons before Barbieri’s debut produced a 6-5 record, with the winning season clinched in a victory over rival Wyoming Area, and a berth in the District 2 Class 4A playoffs.
“It’s different in that things we were trying to establish have already been established last year,” Barbieri said. “We don’t have to go and input a whole new system. The kids that are back know the system and even the kids who were freshmen ran the same system, so that’s a lot easier.
“Replacing 17 seniors is difficult, but when you work some kids in, the advantage of getting kids reps as sophomores is that when they come back, they do it with some experience, whether it’s starting or not.”
Barbieri’s first team was built around an experienced senior class, led by the veteran passing combination of Walter Coles-to-Kevin Krawczyk. His second team may need to build around its experienced linemen while working in new players at most of the skill positions.
Center Ed Galonis, right guard Joey Jones and left tackle Reilly Brody are all seniors who return to the starting lineup.
“It’s always important for senior leaders to take ownership in the young guys who might make a mistake or even if the older guys make a mistake,” Brody said. “You can’t be afraid to speak up and fix the patches.”
Seth Johnson, another senior, was starting before getting hurt midway through the season.
Junior Hugh Bentham and senior Josh Christ are working at the right tackle position.
Juniors Mike Nocito and Alex Anastasi and sophomore P.J. Pisano are pursuing the quarterback position.
“Those are big shoes to fill,” Barbieri said.
Anastasi is in his first year in the program. He won the Old Forge starting quarterback position as a freshman in 2016 and threw for 210 yards in a playoff loss.
Junior tailback Dylan Lukachko was the third-leading rusher as a reserve last season. Senior fullback Mike Coe and junior tailback Franny George have very limited experience in the offensive backfield.
The Patriots graduated their top three receivers, but Andrew Krawczyk and Bryan Giambra both returning after finishing in double figures in catches. Alex Haas could join them in the receiver combination along with Brennan Higgins, a basketball player who has joined the program as a junior.
Pittston Area is strong at the tight end position. John DeLucca was the starter before being replaced by Tony Gorey when DeLucca was injured. Both are back and will be used together in some two-tight end sets.
Brody is also returning to the defensive line after working his way into the lineup as a two-way starter during the second game of the season.
“They stuck me right in the offensive and defensive line and I fell in love with it,” said Brody, a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder. “ … My friends kind of pushed me to try it out. One day, I told the coach to get me a helmet and put me out there.
“I loved it.”
Bentham, Johnson and James Murtha are working to try to land the two remaining spots up front.
Coe and DeLucca both move from outside linebacker, where they started, to inside linebacker.
George, who has significant experience, and Gorey, who gained some last year, are expected to be on the outside.
The secondary will be entirely new.
Lokachko and Billy Kyttle are expected to be the cornebacks. Tannon Kraklio is a strong safety. Giambra and Higgins are working at free safety.
The Patriots could have a female kicker in former soccer player Luchia Carabetta.
Coe returns as one of the conference’s top punters. DeLucca will likely handle kickoffs.
Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or email email@example.com