Student-athletes across Pennsylvania dusted off their shoulder pads, running shoes, knee pads and shin guards Monday for the official start to fall sports practices.
Can you believe summer flew by that quickly? There were only 67 days between the end to Lawrence County’s spring sports season — Laurel lost in the PIAA softball semifinals on June 7 — and Monday, the PIAA’s first practice date for fall sports teams.
That is, technically speaking. Athletes have been training since the spring and through summer in unofficial capacities, attending camps and 7-on-7 drills. Football teams actually have a leg up on other sports’ organized activities with last week’s mandatory heat-acclimation practices, when teams must practice without full pads for five straight days for a minimum of three hours a day.
Golf’s first official contest date is Thursday, while girls tennis is Monday and football’s Week 0 is Aug. 24-25. Other fall sports can begin play Aug. 30.
The official start of the preseason means rankings, which mean so little but are at least a good conversation starter to fill in the time before any games are played.
Wilmington, the three-time defending District 10 Class 2A champions, is the lone Lawrence County school to appear on any statewide preseason rankings. Last month, PennLive listed the Greyhounds at No. 8 in its preseason poll after two consecutive appearances in the state championship game. Last year, Wilmington went 13-2 in coach Brandon Phillian’s debut season, losing only to Class 1A champion Farrell and to Southern Columbia for the second straight year in the 2A title game.
Wilmington, which graduated 15 seniors including the 2018-19 Lawrence County Male Athlete of the Year, Cameron Marett and his 31 touchdowns from a year ago, again will play one of the state’s toughest schedules.
Aside from its District 10, Region 4 slate, the ’Hounds face off against Sharon and Farrell in the season’s first two weeks. Wilmington beat Sharon, which won the District 10 Class 3A title last year, last year before falling to Farrell.
Wilmington also has Class 3A Hickory scheduled for its season finale. If the ’Hounds can achieve a third December trip to Hershey for the state title game, there’s a good chance Southern Columbia will again be waiting on the other sideline.
The website High School Football America tabbed the District 4 school, led by star receiver and Ohio State commit Julian Fleming, the top small-school in the state.
JUST KEEP RUNNING
Preseason rankings aren’t just for football teams.
New Castle High School may be known for its prowess on the football field and basketball court, but coach Jeff Shaftic’s Red Hurricane boys cross country team has also done its part in filling up the trophy case.
The ’Canes have won three straight WPIAL Section 5-2A titles and check in at No. 4 in PA Milesplit’s preseason rankings behind Lewisburg, Indiana and Grove City, respectively.
New Castle owns a 25 meet dual/tri-meet winning streak in boys action.