Wallenpaupack Area's varsity program kicks into high gear this week

It’s almost that time of year again.

Soon, the Paupack faithful will be filling the grandstand on Friday nights as the Buckhorns do battle, lakeside, against archenemies and new foes.

Football season, however, to many, has already begun. Before even school let out for the summer, the Purple & White game unofficially kicked off the calendar and since then, players have been getting conditioned and have been working on their skills in anticipation for the official start next week.

This season, the Bucks bring back a slew of veteran talent including a quarterback with two terms solidly in the slot already under his belt. Taking the snaps, once again, now a senior, Tom McCormick.

By the Numbers

McCormick was one of two current seniors who saw varsity action as freshmen, Tyler Neglia being the other.

The Buckhorns’ running game that season was hot and being low on the totem pole, the plebe didn’t see much action. However, Dr. Mark Watson did manage to squeeze him in here and there.

So, Tom closed his first season with 16 completions on 37 attempts for 129 yards and one passing TD.

Tom moved to the starting role as a sophomore and has only rarely not filled the quarterback role.

Seeing more action, he completed 42 passes on 131 tries, racking up 487 yards while landing three touchdown passes and yielding eight interceptions.

Rushing proved to be a challenge. On 25 carries he gave up 60 yards.

His running game improved, as a junior.

On 34 attempts he lost 11 yards but crossed the end zone four times. He threw six touchdown passes as well while letting eight get picked off over the course of 165 launches. He completed 69 passes, good for 945 yards.

Through his efforts, McCormick was able to contribute to the Buckhorns’ top standing among District II 5-A squads during the regular season and their second-place finish in last season’s district playoffs.

“Personally, I feel last year was my best season,” McCormick said.

“It went how it went, but I connected well with the players and coaches. I think that really helped me with the leadership role I’m going to have as a senior.”

Off the Grid

Although football is Tom’s main pursuit, other activities dot his agenda.

He’s played baseball with the Buckhorns since freshman year and was a part of the 2016 District Two 5A championship club. He bulks up for sports as a member of the weightlifting club but also has a sharp brain being inducted into the National Honor Society.

Tom is an avid outdoorsman and hopes to turn that passion into a career in environmental sciences.

He has eyes on several colleges in the southeastern US but hasn’t made any firm decisions about his academic or athletic careers.

On the Radar

Heat acclimation began for the Buckhorns this past week. That means Tom and the rest of the team are in full-on-football mode.

As he’s progressed in experience, so has the array of tools that have become available to him as a quarterback.

Unquestionably, his passing game has improved, but sprouting up around him has been an ever-increasing number of players able to take a hand-off.

“From sophomore season to now I’ve really had to work,” McCormick said.

“Having older receivers downfield when I was younger really helped me to develop. Now I have younger receivers to work with and help develop.”

Likely candidates to be catching passes from McCormick this year are senior Eric Smith and junior Anthony Dalessio. Back for more with Paupack’s running game, the double threat of seniors Joe Ingulli and Nick Ruggieri.

There’s more in the quiver too, but Tom was tight-lipped about what other surprises Watson and the Bucks might unleash.

“Doc and the other coaches have constantly reminded us that nothing is guaranteed,” McCormick said. “We’re very senior heavy. We have a lot of talent. We’ve put in a lot of work, but we still have to keep working.

“We have a tough schedule. That’s a motivator, but we also need to keep focused on the little things that can cost us a win. The finest things matter and that’s what will make the difference.”

The whistles blow at 7 a.m. Monday.

Just five days later the Buckhorns will host Western Wayne and Lackawanna Trail in a tri-scrimmage scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 18, at 10 a.m.

The News Eagle will have full previews of Paupack and Delaware Valley football in upcoming issues as both squads embark on their seasons with full practice sessions starting next week.