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Trail tackles Dunmore for title

RJ Schirg and Cole Choplosky made the defensive stop of the year.

Kody Cresswell made sure to reward them.

Late in the third quarter, on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line, the senior linemen got a powerful thrust into the line and kept Dunmore quarterback Thomas Bowen inches from the end zone.

Seven plays later, Cresswell broke free for a 50-yard, go-ahead touchdown that held up as top-seeded Lackawanna Trail defeated the Bucks, 14-10, to win the District 2 Class 2A championship Friday night at Lions Pride Stadium.

The Lions ended Dunmore’s seven-year reign as Class 2A champion and won the program’s third district crown in the last four seasons, its first in Class 2A and 11th overall.

“Everything shifted as soon as we knew he didn’t get in,” Schirg said. “Our minds went, let’s win a championship. The senior leadership came together and we knew we were going to take the gold and be District 2 Class 2A champions.

“We kept going and going and grinding. Kody broke that long run and we knew we were going to win this thing.”

Trail overcame a late miscue in the first half and charged up its offense following the goal line stand.

Dunmore took a 10-7 lead on a 31-yard field goal by Max Hunt on the final play of the first half. Danny Pigga caught a 23-yard pass after the Bucks recovered a fumble on a punt to set up the kick.

Then, the Bucks forced a Trail punt on the first possession of the second half and went on the move. Bowen had a 15-yard run and Pigga had a 20-yard carry as they marched inside the 5. Schirg, a Class 1A all-state offensive tackle as a sophomore, made two straight stops for no gain on carries by Ruggiero and Pigga. Bowen powered his way to the 1 on third down, however, he never got solid footing on a fourth-down sneak and the push from Choplosky, a 215-pound senior, and Schirg, a 285-pound senior, kept him from crossing the goal line.

“We got together and we just told each other, this was up to me and him,” Choplosky said. “We went all in and flipped that switch. And that was all the motivation we needed. We all got really hyped up. I am so proud of our D-Line and O-Line.”

Aided by a pass interference call that gave them some breathing room, the Lions started running in between the tackles and moving the chains. Cresswell had a 10-yard run, Hunter Patterson churned out 7 and Lukas Gumble added 9.

That’s when Cresswell struck with an inside reverse through the middle of the defense for a 50-yard score with 10:03 left in the fourth quarter that gave Trail the lead.

“The line was a big changing point in this game,” said Cresswell, who has 1,069 yards this season. “They kept their heads down and kept pushing in the second half and really got it done. We ran that play earlier and got a few yards, and when we ran it again, it was wide open. I got great blocks from the line and Miles Edwards and I wasn’t stopping.”

To that point, Trail had 131 yards of offense.

With their first lead of the game, the Lions defense responded. On a third-and-7 from the Dunmore 36, Miles Edwards sacked Bowen for a 3-yard loss and forced a punt with 5:12 to play.

As it did on the previous possession, the Trail line dominated.

The Lions grinded out three first downs in nine plays that moved the ball from their own 25 out to the Dunmore 38. Patterson had 17 yards, Gumble had 12 of his 99 yards, Cresswell added a 5-yard run and Owen Lisk got 3 yards on a third-and-1 to keep the drive going and the Bucks never got the ball back.

“I just kept telling the guys that everybody had to do their jobs,” Lisk said. “We kept chewing up yards and chewing up the clock.”

Dunmore led 7-0 in the first quarter when Bowen ran in for a 15-yard touchdown with :15.5 seconds left. But, Lackawanna Trail drew even when Patterson caught a 4-yard touchdown pass on third down with 1:53 left in the half. Gumble had a 52-yard run that set up the score.

“Owen threw a great ball and he hit me right where it needed to be,” Patterson said. “I made the catch and we knew we had to put one in there.”

According to Trail coach Steve Jervis, the Lions will face Northern Lehigh on the road Friday night with a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Trail 14, Dunmore 10

Dunmore 7 3 0 0 10

Trail 0 7 0 7 14

First quarter

DUN — Bowen 15 run (Hunt kick). :15.5

Second quarter

LT — Patterson 4 pass from Lisk (Ball kick). 1:53

DUN — Hunt 31 FG. :00.0

Fourth quarter

LT — Cresswell 50 run (Ball kick). 10:03

Team statistics

DUN LT

First Downs 12 13

Rushing-Att-Yards 34-156 39-246

Comp-Att-In 4-10-0 1-3-0

Passing Yards 59 4

Total Yards 215 250

Punts-Average 4-32.0 2-23.0

Fumbles-Lost 0-0 4-1

Penalties-Yards 7-60 3-10

Individual statistics

Rushing: DUN – T.Bowen 11-46, 1 TD; D.Pigga 6-43; N.Ruggiero 12-40; L.Mitchell 1-21; J.Malone 3-4; N.Donvito 1-2. LT – L.Gumble 10-99; K.Creswell 9-97, 1 TD; H.Patterson 13-51; O.Lisk 3-9; Team — 4-(-10).

Passing: DUN – T.Bowen 4-10-0, 59. LT – O.Lisk 1-3-0, 4, 1 TD.

Receiving: DUN – B.Reuther 2-18; D. DeSando 1-18; D.Pigga 1-23. LT – H.Patterson 1-4, 1 TD.


Blue Star moms’ heroes

Around 125 participants take off from Sunnyside Road Saturday morning for the start of the 5K Hero Run/Walk in support of the Blue Star Mothers of Northeast Pennsylvania.


Sports
Bear season opens Saturday
  • Updated

Northeast Pennsylvania posted impressive numbers during the early archery and muzzleloader bear seasons, and the strong showing could continue when the statewide bear season opens Saturday, Nov. 20.

During the early archery, muzzleloader and special firearms seasons combined, which wrapped up Nov. 6, five of the 10 top harvest counties were in the northeast, and six of the 10 heaviest bears were harvested in the region.

Luzerne County recorded the heaviest early season bear, which was taken in Newport Twp. and had an estimated live weight of 681 pounds. The seventh-heaviest bear also came from Luzerne County, weighing 539 pounds. Luzerne County also ranked seventh in total harvest with 45 bears, while Carbon County paced the region with 56, good for the fifth-highest total in the state.

“We may not have the harvest like you see in Lycoming, Clinton, Potter and Tioga counties, but we’re not far behind,” said Pennsylvania Game Commission biologist Kevin Wenner. “Northeastern Pennsylvania is a tremendous bear hunting destination when it comes to overall numbers and the size of the bears.”

Emily Carrallo, a wildlife biologist and black bear specialist for the PGC, said quality habitat is the reason why the northeast has a lot of bears, and plenty of big ones as well. Every bear weighing 800 pounds or more that was ever harvested has come from the northeast region, she said, while there have been plenty of 600 and 700-pound bears taken throughout the state over the years.

Still, bagging a bear isn’t easy, and locally, this season carries a unique challenge. Wenner said there is abundance of food in the woods, including both hard and soft mast such as hickory and beech nuts, and cherry, apples and serviceberry.

“This was an exceptional food year for wildlife,” he said.

While the abundant food sources are a boon for bears, it can be a challenge for hunters. During years when mast production is low and food is spotty, bears are concentrated where the limited food is available, making them easier to pattern. But in a year like this when food is everywhere, Wenner said, bears are distributed across the landscape and it’s harder to pinpoint them.

That’s one reason why even though the northeast region had a strong showing in the early season harvest figures, the numbers were down. This year, the total early season harvest for the northeast was 365 bears, down from 570 last year and 495 in 2019.

Statewide, the combined early season harvest dropped significantly, from 1,996 in 2020 to 1,182 this year.

While abundant food sources may be a factor, another possible cause is increased hunting opportunities have resulted in higher harvests in recent years, including 2019 when a record 4,643 bears were taken in the early, statewide and extended seasons combined.

The opportunity expands again this year as the extended season, which overlaps the rifle deer season in many Wildlife Management Units, opens on the first weekend of the season — Nov. 27 and 28. Last year the extended season didn’t begin until the first Monday of deer season.

Carrallo said the number of days in this year’s bear season, including early, statewide and extended, makes it the longest one to date. She said the estimated statewide bear population is 16,500, but an updated figure will be released in January after the 2021 harvest data is tabulated.

If the bear population has decreased, Wenner said it’s not unexpected.

“It’s assumed that’s starting to occur,” he said. “Until we get through this hunting season, it’s hard to say specifically that’s happening.”

As far as the upcoming statewide season, Wenner said there will still be plenty of bears across the region despite the early season harvest.

And plenty of excitement.

“You have hunters that go out to double the season as an opportunity to scout for the upcoming deer season, and others who hunt in groups or out of camps and enjoy putting on large drives,” Wenner said. “Even though the potential for success is lessened slightly, the excitement and tradition is never going away.”

There are a few changes for hunters for the upcoming bear season. The bear check station that was previously held at Lackawanna State Park has been moved to the Fleetville Fire Company in Lackawanna County. All bear check stations will follow the same COVID protocols as last year, Wenner said, and the public won’t be allowed inside but can view bears being weighed and processed from outside the building.

In addition, hunters are reminded to punch the month and date on their license when tagging a bear. The change is new to this year’s licenses, Wenner added.

The general statewide bear season is set for Nov. 20-23.

Extended bear hunting is allowed in WMUs 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 5A from Nov. 27 through Dec. 4.


Prebola to Duke

Tunkhannock Area senior Matthew Prebola signed his NCAA Letter of Intent to throw javelin at Duke University. Seated, from left, are mother Marianne, Matthew, and father Bill. Dr. Prebola is also a TAHS track and field coach.


Sports
Athlete of the Week: R.J. Schirg
  • Updated

Lackawanna Trail senior lineman R.J. Schirg helped the Lions turn the momentum on Friday night, holding the Dunmore Bucks out of the end zone in the second half of Trail’s D2 championship game. The Lions won, 14-10, and advance to states next week.

In recognition of his achievement, Schirg has been named the Wyoming County Press Examiner Athlete of the Week.

Grade, age, hometown: Senior, 18, Factoryville

Family: Mom Theresa, dad Charles, siblings Cole and Mackenzie (15)

What other sports do you participate in? I throw the shot put and discus in track and field, and am involved in the Ironman Club at school. (Editor’s Note: R.J. holds the school record for squats at 520 pounds, and is second highest all-time.)

What number do you wear and why? I wear No. 72 because it was all-state lineman Shawn Jones’ number before he graduated and I wanted to continue with the greatness of that number.

Athletes you admire: Mean Joe Green, Tim Tebow, Lawrence Taylor

What celebrity would you like to meet at Dunkin for a cup of coffee? Will Ferrell

Who inspires you to be better? My mother because of her drive, passion, and commitment to her children and her willingness to help others with her hard work.

Favorite school subject: US History

What is your biggest fear? Knowing I can do better

Favorite Social Media App: Instagram

Favorite local radio station: Froggy 101

What is the last tv series you binged and platform? “MeatEater” on Netflix

What is the best place for post game food? McDonalds

Superstitions or Rituals: I pray with my mom and brother before we go up to school.

What song would you sing at karaoke? “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

When did you start playing football competitively? At five years old, for the junior Lions

Favorite field to compete on and why? Lion’s Pride Stadium, I have been playing here so long, so many great memories on that field.

What is your favorite football memory? Winning the D2 championship at Old Forge in 2019, but Friday night’s game against Dunmore is close.

What did you want to be when you were younger? A teacher

What is your dream job now? A strength and conditioning coach

Who are your closest teammates? The Big Cats- the offensive and defensive lines

How would you describe Coach Jervis in one word? Committed

How would he describe you? Respectful

What quote or motto do you try to live by? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13

What skill would you like to master? Karate

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? Play football

Random fun fact: My mom never missed a junior Lions football practice because I couldn’t put my own helmet on.

What is your favorite food? A Mountain Melt burger from Tully’s

Question for next week’s AOW: What is your favorite food?

Post-graduation plans: To go to a four-year college for physical education, get a teaching certificate and masters in Phys. Ed; then move on to teach young men to lift properly and have the correct workout routines, including proper training


Jones signs NLI

Lackawanna Trail senior Dariane Jones has signed her NCAA Letter of Intent to play field hockey at Kutztown University. Seated, from left, are mother Erin, Dariane, and father Dan. In the back are NEPA Force coach Laura Evans; LT asst. coach Kelley Buck; LT coach Gary Wilmet; and AD Ed Gaidula.


Sheridan signs Letter

Tunkhannock Area senior Thomas Sheridan signed his NCAA Letter of Intent to play baseball at Canisius. Seated from left are mother Tracy, Thomas, and father Chris. In the back are TAHS coach Gary Custer and East Coast Sandhogs coach Angel Guilbe.


Sports
Juniors dominate, community wins
  • Updated

The band marched down Tunkhannock’s Tiger Drive and sat in the bleachers.

The concession stand smells wafted through the air.

The ambulance and emergency personnel were by the back gate.

The cheerleaders were warming up their routines, and engaging with the crowd.

Mr. Lunger was in the press box at the microphone, announcing the teams.

Coach Mike Marabell was on the sidelines.

The Tiger Tunnel was inflated and on the field, ready to release the players in their game-day pink and black uniforms.

Wait….what?

On Thursday night, the Tunkhannock Area student body came together for it’s annual Charity Powder Puff football game, reversing all the traditional Friday night gridiron roles.

Powder Puff football games are flag, or touch, football games between girls from junior and senior classes. All members of either class are encouraged to participate, as the girls play football and the boys cheer them on from the sidelines.

“I vividly remember attending Powder Puff when I was younger, canned good and winter coat in hand, ready to watch girls that I looked up to as an underclassman compete for the the ultimate bragging rights,” said Cali Wisnosky, who wore the pink jersey of the juniors. “I consider it a milestone in every woman’s high school career.”

The junior girls blanked their senior counterparts in a 29-0 showing. Class of 2023’s team dazzled the crowd with four interceptions, a pair of two-point conversions, and even a good PAT.

Junior Hannah Aitken excitedly reported, “I have been super stoked for Powder Puff since I was younger, and couldn’t wait to play the seniors this year. Now we know what to expect as far as how the game goes, we will be in a good position for another dub next year.”

Teammate Kendra Brosious, who said she was “all in” once she saw the jerseys, afforded praise to the coaching staff.

“Dealing with a group of teenage girls of varying abilities could not have been easy for the guys who coached us,” she observed. “We knew that we wanted to win, so we practiced a lot of different things, but practices also consisted of jokes and fun memories for all of us.”

The seniors, for their part, also had an interception and never gave up- despite the score.

“I loved it, definitely one of my favorite high school events I was involved in,” exclaimed senior quarterback Alaina Ritz.

Senior Karen Whittaker explained, “I’ve looked forward to this since freshman year when we volunteered at the event. I saw how much fun it was and how the community came together. I am glad we were able to come out this year since junior year we couldn’t.”

The 2021 installation of the game was the first time, besides the original contest, where neither team had seen the field before. The coronavirus pandemic shutdown the 2020 game forcing both teams to participate as rookies.

“It just keeps getting bigger and better every year,” said Bill Bevan, the district’s weight room supervisor who also organizes the event. “The game started in 2009 as a senior project and has evolved into this- a night of giving back to our community and having fun as well.”

According to Bevan, eleven years ago the game didn’t have much support from the faculty and administration. The students, though well-meaning, veered from the concept and the game was actually not repeated for the following year.

“A local district put on a charity Powder Puff game, and I approached then-high school principal Greg Ellsworth about reviving the game. I told him I could make it special, and do it for the community. He was on-board right away, and here we are,” explained Bevan.

Admission to the game consisted of canned goods, gently worn winter coats, hats, and gloves, or monetary donations.

“The first year, we accepted money and donated it all to Seven Loaves Soup Kitchen in town,” said Bevan. “The next year we added canned goods. I spoke with Laura Charles, our school’s Honor Society advisor to see how we could work together to make more of an impact. We decided to run the game the same week as the school’s drive and all the cans brought here tonight will go with the NHS donations to the CEO.”

This year, the Tigers added Wyoming County Interfaith to its grateful recipients.

“We want all donations to stay here in Wyoming County, to support the community that supports us,” offered Bevan.

Whittaker explained, “The game is an opportunity for us athletes to bring the community together and give back. Our small town is huge in the way we support each other. It’s refreshing to see everyone together again to provide for the Seven Loaves Soup Kitchen, the Interfaith, and for those who may need it in our community.”

The TAHS community is all in, as the freshman class donates all concessions and runs the stand, sophomores man the gates and accept the ‘admission’ tokens, and the juniors and seniors are on the field.

Also new this year was the addition of cheerleaders. Traditionally, two or three football players ‘coach’ the teams, but more students wanted to be involved.

“I was a little hesitant at first, but we all decided that they will add another bonus layer to the game, and maybe even draw more of a crowd,” laughed Bevan.

Senior Tommy Sheridan served as the captain of the senior squad. With three varsity cheerleaders as their coaches, Sheridan was confident in his team’s four solid cheers that they worked for three or four days on.

“The hardest part was remembering the dances,” said the senior baseball player. “We worked together though and learned from each other’s successes and mistakes to get it all done. It was a lot of fun.”

Bevan also added, “Each year the donations increase. The highest we have given to Seven Loaves is between $700 and $800.”

Two weeks before the game, the coaches are given a list of rules as workouts and practices begin.

Ty Konen, a senior football player turned coach for the night, said, “It was definitely a different, yet very fun, experience. It was fun getting to wear the headsets and really nice watching the girls run around, have fun, and play their hearts out but I definitely missed being on the field with my brothers.”

Bevan was quick to point out that this was not a ‘boot camp’ and that any team member who attends all practices is guaranteed an offensive and defensive play.

Ritz said, “Training for the game was not like normal training for basketball. I didn’t know what to expect, we had two weeks to learn plays and positions. We were all new to this so it was pretty interesting.”

“I play basketball and volleyball so I’m always training in a warm gym,” explained Whittaker. “Being out on the field every night was definitely a different and much colder experience. Also, being coached by my peers was very different, but it was fun and they taught us well.”

Konen said he was looking forward to teaching the girls how to catch and run the ball, and admitted it was funny watching them at first, but they got the hang of it.

“I think the easiest thing for them to learn how to do was how to communicate and play as a team,” said Konen. “They did it really well and I was just happy to see them go out there and have fun.”

On the junior’s side, Aiken offered, “The guys were trying to teach us different types of plays and code names that we would have to memorize in order for the play to work. This was really different from anything I’ve done in other sports like swimming and tennis.”

As kickoff time arrived, a group of referees made up of Tunkhannock faculty and staff- including Powder Puff alum and current TAHS girls tennis coach Ellie Kuzma- met at the 50 yard line to review rules.

“My favorite part of the night had to be the team dynamic,” said Whittaker. “Everyone just had fun, in the field house and on the field. It was a true FNL experience- on a Thursday- with great sportsmanship between the juniors and us seniors.”

Wisnosky also enjoyed the pomp and flair surrounding a traditional football game, saying, “My favorite part of the night was standing inside the blowup tiger and running through our sign. We may have missed our cue and failed to actually rip the sign, but crammed into that tiger I have physically and metaphorically never felt closer to the girls in my class. Everyone was smiling and cheering and all the stress of the school day seemed to fade away.”

Brosious reflected, “Rushing on the field when the clock finally got to zero (was the best). It was such a relief that our hard work amounted to something so rewarding and so beneficial to the team and community.”

“I am super proud to live in such a small town and still have so many awesome people willing to come out and not only support the teams but also to give back to Tunkhannock,” echoed Ritz.

“(Our) community went above and beyond to support me and my friends while competing in the 2018 LLWS, so it meant a lot to give back to the less fortunate while also giving my community an opportunity to come together and create a memory I know myself and the rest of my class will remember forever,” finished Wisnosky.


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