There have been 18 prior District 2 Class 2A football championship games since the PIAA made district tournaments the only way to get to the state playoffs. Either Wyoming Area or Lakeland has appeared in 11 off them.
Coincidence? No, comparability.
Wyoming Area (9-2) hosts Lakeland (8-3) at 7 p.m. today for the championship in what is a rematch of the 2006 title game. However, it‚??s more of a matchup of two programs that strive for the same goal every year with the same philosophy.
Wyoming Area and Lakeland are throwback programs built on establishing the running game, working the passing game off it and keeping mistakes to the minimum. Gimmick offenses and gadget plays are rare. It‚??s line up and knock over the other guys.
Jeff Wasilchak is in his fifth season as Lakeland‚??s coach after a very successful run at Lackawanna Trail. He brought with him a similar philosophy the Chiefs used to win five D2-2A titles, tying them with Dunmore for the most in the classification.
‚??Scheme-wise, personnel-wise, we‚??re an off-tackle, power, fullback-trap team,‚?Ě Wasilchak said. ‚??I don‚??t know how we‚??d stack up against those teams from the past. They were pretty good, but we do what we do and it seems to fit our kids pretty well. We‚??ll continue to do the same thing.‚?Ě
Wyoming Area is going for its third district title and first under fifth-year coach Randy Spencer. But Spencer was an assistant under is predecessor, Paul Marranca, and many of the ideas have carried over as the Warriors appear in their fifth D2-2A championship game and eighth overall. (They played in three D2-3A title contests, winning the 2003 crown.
‚??They are similar to Lehman in if you let them drive the ball and eat up the clock and limit our possessions that‚??s not going be the best scenario for us,‚?Ě Spencer said. ‚??We have to get off to a fast start if possible and follow script similar to last week.‚?Ě
On the field, similarities are prevalent.
At quarterback, Wyoming Area has one of the most prolific runner/throwers in Wyoming Valley Conference history. Nick O‚??Brien is the school‚??s all-time leading rusher with over 4,000 yards. He needs 95 passing yards to become a rare 1,000-1,000 quarterback.
‚??I don‚??t think you can stop him,‚?Ě Wasilchak said. ‚??You have to hope to limit his big plays.‚?Ě
Lakeland‚??s Kyle Kiehart is a three-year starter with over 3,000 passing yards. While not the runner O‚??Brien is, Kiehart brings a steadiness and cerebral approach to the game.
Lakeland has always had a bell-cow running back and Chris Roche has gained the label this season. He has over 1,200 yards despite not being the starter when the season started. Tight end Cory Defino provides a big target and is an excellent pass rusher.
‚??Kiehart has done an excellent job,‚?Ě Spencer said. ‚??They‚??re an experienced group, they‚??re a senior group. That‚??s important. We‚??ve been in a fortunate position the last couple years where we‚??ve been in the playoffs and championship game situation. Our core group of seniors have certainly benefitted from that.‚?Ě
Wyoming Area doesn‚??t have a running back with 1,000 yards. But if the rushing totals of Cody Schmitz, Zak Lanunziata and Jeff Skursky are pasted together, they come close.
There is also a veteran presence in the trenches. Wyoming Area has four seniors ‚?? guards Joe Erzar and Joe Taylor, tackle Carl Zielinski and tight end Trent Grove ‚?? who will be facing a huge challenge opening holes. Lakeland is massive up front with seniors Colby Cluass-Walton (294 pounds) and Kyle Griffin (379).
Tonight‚??s game came very close to being a battle of unbeatens. Wyoming Area‚??s losses were to six points to Scranton Prep and one to Lake-Lehman. Lakeland fell by five to Dunmore and Valley View and by six to Carbondale.