Despite a second straight sub-.500 season in the Lackawanna Football Conference, Dr. Mark Watson is remains optimistic about the future of Wallenpaupack Area's gridiron program.
The Buckhorns started the 2013 season strong, but then faded down the stretch in finishing 4-6-0.
“This year was definitely a mixed bag,” Paupack's veteran coach said.
“There were five or six games that we played really well. But, there were three or four where we weren't even competitive ... and, that has to change.”
The Buckhorns are losing 14 seniors to graduation and that's a daunting number.
However, due to illness, injuries and off-the-field issues, Paupack was able to get many underclassmen on the field over the course of the final three weeks.
“Nine of our 11 starters on defense were youngsters and getting them that much experience can only be a positive thing down the road,” Dr. Watson said.
When asked about on-field leaders this season, Paupack's gridiron guru was quick to single out four talented players.
Jovon Marshall and John Steffen formed a potent 1-2 punch on offense.
A senior tailback who was barely on the coaches' radar just two years ago, Marshall evolved into one of the LFC's truly elite tailbacks.
This fall, Jovon rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns. Those numbers trailed only Jake McCarthy of Scranton and Prep's Pat Marino in the Division One totals.
“I'm very proud of Jovon for all he accomplished this year,” Dr. Watson said. “He came a long way. Jovon matured not just as a player, but as a young man.”
Steffen started this year in a dogfight for the starting job, but closed it out as the undisputed leader.
Page 2 of 3 - A tall, cannon-armed prototypical pocket passer, John completed more than 50 percent of his passes for nearly 1,000 yards. This is even more impressive when you consider that Paupack has traditionally been a power running team.
In fact, Steffen threw for more than 200 yards ran for a pair of touchdowns in the season finale at DV.
“John Steffen really came on at the end of the year,” Dr. Watson said. “He has a ton of potential. I'm very excited to see what he'll do as a senior now that he has all this varsity experience under his belt.”
Defensively, Paupack's undisputed strength was its linebacking corps.
Led by senior Brad Day and junior Jake Haupt, the Bucks wreaked havoc on opposing running backs all season long.
Day led the entire LFC with more than 110 tackles, while Hault finished fourth and piled up an eye-popping 15 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
In addition, sophomores Reshawn Battle and James Gentes improved by leaps and bounds on the outside.
“Our linebackers were definitely our biggest asset on defense this year,” said Dr. Watson. “They made some really big plays and we have three of the four coming back next year.”
That's a Wrap
Paupack enjoyed its share of bright spots this fall.
The Bucks opened the '13 campaign with impressive wins over Valley View and archrival Honesdale. They also routed North Pocono and West Scranton.
However, there were some inexplicable downers as well.
The local lads suffered embarrassing shutouts at the hands of Abington Heights (37-0) and Scranton (41-0).
“As I said, it was a mixed bag,” Dr. Watson said. “I saw some very positive things at times. At other times, though, we were just horrendous.
Page 3 of 3 - “If we're going take the next step and get back to the playoffs, we need to be much more consistent ... especially in games against the league's better teams.”