Wallenpaupack Area will look to a loaded junior class for leadership
Wallenpaupack Area got off to a sluggish start last year in Lackawanna Football Conference action.
The Buckhorns absorbed three straight losses to kick-off the 2016 season before finally righting the ship with back-to-back victories over archrival Honesdale and Hazleton Area.
Dr. Mark Watson's squad appeared ready to make a playoff push at the mid-season mark after playing its best game of the year en route to a 21-0 shutout of Dallas.
Alas for local fans, this would prove to be the high point of the campaign. The Buckhorns stumbled to four consecutive lopsided losses and finished up with an overall record of 3-7.
“I'll admit it was a little bit disappointing from a wins and losses standopint,” Dr. Watson said Monday afternoon at the 6th Annual LFC Media Day.
“But, we were a young team and we got valuable playing time for a lot of kids. I definitely think that will pay off for us in the long run.”
The event was held at the Regal Room in Olyphant and hosted by former Paupack head coach Stan Kucharski.
Ready to Roll
The Paupack coaching staff doesn't have long to wait to see if all that action does indeed pay off.
Heat acclimation work-outs commence on Monday, Aug. 4, followed by a week of double sessions leading up to that all-important first scrimmage.
Another exhibition game follows, setting the stage for Opening Night. The Bucks will kick-off their regular season campaign on Friday, Aug. 25 at home versus Wyoming Area.
“I'm very excited,” Dr. Watson said. “We're still going to be a young team, but this is a hard-working group of kids.
“We won't be the most athletic team in the world, but we make up for that with strength, toughness and tenacity.”
Paupack will rely heavily on its junior class, which makes up the vast majority of the roster. While there are just 10 seniors suiting up for the varsity, a total of 25 juniors are on hand.
This year's edition of Media Day attracted players and coaches from all 20 LFC member schools.
Wallenpaupack Area was well represented by Dr. Watson and two of his star players: Zane Blau and Aiden Maldacker. Both are seniors and each brings a wealth of varsity experience to the gridiron.
Blau is a three-year starter on the offensive line. He began his varsity career as a tackle, but has found a home at center the past two seasons. Blau is a standout student-athlete who excels both on the field and in the classroom.
“Zane is a very smart kid,” Dr. Watson said. “He's number one in his class and that intelligence translates very well to the field.
“Zane is also a beast in the weight room. He benches 340 pounds and squats well over 500. He's just a big, strong kid who can dominate up front.”
Maldacker is a two-year starter at fullback who was listed among PA's Top 50 Sophomores to years ago.
He also contributes on defense and has already attracted attention from Division I schools like Temple and Rutgers.
“We just can't keep Aiden off the field,” said Dr. Watson. “He's just an animal out there. Aiden is a throwback player who always seems to come up with a big play when we need it the most.”
While Blau and Maldacker provide the power, Tom McCormick will return for another year under center.
A junior who broke into the line-up as a freshman, McCormick won the starting job last fall and has never looked back.
“Tommy is one of those kids who really benefited from getting that varsity experience last year,” Dr. Watson said. “He took his lumps as a freshman and sophomore, but he also learned a lot.
“I think Tommy is ready for a breakout season and I'm expecting big things from him moving forward.”
Over & Out
Paupack will once again compete in the LFC's rugged Division I this fall.
The Buckhorns will be going head-to-head with the likes of Abington Heights, Delaware Valley and Scranton High School.
“I think we're going to be much-improved, especially on the offensive side of the ball,” Dr. Watson said.
“Last year, other teams were able to out-muscle us a little bit because we couldn't really throw the ball. This year, we're going to be much more balanced and more unpredictable.”
Paupack's schedule once again features several ky non-conference games.
In addition to Wyoming Area on Opening Night, the Buckhorns will also face Hazleton Area (Sept. 22); Valley West (Sept. 29); and Dallas (Oct. Oct. 6).
Mark your calendars for this year's annual battle between the Bucks and arch rival Honesdale, slated for Friday, Sept. 15 in the Maple City.