Where did the summer go?

It seemed like just a couple of days ago Lawrence County was flying high at State College. Two baseball teams — New Castle and Shenango — playing for state titles in their respective classifications at Penn State University.

Now, here we are. Opening night of high school football on a hot, steamy August night.

There are plenty of storylines ready to unfold for the 2021 season.

Will New Castle be able to turn things around and get back to the playoffs? The defense will have to show considerable improvement from a season ago. Time will tell. If so, book a trip to the WPIAL playoffs for Joe Cowart’s squad.

Can Ellwood City Lincoln snap its losing 17-game streak and capture Joe Lamenza’s first triumph at the Wolverines’ helm? Ellwood has one extra week to prepare as it elected to play a second scrimmage instead of playing a Week Zero contest.

Laurel and Union each have huge voids to fill along the line. The Spartans must replace Mitch Miles, while the Scotties will be without Aaron Gunn. Both players have graduated and are playing college football — Miles at Edinboro and Gunn at Louisville. How those schools handle those key voids will help determine each team’s level of success this season.

Neshannock narrowly missed the playoffs last year. The Lancers closed the season on a two-game losing streak, falling just short of the playoffs. Neshannock, as always, is hungry and looking to secure a playoff berth. There is plenty of talent and athleticism on the Lancers’ squad this season.

Shenango reached the WPIAL semifinals a season ago. But many pivotal pieces to that success have graduated. Jimmy Graham and his Wildcats are looking to get right back on that playoff path.

Mohawk won its opener last year and dropped its final six. The Warriors are eager to turn things around and qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.

Wilmington enters the season as the five-time defending District 10 champion. The Greyhounds reached the state championship game last year for the third time in the last four years. This year will be a bit different coming in, though, for Wilmington. The Greyhounds saw 16 players from their preseason roster graduate last year. Does the supremacy continue for Wilmington?

A total of 556 varsity football teams will take the field across Pennsylvania this season in search of a state championship. Only six, one per class, will come away with the big prize. Will one of those teams come from Lawrence County?

(Poniewasz is the New Castle News sports editor. He can be reached by email at rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com)

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Sports Editor

Ron Poniewasz Jr. is the sports editor at the New Castle News. Email him at rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com.

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