The Ellwood City Lincoln football team seeks stability this season.
New head coach Joe Lamenza hopes to bring that to a program on its fourth head coach in the last four years. After Don Phillips resigned following the 2016 season, Nick Hand replaced him. Illness forced Hand to take last season off and Rob Magnifico stepped in for 2018. Now, Lamenza, the head coach at Mohawk from 2011-2014, is back at his alma mater.
“It’s good to be home. I am an Ellwood City graduate and my wife is, too. We live in the district. It wasn’t much of an adjustment for me. It was neat to reconnect with some of the families I’ve known. A lot of the parents, I went to school with,” he said. “Right now, we need to develop some sense of routine and discipline in the program — just little things like how to lift weights properly, clean up the weight room and how to practice.
“I think these guys are hungry for discipline and structure. We had great attendance throughout the offseason. The kids are really buying in and working hard. We’ve had some guys step up as leaders at every grade level, too.”
Offensively, Lamenza and his staff will adapt their approach based on the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Quarterback Ryan Gibbons is back to help lead the offense.
“His commitment to getting better and learning our new system is phenomenal,” Lamenza said. “All around, he’s a good kid.”
The Wolverines’ backfield will be new and Tyler Powell, Carter Lutz and Anthony Teolis all will get carries.
“All those guys have different strengths,” Lamenza said.
Anthony Spadafore, Caden Crizer, Sammy DiCaprio and Zach Gatto will see time at receiver. The offensive line returns experience with Noah Bunney, Rodney Grymes, Cameron Rennels and Andy Vrabel. Peyton O’Brien is at tight end.
“The experience has been a positive,” Lamenza said. “We’re still young, but some of those guys were starters last year.”
Defensively, the Wolverines will be based out of a 3-4, but will line up in different formations.
Bunney, Rennels, Grymes and Vrabel will be on the defensive line. Storm Chambers, Kadin McClymonds, Powell, O’Brien and Gibbons could see time at linebacker. Ashton Wilson, Spadafore, Crizer, Lutz and Gatto could be in the secondary.
“We have a lot of guys who can play multiple positions — linebackers outside that could be on the inside or safeties who could be inside linebackers and vice versa. We’ll continue to evaluate those guys,” Lamenza said. “They work hard. They are attentive. They pick things up pretty fast. They are quick learners. They are smart kids. Defensively, we’ve demonstrated an ability to run to the football. If you can do that, you always have a chance.”
The Wolverines hope to have a chance in the WPIAL Class 2A Midwestern Athletic Conference, too.
“I think it’s a great conference,” Lamenza said. “It’s reminiscent of the old Tri-County Conference. The local rivalries make things exciting for the players and the fans.”