OLYPHANT — Old Forge head coach Mike Schuback believes there are four factors that will contribute to a successful season for the Blue Devils this year.
“We have to protect the quarterback, we have to be able to block up front, we have to be able to stop the run, and, most of all, we have to stay healthy,” he said during Lackawanna Football Conference Media Day at the Regal Room Aug. 2.
Blue Devils senior Dean Nalaschi believes the play of the offensive line will likely be one of the team’s biggest strengths.
“Every year, every snap of the ball, they are on their guy,” he said. “It helps the running backs out tremendously.”
Old Forge won 13 games and advanced to the Eastern Final of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Class A playoffs last season. The Blue have won 50 games over the past four seasons and have made three consecutive trips to the state playoffs, including a one-point overtime loss in the title game in 2013.
While the program has experienced a lot of recent success, the Blue Devils will need to replace their starting quarterback, running back, tight end, and two wide receivers off last year’s squad.
“We have a lot of pieces in place up front,” Schuback said. “We’re trying to fill in the skill positions, which are always a little bit harder because of the speed of the game.
“Our biggest question mark will be how our skill kids play on the edges. Ten to 15 years ago, everybody used the middle of the field. Now, everybody uses the numbers. The game has changed drastically.”
Senior Paul Cariati stepped in as quarterback briefly last season when Joey Gutowski, who has since graduated, suffered a knee injury. Junior Lorenzo Febbo may also see snaps at the position this season.
Sophomores Anthony Rios and Tommy Souriyavong along with junior Ian Hook and senior Dean Nalaschi are expected to be the main contributors at running back.
Junior Brendan Mozeleski returns as the starter at fullback.
Cariati, Febbo, Tommy Souriyavong, junior Chris Matsko, and sophomore Brett Wargo are competing for spots at wide receiver.
Junior Levi Kania will likely start at tight end.
Junior Lexus Souriyavong along with seniors Trevor Brown and Dylan Wilcox return as starters on the offensive and defensive lines. Kania and junior King Shakim-Rose will likely start at the defensive end positions. Junior Matthew Evans will likely start at center.
Mozeleski, Hook, Nalaschi, and Wargo should see time at linebacker. Tommy Souriyavong, Febbo, Matsko, Cariati and Rios will compete for time in the secondary.
While the team may lack the star-studded talent of year’s past, Schuback believes their grit and determination will be its best traits.
“They’re the epitome of a blue collar group,” Schuback said. “When people look at them, no one is going to say there’s the standout kid. It has to be a collective effort if we’re going to be successful.”
Old Forge, which will compete in Division 3 of the Lackawanna Conference, will open its season with a non-conference game at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26 at Hanover Area.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.