Wyoming Area returns a number of lettermen ready to reload the Warriors for another post-season run. Pictured from left to right, front row, Matt Kintz, Nick O’Brien, and Ahmad Bouie; back row, Corey Popovich, Carl Zielinski, and Nick Bartoli.photo by BILL TARUTIS
Wyoming Area head football coach Randy Spencer is both excited, and anxious to take the field on Friday nights this fall.
“We have a lot of guys coming back. It’s not like they haven’t been on the field,” Spencer said. “They just have been in roles and now those roles are going to have to expand and they have to become more intricate and full-time players.”
The Warriors return an abundance of players on both sides of the ball, including superstar Nick O’Brien. Spencer plans to focus his offense around the 5’9, 150-pound junior. Last year he had great success in the backfield, rushing for 1,018 yards and 17 touchdowns.
However, this year you will have to look a little harder if you want to find him when the Warriors huddle breaks. O’Brien is also a threat to catch the ball, hauling in 10 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore, and throwing the rock as well as he completed three passes for 54 yards and a score.
That versatility will allow Spencer to use O’Brien at varying positions on the offensive side of the ball.
“Whether it’s wildcat or at quarterback, O’Brien is somebody you will find in the slot, in the backfield, under center and in the shotgun,” Spencer said of his featured player. “The question will be like, ‘Where is Waldo?’ You’re going to have to find him.”
The Warriors do return more than just O’Brien. They return many players on both sides of the ball. However, they did lose some key players.
Spencer expects to explore his options at the quarterback position this fall. The Warriors lost last year’s starting quarterback Chris Murphy. However, this year Spencer will look towards O’Brien and junior Jordan Zezza. Both are expected to see some time under center.
“We have a young guy coming up in Jordan Zezza who we think is going to be pretty good,” Spencer said. “We have a lot of flexibility to be able to do what we want and move the ball around.”
In addition to O’Brien, Matt Kintz returns for his fourth and final year in the Warriors backfield along with Corey Popovich. There will also be a mixture of Ahmad Bouie, Zack LaNunziata, Justin Langdon and Cody Schmitz in the backfield at times as well. Kintz and Popovich combined to rush for just under 450 yards and three scores.
As for receivers, Spencer plans to use some of the same guys from the backfield.
On the outside the Warriors will use senior Joe Adonizio at receiver and fill in the gaps with LaNunziata, Schmitz, Langdon and Bouie. They will do their best to replace Kody Nowicki, Eric Eramo and Larry Popovich. All three graduated following their 200-yard plus seasons last fall.
“Offensively we need to come off the ball with heavy hands and move people off the football,” Spencer said. “We just have to focus on execution. We need to stay away from things that get in the way.”
The Warriors bring back half of their defense from last season. Nick Bartoli, Carl Zielinski and Joe Erzar are returning on the defensive line and Matt Kintz and Popovich return as linebackers. EJ Driving Hawk, Trent Grove, Bobby Burton and Jake Smith will all see time at defensive end for Wyoming Area.
Kintz was the third leading tackler last season as a junior with 59 stops. O’Brien added 52 tackles, and Bartoli added 35.
The secondary will feature LaNunziata, Schmitz, and Adonizio - all should see time at the corners and safety positions.
“We are going to be able to run well, especially defensively,” Spencer said. “We aren’t exceptionally quick across the board. I think we have enough size and length and certain spots to at least match up fairly well.”
As for special teams, Smith will handle kickoffs and Langdon will be the new punter.
O’Brien, LaNunziata, and Bouie will be the teams kick returners.
The Warriors are very versatile this year on defense and most of their players will see time all over the football field, rather than at one position.
It may be a new year, but the expectations are the same for Spencer.
“As far as wins, losses, our goals are always the same. We are in a very tough, competitive Division II bracket,” Spencer said. “Our goal is always to compete for the championship within that division and secure a playoff berth. For that to happen we need some young kids to grow up pretty quickly.”
Spencer is looking to start off on the right foot when they open their season on Friday night at home against Western Wayne.
“We hope to get out to a fast start and we hope to build some momentum,” Spencer said. “But, the reality is those guys that are transitioning from part-timers to full-timers have to be ready to take on that kind of workload.”