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Trojans, Cella deserve patience during rebuild John Erzar Notebook

Nanticoke coach Lou Cella looks at two similar programs just outside the region – Lewisburg and North Schuylkill – as examples of how downtrodden teams can recover.

Then he looks at the program he inherited and realizes it’s going to take time – perhaps more time than people imagine or care to admit – to get to respectability.

“This program will take four to eight years to fix,” Cella said, “because when you’ve been this bad for this long, it’s going to take four to eight years.”

Whether he lasts that long is yet to be seen.

Several parents went before the school board last week to criticize Cella’s coaching methods and how he’s handled various off-field issues from injured players to uniforms.

“You know when you take a job, like Nanticoke, you know how it’s going to be,” Cella said. “You know people are going to be confrontational. You’re never going to please them regardless what you do.

“We could have success right now and there would be the same feeling. It doesn’t matter to me because it’s part of the job.”

One parent even questioned Cella’s coaching credentials, which is really nitpicking even if there may be a discrepancy. After all, when a team loses 52 of its last 59 games, Wyoming Valley West’s George Curry and Southern Columbia’s Jim Roth won’t be sending in resumes any time soon.

A program like Nanticoke is going to draw interest from coaches like Cella, who has been itching to get back into coaching after two forgettable years at now-closed Bishop O’Reilly. He has the passion and desire to repair Nanticoke football, but if there isn’t a mutual understanding about how broken the program is, he’s just wasting his time.

Just consider a few snippets from his predecessors’ days at Nanticoke.

Len Butczynski resigned after the 2005 season because kids just wouldn’t come out for the team. He even substituted garbage cans as defenders at practice because there weren’t enough players.

Bob Colatosti lasted two years before the position was opened after an 0-10 season in 2007.

The situation was so bad two weeks into last season that Colatosti pulled a paper out of his pocket after a 42-0 loss to Meyers. He had written down all the problems encountered – four starters quitting before the season opener, two suspended for being ejected in the opener, seven others either injured or ineligible.

So Cella tries to change some things, perhaps too vigorously in some cases, and some parents start an uprising.

Things need to change, and yet another head coach shouldn’t be among them.

If Cella leaves or his position is opened after the season, it’s going to send up a red flag that this is one job not worth seeking. There were 12 other applicants along with Cella, but how many would re-apply when they know the next coach would be the fourth in five years?

What some people fail to realize is Nanticoke is successful despite an 0-8 record.

The offense was averaging more yards per game at midseason than Dallas. The leading rusher last year had 189 yards; three kids are already well passed that total. And the Trojans have rushed for 119 yards or more in all but one game. They did that just twice last year.

But the biggest achievement came last Saturday against a strong GAR team. The Trojans were outmanned and expected to lose by at least six touchdowns. Instead, they played extremely hard and lost 35-6.

Call them moral victories, but they’re accomplishments nonetheless.

Just like the ones North Schuylkill had while going 9-61 from 2001-07 before improving to 6-2 thus far. Just like the ones Lewisburg had while going 10-60 over the same time span as it enters this weekend at 7-1.

North Schuylkill had three winless seasons and Lewisburg had two before turning things around.

Nanticoke is all but certain to have its second consecutive winless year and carry District 2’s longest losing streak – currently at 19 games – into next year.

“We have made progress,” Cella said, “but I would have liked to make more progress at this point. We have a long way to go. This thing has been down the last six years.”

And it will be down another six and another six until everyone realizes a coach needs cooperation and more than a year or two to complete the overhaul.

WEEK EIGHT REWIND

Berwick’s A.J. Mihaly moved within 26 yards passing of reaching the 1,000 mark for the season. Holy Redeemer’s Chris O’Hara needs 149 to reach the milestone. … Wyoming Valley West intercepted three passes vs. Williamsport after having four in its first seven games. … Hanover Area’s Tomas Cabrera recorded his third 100-yard receiving game of the season. …

Dallas’ Dennis Chopka recorded Dallas’ first 100-yard rushing game since the season opener when he ran for 126 yards vs. Pocono Mountain East … Holy Redeemer’s Robert Gawlas recorded a career-high 163 receiving yards in a loss to Northwest. …Coughlin was shut out for the first time in 18 games.

Times Leader District 2 Top-10 Rankings

Teams are ranked based on performance, not which team could defeat the other. Numbers in parentheses is last week’s ranking.

1. (1) Dunmore (8-0)…Last week – Defeated Valley View 27-19. Up next – Friday vs. Hanover Area (5-3).

2. (2) Riverside (8-0)…Last week – Defeated Western Wayne 68-6. Up next – Friday vs. Montrose (3-5).

3. (3) Abington Heights (7-1)…Last week – Defeated Scranton 36-21. Up next – Saturday vs. Tunkhannock (3-5).

4. (4) Berwick (7-1)…Last week – Defeated Coughlin 12-0. Up next – Saturday at Dallas (2-6).

5. (5) Hazleton Area (7-1)…Last week – Defeated Crestwood 36-0. Up next – Friday at East Stroudsburg South (6-2).

6. (7) Lake-Lehman (8-0)…Last week – Defeated Meyers 48-0. Up next – Friday vs. GAR (7-1).

7. (6) Coughlin (6-2)…Last week – Lost 12-0 to Berwick. Up next – Friday at Crestwood (1-7).

8. (9) GAR (7-1)…Last week – Defeated Nanticoke 35-6. Up next – Friday at Lake-Lehman (8-0).

9. (8) Scranton (6-2)…Last week – Lost 36-21 to Abington Heights. Up next – Friday at Delaware Valley (5-3).

10. (10) Wallenpaupack (6-2)…Last week – Defeated Honesdale 47-28. Up next – Friday at West Scranton (2-6).

Dropped out: none

Under consideration: Delaware Valley (5-3), Northwest (6-2), Old Forge (6-2), Wyoming Valley West (5-3).

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