Striving to Help and Succeed
Published: August 29, 2013
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The first drive of the season for the Abington Heights football team is not the one that opens the year this Friday, Aug. 30, at Pittston Area against the host Patriots.
No, the initial drive came last Wednesday, Aug. 21.
All of the fall sports programs at Abington Heights conducted a food drive that day, with athletes bringing non-perishable items for their practice that day to help area food pantries.
"We collected about five extra-large containers of food," said Jennifer Wynn, the volunteer coordinator for the Voluntary Action Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania (VAC). "Most of that will go to the Dalton Food Pantry because it serves the Abington Heights and Lackawanna Trail school districts and it will help the people right in their community."
Wynn explained that the VAC's FIRST (Free Information and Referral System Telephone) hotline received calls from people in the community who need assistance and that many area food banks they ordinarily go to are out of food. School drives that are held during the academic year obviously aren't being conducted over the summer months and that is among the reasons why the pantries are struggling with product availability.
The food pantries also rely on funding and some places have yet to receive any stipend, leaving those food banks looking for help.
The good news is that the VAC is accustomed to working quickly to get the word out.
"It's done by the seat of our pants," Wynn said, emphasizing that this was not out of the ordinary because the need for food is often urgent. "We got organized pretty quickly and we got tremendous support from the (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) RailRiders, Lackawanna College and the Commonwealth Medical College."
The RailRiders presented a check for $1,300 in addition to food collected at PNC Field for their game on Wednesday, Aug. 21, according to Wynn.
Abington Heights athletes did their part the same day and made an impact in the community once again. In this instance, everybody won.
Planning to win on the field
The Comets football team enters the season eager to defend its District 2 Class AAA title and, while graduation hit the team hard, head coach Joe Repshis is confident that his players will rise to the occasion.
"We have a very solid group of players returning that have valuable varsity experience, big-game experience," Repshis said.
The likes of two-way returning senior starters Nathan Hollander, J.C. Show and Dan Stevens headline a deep group of players who will see the field for the Comets.
"We return five starters on each side of the ball, plus several players that gained valuable experience playing in certain situations or on special teams that will compete for starting positions and playing time in all three phases of the game," Repshis said. "With the experienced players coming back with the returning players and a mix of underclassmen, it will be a highly competitive and challenging two weeks of double sessions. Coming in every day, players are competing, pushing each other, challenging each other for the opportunity to get on the field on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon."
With Repshis having a typical large roster at his disposal, he can mix and mingle players, trying to come up with the best option for any situation. That serves a double purpose, allowing him to keep building the program. Not only does it put players in roles they can excel at, it also gives the younger players the chance to get experience that will help both them and the program down the road.
"We have to look at our personnel; at the high school level that's a big thing, you have to be able to put your team in position to be successful, based on your personnel," Repshis said. "As we get into double sessions, that stuff will unfold based on the ability to get players in positions to be successful. That, in turn, will get the team the best opportunity to be successful."
But there are basics that Repshis feels are the cornerstones of a successful Comets team.
"There are certain things we feel we have to do well, like run the football on offense to be successful; at the same time you have to stop the run," Repshis said. "It all starts up front, and we'll go from there."
There is plenty of beef up front on the Abington Heights roster. Senior Ben Rarrick is the other returning starter on the offense line, but Repshis has 19 other offensive linemen that can fill around Stevens and Rarrick. The team also lists 26 defensive linemen or ends that will help build around Stevens.
Seniors Joe Dietz and Drew Kuzma are back as starting linebackers again while Show, at safety, and Hollander, at cornerback, deliver experience in the secondary.
While Hollander will also line up to start at wide receiver for the Comets, Show - the other returning starter at wide receiver - is in the mix at quarterback and may start there. Senior Quinn Karam is back at running back for the offense.
"I feel very confident in the returning players, with a nice mix of interior players and skill players coming back, which will provide some good leadership for us early on," Repshis said.
Trips to Pittston Area and Williamsport are the road games that sandwich a second week visit from Dallas to take care of the non-league schedule that will serve to prepare the Comets for its LFC I slate.
But, more importantly, on Aug. 21, they were winners with their assistance to people in desperate need of food.