WEST PITTSTON — Wyoming Area had a knack for losing close games last season. The Warriors finished 3-7 last season and lost three games by 10 points or less.
The different between a 3-7 season and a 6-4 season might just lie in Wyoming Area’s experience.
Looking to get them over the hump will be a skillful junior class and a large, experienced senior class this season. Head coach Randy Spencer is in his ninth year with the Warriors and has 40 career wins. Wyoming Area is coming off its third straight 3-7 season since winning the 2012 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District 2 Class AAA championship.
“It’s an exciting season in general because we return a group of experienced upperclassmen this year,” Spencer said. “That gives us leadership from the top and that’s one of our biggest challenges.”
The Warriors will welcome back eight starters on offense and defense. Spencer is looking forward to having a batch of experienced players back this season. In the past few years, he said, leadership has been an issue.
Wyoming Area features 18 seniors and 11 juniors. For junior quarterback PJ Angeli, seeing those seniors on the field for the past couple years has allowed the Warriors to gain some much needed chemistry.
“Compared to the past two years I would say chemistry is a big factor,” he said. “We’re all older and experienced. This is our year and we’re building off that and coming out ready to play.”
Five of the Warriors’ first seven games will be played at home in West Pittston. After that, Wyoming Area will finish the season with three straight road games, finishing at Pittston Area Friday, Oct. 28.
Because of the PIAA realignment, Wyoming Valley West, North Pocono and Tunkhannock will not be on the Warriors’ schedule this season. Instead, Wyoming Area adds Williamsport, GAR and Hanover Area. Under the same preface, Wyoming Area will have to be in the top 8 of 11 teams in District 2 to reach the playoffs.
“It doesn’t affect us too much,” Spencer said. “We have some new opponents this season but we’re not worried about that too much.”
Wyoming Area returns last year’s production leader in senior running back Brian Miles. Miles finished third in the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 3A last season with 901 yards on 181 carries and 11 touchdowns. After breaking onto the scene last year, Miles expects to get a big boost from his offensive line.
Miles spent a few seasons behind former WA running back Jeff Skursky. Both Skursky and Miles have the same running style: a downhill, smash mouth football approach.
“Coach expects us to work hard every day,” Miles said. “They make it fun. We have to work hard but there’s no other way I’d rather it be.”
Also relying on the offensive line will be Angeli and senior Steven Homza. Over the past two years, Angeli and Homza split reps at quarterback. Last year, Angeli’s 109.44 passer rating was second in the WVC Division 3A. He finished with 659 yards and eight touchdowns.
It wasn’t just his arm that did the damage. Angeli ran for another 185 yards and caught 92 yards.
The tandem quaterbacks will have their skillful pass catchers back this season. Donovan O’Boyle led the team with 299 receiving yards last season as a sophomore. Senior Dante DeLuca is back at tight end after catching three touchdown passes last year.
DeLuca returns after a junior season that saw him named an honorable mention on the Pennsylvania Class AAA All-State team at tight end.
All of those returning players for Wyoming Area might have the most impact on defense.
In the secondary, the Warriors welcome back three of their four defensive backs — Angeli, Marc Anthony Minichello and O’Boyle. O’Boyle thinks having that chemistry in the defensive backfield can lead the Warriors to close out those tight games in the fourth quarter.
“Finish together is the big thing we didn’t do last year,” he said. “If we can learn to do that this year it will be a big factor.”
Wyoming Area is a pretty big bunch up front at the linebacker position. DeLuca, a 6-2, 200 pound outside linebacker expects the Warriors to be fast and strong.
“We have a lot of speed on defense and we are very strong and committed,” he said. “We have a lot of chemistry and it will be very applicable to use against many different fronts.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick