PLYMOUTH – Pick a reason for optimism.
The Wyoming Area Warriors were predominantly a young team last season, made even younger by major injury developments.
Despite that youth, they were constantly competitive, losing a series of close, heart-breaking games that would seem to be unlikely to be repeated even if the team coming back was not more experienced.
The level of competition has been eased by a drop in enrollment classification.
The most significant offseason transfer in District 2 benefits the Warriors, who have added a major Division I prospect with two years of football ahead.
Separately, any of the above could be a reason to boost hopes.
Collectively, they make it nearly unavoidable that Wyoming Area is entering the 2018 season regarded as a team that could be contending for championships.
“We always have high expectations,” Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer said. “Our goals are always the same. The reality is in terms of experience and talent and all that, it fluctuates from year to year.
“We certainly have a lot of those things entering this season. We enter the season with size, athleticism and some good experience.”
The transition from Class 4A to 3A comes after the team went 4-7 while losing five games by three points or less.
“Hopefully, we’re going to play as a hungry team and use those experiences to be a little bit more ready out of the gate,” Spencer said.
The encouraging signs were all there before the spring development that Sammy Solomon transferred from Wyoming Valley West. The 6-foot-3, 295-pounder already has NCAA Division I scholarship offers from Rutgers, Boston College, Virginia and Temple and many more could be on the horizon.
“It’s a new experience,” Spencer said of adding a national-level prospect as a transfer. “It’s been a pleasure so far and a great opportunity.
“Sammy has done such a great job coming in, getting acclimated, connecting with our players, our program and our school community.”
The switch coming with a quarter of his sophomore school year still remaining eased the process.
“It was a lot of help,” Solomon said. “I met some of the guys, went out with them just to get together and bond a little bit to get a feel for what the guys are like before the season comes.”
Solomon joins a strong Wyoming Area junior class that includes quarterback Dominic DeLuca, defensive leader Corey Mruk and many more established players.
DeLuca took over as quarterback in time for the fourth snap last season and quickly settled what could have been a crisis. He finished well beyond the 1,000 yard and 50-percent marks as a passer and is also the team’s top returning rusher.
Sophomore Jacob Williams, who will get some playing time at receiver, and freshman Blaise Sokach-Minnick should again give the team depth there.
Mruk played both fullback and tailback last season, but is likely to settle at tailback this season with Darren Rodney. Zajquay Williamson and Charlie Banashefski will also get some time there.
Solomon and F.J. Braccini are fullbacks. Dillon Williams and Nick Elko provided some younger options.
Brian Williams returns after being the team’s second-leading receiver last season. Dmitri Depietro, Rodney, Williamson, Jake Busch and Riley Rusyn all have the potential to also spend some time at wide receiver, depending on formations and situations.
Derek Ambrosino returns to start at tight end where Jacob Mikoliczyk or the fullback combination could also fit in the mix.
The line is much more experienced than last year at his time.
Center Stephen Sokach-Minnick, guards Jaryn Polit-Moran and Michael Amato and tackles Cameron Carr and Matt Wycoski form the veteran group.
“We’re a lot more ready, a lot more experience and just ready to take on the season,” Carr said.
Carr will keep his second uniform number, allowing for the possibility to jump to tight end at times as he has done in the past.
Dante Bovani, Patrick Nelson, Thomas Wycoski, James Gashi and Bryce Hinkle provide depth.
Solomon was an all-star defensive end at Wyoming Valley West, but he is likely to move inside and play next to Carr, an end.
Ambrosini is the other end.
Jesse Cegelka will continue to play nose guard when the Warriors look to smaller, quicker combinations. Anthony Scalzo could fill a similar role.
Spencer said when he goes with a “bigger, more traditional look” that Amato, Polit-Moran, Stephen Sokach-Minnick and James Gashi are the experienced players most likely to get the bulk of the playing time. Hinkle, a sophomore, could also figure into the mix.
Mikoliczyk and Caleb Graham are additional ends.
Mruk is back to serve as the “quarterback of the defense” from his linebacker position.
Banishefski and Braccini also are experienced linebackers with Elko and Dillon Williams trying to join them in the rotation.
The Warriors return one of the conference’s top secondaries with DeLuca at free safety, Rodney at corner and Depietro at strong safety.
Brian Williams and Zajquay Williamson also saw time as spot starters or in nickel situations to give the team five experienced defensive backs. Jake Williams and Busch will try to earn playing time there as well.
Braccini is a kicker and punter. DeLuca punts. Soccer players Josh Cumbo and Aleah Kranson are also working at kicker.
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