Wallenpaupack Area opened its 2013 season by battling Lakeland in a Saturday morning scrimmage.
Lakeland landed on the shores of The Big Lake this weekend to battle Wallenpaupack Area in a Week One exhibition gridiron scrimmage.
The Chiefs are coming off a solid 6-3 season in the always-rugged Lackawanna Football Conference.
Under the direction of head coach Jeff Wasilchak, Lakeland advanced to the District Two Class AA finals last year before falling to Wyoming Area in the title tilt, 20-7.
Paupack, on the other hand, struggled to an overall mark of 3-6 and posted just one win in Division One action.
Dr. Mark Watson is entering his eighth season as head coach of the Bucks and was hoping to see a few simple things from his team Saturday morning.
"Honestly, all I'm looking for today is aggressiveness and physicality," he told The News Eagle. "I want to see the kids go out there and get after it on both sides of the ball."
Grades Are In
A little less than two hours later, Dr. Watson and his staff were encouraged, but not exactly jumping for joy with the performance.
"We have a long way to go," he said with a laugh. "I know it's only our first exhibition, but the season is coming up fast and we really need to improve."
Lakeland owned the line of scrimmage throughout the early part of the day. The Chiefs moved the ball consistently on offense and stymied Paupack defensively.
However, once the second string and jayvees took the field, Paupack's depth began to wear down an undermanned Lakeland roster.
"We definitely have an advantage when it comes to overall numbers," said Dr. Watson. "But, we need our first string kids to step up and make plays. That's what we'll be focusing on for the next time."
That next time will come quickly.
The Buckhorns are slated to hit the road Friday for their final exhibition tune-up before the 2013 LFC season kicks off.
Paupack travels to Plymouth Friday for a non-league battle with Wyoming Valley West. That contest is tentatively scheduled for a 10 a.m. start.
Several Buckhorns have already begun stepping up to assume leadership roles during summer practice.
Dominic Basilicata and Billy Rotella are the first two names coaches mention when asked about overall leadership qualities.
Basilicata is a senior who saw a great deal of varsity action last year on defense. Listed at 5'5" and 170 lbs. in Paupack's Media Guide, Dom will play on both sides of the ball this fall.
Rotella is a junior who should anchor both the offensive and defensive lines. Billy checks in at 6'1" and 245 lbs. He'll line up as a guard and DT.
"We really like what we are seeing from Billy so far," said Dr. Watson. "He's taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, and really asserting himself."
One starting position that remains undecided yet is the all-important quarterback spot.
Heading into the final week of summer practice, the race between Matt Gregory and Jon Steffen is too close to call.
Gregory is a senior (6', 160 lbs) and Steffen a junior (6'4", 190 lbs).
"Matt has a very good understanding of the game," Dr. Watson said. "He played a ton of JV last year, so he really knows the offense.
"Jon has a cannon for an arm, but he played mostly defense for us and doesn't have a ton of game experience at the position."
On the Move
Jovaughn Marshall also made Lakeland defenders sit up and take notice Saturday morning.
A physical specimen at 5'11" and 205 lbs, the senior back is poised to shoulder the majority of carries in Paupack's traditional "run-first" offensive attack.
"I think that Jovaughn has all the ability in the world, but he's going to have to prove it on the field," Dr. Watson said.
"I want to see Jovaughn hit the hole hard and be as physical as I know he can."
Meanwhile, a pair of underclassmen have also caught the attention of Paupack's coaching staff.
Kenny Grady is a sophomore who clocks in at 5'10" and 205 lbs. He's likely to see time at both tight end and linebacker.
"What I like about Kenny is how hard he works," said Dr. Watson. "He's come a long, long way from when we last saw him."
Jake Haupt is a junior listed at 5'10" and 190 lbs. If his steady ascent continues, Haupt will be penciled in at linebacker.
"What I like best about Jake is how physical he is," Dr. Watson said. "He's had a terrific camp so far. Jake isn't very vocal, but boy does he go out there and hit people hard."