“Last season was the best season in school history, that is a very special accomplishment considering the rich football tradition at Lackawanna Trail,” said head football coach Steve Jervis. “But our expectations are high and our players are working hard. Our goal is to win them all, who ever we play, wherever we go, we expect to win.”
For any other team, that might come across as a bold statement, but for the Lions, it is simply a way of life.
Trail has five returning starters on offense and five returning starters on defense, as well as its kick returner and place kicker from last year’s team that made it to the state championship game in Hershey Stadium.
“We lost a quality group of 12 seniors who led us to the best season in school history. They will be missed sorely,” explained Jervis. “But we welcome a group of very talented players coming up from our junior high team.
Included in those lost to graduation are four year starting quarterback Nate Rolka, as well as Zac Cost and Noah Coleman. All three players were instrumental last season.
Coleman will continue his football career at Ursinus College, while Cost will be in uniform for Lycoming College. Rolka hung up his football pads, but will take the field for the University of Delware’s baseball team.
This year the Lions will roster 11 seniors, and Jervis believes that many of his players have the potential to play football at the next level.
“We return two of our three ball carriers this season and we have two senior leaders on the offensive line that have played a lot of football. On defense, we have three returning starters at linebacker,” Jervis said of his team’s strengths.
But he did mention that the Lions will need to replace both guards on offense as well as All-State tight end Cost. On defense, Trail only returns one starter on the defensive line in Mark Dunckle.
Dunckle explained that he welcomes the chance to take charge with his teammates.
“The first thing I would tell (my teammates) is that if they make a mistake, it is important that they don’t let it get to them,” said Dunckle. “They should keep their head up and focus on the next play, also to focus and know their job because if everyone does their job, we’ll be successful, and most importantly to have fun.”
Jervis will look to Dunckle for leadership this season as he, Nico Berrios, Richard Rodenbach, and Josh Brown will all serve as captains, selected by a joint vote of both players and coaches.
“I am honored to be one of the leaders for our team this season especially with the teammates I have,” said the senior. “The way I take charge is through example, I try to lead by using my experience and hard work.”
As for the coaches, the Lions will have a pride of assistants roaming the sidelines as Jim Becchetti, Chad Gibbs, Matt Landsiedel, Jeff Stage, Colin Golden, Tim Ronchi, Ben Simmons, Tyler Hinkley, Steve Jervis Sr., and Rich Ronchi join Jervis in polos and pullovers this season.
Jervis and his squad take each game one at a time and their goal is to win them all. “We play two other ‘A” teams in Northwest and Old Forge, both of which can have playoff implications - so those games are very important,” said Jervis.
Dunckle said, “I think the best way for us to leave our own mark is to make another run to Hershey, but for this to happen we have to take it one game at a time and not shift our focus from the team we are playing that week.
“Our mission statement,” explained Jervis, “is that every time that we take the field we represent ourselves, our families, our school and the communities in which we grew up. Our coaches and players take this responsibility very seriously.”
“The thing about being at such a small school,” said Dunckle, “is that we all pretty much grew up knowing each other and most of us seniors have played football together since first grade with the Junior Lions. That, to me, is an advantage because we know that each one of us is always there to compete. That is how we trust each other and that is how we will win games.”
Trail will have an open date on its varsity schedule this season, as Holy Cross officials have suspended the varsity football program for the 2019 season due to lack of participation.
“We will adapt the best we can,” said Jervis.
The plan, according to the coach, is for Trail to try to pick up another game for the last week of the season. But as of the writing of this preview, the Lions have not found a competitor
The state silver medal winning team took the field Saturday in a tri-scrimmage hosting Western Wayne and Wallenpaupack last Saturday, and dominated the day.
“We like going against bigger, very competitive schools. Wallenpaupack was the 5A district champ and western Wayne is a 3A district playoff team,” said Jervis after the tri-scrimmage. “We look for kids playing with a clear thought process, playing our style and competing at a very high level. We know what we are going to get out of our veteran players, however it is a great time to evaluate our younger players and players who are playing new positions. We liked what we saw. We still have a lot of work to do, but the foundation is there. Now we want to keep improving and be playing our best football come November.”
Lackawanna Trail opens its season on the road against Northwest Area which finished last season at 4-6.
Roster: Seniors Kilar Wallace, Miguel Ella, Nico Berrios, Jeffrey Resto, Luke Baldwin, Dominic Redmond, Josh Brown, Tynell Bracero, Josh Semken, Richard Rodenbach, and Mark Dunckle. Juniors Dalton Deacon, Johann Ella, Ray Melnikoff, and Ty Vokes. Sophomores Kody Cresswell, Owen Lisk, Johnny Halter, Xander Toward, Julius Rosencrans, Tyler Rozanski, Josh Oliver, Steven Richmond, Cole Choplosky, Gavin Davis, RJ Schrig, and Miles Edwards. Freshmen Evan Litwin and Jacob Noakes.
Schedule: Aug. 23 at Northwest; Aug. 30 vs. Susquehanna; Sept. 6 vs. Montrose; Sept. 13 at Dunmore; Sept. 20 at Carbondale; Sept. 27 vs. Mid Valley; Oct. 4 at Old Forge; Oct. 11 vs. Hanover; Oct. 19 at Holy Redeemer.