Depending on which of the multiple formations Jerry Gilsky places his Lake-Lehman football offense in and which rotation is being used, Gilsky says he has as many as 17 “starters” for 11 positions.
“I’m uncomfortable with the word ‘starters’ because we run so many packages,” Gilsky said. “I have groups of guys I look at.”
Fortunately for the Black Knights, they are loaded with players who gained experience a year ago on a team that advanced to the District 2 Class AA playoffs.
“It’s a luxury,” Gilsky said. “And the crazy thing is that we only have six seniors. We’re still young.
“We have a very good junior class.”
Two-way, all-stars Dustin Jones and Pete Borum lead a lengthy list of returnees from a team that went 6-4 in the regular season before falling to eventual champion Wyoming Area in the district semifinals.
Jones is a 6-foot-1, 250-pound senior fullback and defensive lineman. Borum is a 6-7, 315-pound senior two-way tackle.
Jones and Borum are part of a physical presence that puts the Black Knights in position to be a feared running team. Gilsky has spent part of the preseason trying to build a stronger passing game around a new quarterback.
“We’re always going to run the ball,” Gilsky said. “We have to have two sides of the coin. We have to be able to pass the ball.
“I felt like last year we really didn’t have many options throwing the ball. This year, we do. We made sure we worked on that in the offseason.”
Juniors Josh Sayre and Antonio Ferrari, already starters in the defensive backfield, have been working at quarterback where Sayre may have the inside track on the position.
Jones and Butler return at running back.
Josh Winters and Jacob Yaple are back at wide receiver. Kyle Romanofski, a starter as a sophomore before being hurt last season, will be in the lineup at both wide receiver and tight end.
Zach Brucher, a 6-5, 250-pound sophomore, is another tight end along with Trevor Space.
Bobby Wright and Joey Vigil are wingbacks for Lake-Lehman, which often operates from a wing-T or double wing.
Kody Pachamovitch will be a utility player. He has experience starting at tight end and may spend time at running back.
Borum and guard Cory Hoyt return in the offensive line along with three players who started at times last season. Phil Hettes is a guard, Mason Little a tackle and Connor McGovern a center on an interior line that averages 249 pounds.
The front of the 4-4 defense is made up entirely of veterans with Hettes and Alex Major joining Jones and Borum.
“We’re only replacing one linebacker, one outside linebacker and one safety from our defense,” Gilsky said.
Butler is back at one linebacker spot and could be joined by Space and/or Pachamovitch. Winters, who started last year, will join Wright and Long in filling the two outside linebacker spots.
Gilsky plans to use four players in a rotation at the three secondary spots.
Sayre, who started at cornerback last season, may spend most of his time at safety. Ferrari is back at the other corner. Vigil, a corner, and Yaple, a safety, are the other defensive backs.
Gilsky expects Wyoming Area, GAR and Meyers, which all finished .500 or better, to remain tough among Wyoming Valley Conference Class AA teams because of the large number of returning athletes in the conference this season.
“Northwest always finds a way to return 11 starters,” Gilsky said of his Week 7 opponent. “(Carl Majer) is the only coach who finds a way to do that.”