OLYPHANT – Football, the most anticipated and followed season of the high school sports year, is getting close.
Lackawanna Football Conference coaches held their Media Day Wednesday, August 8 at the Regal Room.
Teams will hit the field early Monday, August 13 for the first official day of practice.
Less than three weeks remain to prepare for Opening Night, but much of the preparation has gone on throughout the year, whether in the weight room, at camps or on the field in passing scrimmages and conditioning workouts.
In two weeks, Go Lackawanna will help prepare for the season with a football preview edition for the third straight year.
Media Day provided a reminder of many of the stories, teams and players who are likely to gather attention this season.
Here is an early hint of what is ahead:
As is often the case, defending champions will be dangerous.
Scranton, a co-champion last year in Division 1, is expected to fight Delaware Valley for the title this season. Defending Division 2 and 3 champions Dunmore and Old Forge return as favorites after going unbeaten in their divisions last year.
Valley View, the other co-champion in Division 1, is not expected to go away. The Cougars rank behind only Scranton and Delaware Valley in polling of coaches in their division.
While the defending champions, Delaware Valley, Scranton Prep and Riverside all look strong, there are teams facing problems.
The numbers game could catch up with Wallenpaupack and Holy Cross.
Wallenpaupack had its third season of at least seven wins in the last four in 2011 but did so with an almost exclusively senior lineup.
The Buckhorns return exactly one full-time starter and one other part-timer. Their defense does not even include players with any significant experience as substitutes.
Holy Cross also had a strong senior class and is preparing to open with a roster of just 22 players.
North Pocono and Montrose will rely on changes after going winless last season.
Greg Dolhon is the new coach at North Pocono after 11 years as an assistant at Dunmore and nine years at Wyoming Area.
Montrose is adding athletes from Elk Lake in a cooperative sponsorship similar to the system in place at Susquehanna, which also includes players from Blue Ridge on its roster.
The Meteors need help. They also failed to win a game in 2010.
Carbondale appears to be in an ideal situation for a breakthrough.
The Chargers drop from Division 2 to Division 3 – swapping places with Mid Valley – and return 21 of 22 starters, many of them for their third season.
Delaware Valley quarterback Bryan Schor, running backs Tyler Phillips from Valley View and Austin Seamon from Dunmore, receivers Ron Tomasetti from Mid Valley and Karlon Quiller from Scranton and Dunmore offensive lineman Mike Boland are among the conference's top returning players.
Scranton, Dunmore, Western Wayne and Delaware Valley all have strong groups of returning all-stars, but none have as many back as Old Forge and Riverside.
Matt Mancuso, Brian Tomasetti, Tony DeSando, Paul Papi, Mike Vieira, Ryan Paulish, Jordan Sekol and Jake Manetti all gained all-star recognition from www.northeastpafootball.com as underclassmen last year at Old Forge. No other conference team could match the Blue Devils' total of seven.
Riverside has players back who occupied the most all-star spots with 11.
Nick Dranchak was selected at three positions, including quarterback, while Dave Sweetman, Michael Loftus, Tyler Armillay and Mark Donaghey were also recognized on both sides of the ball.
Beyond the returning all-stars are three other players who missed most or all of the 2011 LFC season, but could be among the conference's biggest impact players.
Western Wayne's Rob Siclari rushed for 290 yards and scored five touchdowns in an Opening Night come-from-behind win over eventual District 2 Class AA finalist Wyoming Area, but had his season end a week later with a severe knee injury.
Siclari will return along with Mid Valley quarterback Matt Tanner, who injured his knee before the first day of practice and missed all of the 2011 season.
Susquehanna played without Cole Mallery, a two-way, all-star as a sophomore, because Mallery spent the 2011 season at Seton Catholic Central in Binghamton, N.Y.
There will be many more details to be shared in the weeks ahead. After all, the season is just getting started.