Mount Carmel Area opens with tough Loyalsock Township squad
MOUNT CARMEL - Loyalsock Township's top six receivers from last season are gone, either graduated or not returning to the team this season.
Three of the Lancers' top four rushers from 2013 are graduated as well.
And still, Loyalsock is viewed by many as, if not the team to beat, certainly one of the teams to beat in District 4 Class AA.
That's what makes tonight's season opener with Mount Carmel Area at the Silver Bowl so intriguing.
The Red Tornadoes, after being eliminated by eventual champion Troy in the opening round of last year's district playoffs, have their sights set on reclaiming the title they last won in 2011.
A victory over Loyalsock would certainly provide a huge boost in that direction.
"It's always important to win that first one," Mount Carmel Area coach Carm DeFrancesco said. "It sets the tone.
"If you win that first game, and you're playing against an opponent that's in the mix for a district crown, it's big. It's not the end of the world if you lose it, but it's a really nice springboard to a successful season if you win it."
While Loyalsock returns a large, talented line as a building block for this season, it's the presence of one player in particular - senior Kyle Datres - that keeps the Lancers on everybody's watch list.
An all-state selection as a safety on the defensive side, Datres is even more valuable to his team and damaging to opponents as a quarterback.
Last season, he passed for 1,473 yards and 14 touchdowns while running for a team-leading 1,163 yards and 18 scores. He can be, particularly with a big line in front of him, a wrecking crew. Over the past two seasons, he's accounted for 60 touchdowns either running or passing.
"Their team starts at quarterback," DeFrancesco said. "He's an outstanding athlete, and we're going to have to contain him. We're not going to stop him. Containing him is the key.
"We have to be able to defend the whole field because if he gets out of the pocket, he can scramble around. You have to rush him and be controlled. We've been working on that."
Among those paving the way for Datres up front are senior Kaden Stensland (6-1, 240), and juniors Justin Wood (6-4, 285), Daniel Harrison (6-3, 305) and Jake Glavin (6-3, 290).
"They gutted us up front last year (a 34-27 Loyalsock victory), but I don't expect that to happen this year," DeFrancesco said.
DeFrancesco said the Red Tornadoes made great strides between their opening scrimmage with Schuylkill Haven and the second preseason matchup with Blue Mountain. Some personnel changes up front defensively, he said, had a lot to do with that.
"It was a perfect scenario," DeFrancesco said. "We got into that scrimmage against Schuylkill Haven and we got our ears pinned back.
"That was good for us. We learned some things. We really felt good after the Blue Mountain scrimmage."