Lakeland will be looking to enjoy another stellar season under rookie skipper

Lakeland is coming off yet another stellar grid season at both the league and district levels.

The Chiefs powered their way to a 7-3 LFC record en route to a Division III title. As a result, Coach Jeff Wasilchak’s team earned a three seed in the 2018 Class AAA playoffs.

Lakeland opened its gold medal quest with a hard fought 6-3 win over Lake Lehman. The Chiefs then punched their ticket to the championship game via a 21-14 victory over Wyoming Area.

Unfortunately for local fans, that’s where the ride ended as Scranton Prep hammered out a lopsided 47–19 decision in the title tilt.

After the season, Wasilchak decided to step down as head coach. Two months later, school district officials announced they’d hired Dave Piwowarczyk to take the reins.

Media Day

Piwowarczyk is a 2002 graduate of Lakeland.

Dave earned his bachelors degree at Kings College. From there, Dave served as an assistant coach at Western Wayne for 10 years. He returned to his alma mater in 2016 when he joined Coach Wasilchak’s staff.

“I learned so much at both schools,” he said. “It was a great experience with some really great coaches. Now, I’m ready to put all that knowledge to use as a head coach for the first time.”

One of his first official duties as the new varsity skipper was to represent the team at the 10th Annual Lackawanna Football Conference Media Day luncheon.

This year’s edition of the event was held at the Regal Room in Olyphant. It was hosted once again by the District Two Chapter of the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association.

Every school in the LFC sent one coach and two players. Lakeland was represented by Coach Piwowarczyk along with CJ Dippre and Robbie Thomas.

“We’re extremely excited to get out there, put on the pads and start hitting,” Coach Piwowarczyk said.

“The kids are really champing at the bit and I can’t wait to see what they can do this year.”

Heat acclimation sessions took place last week, so now the Chiefs have embarked upon summer two-a-days leading up to their one PIAA mandated scrimmage.

Lakeland will square off with Abington Heights starting at 10 a.m. Saturday in Clarks Summit.

Leadership

Dippre and Thomas will undoubtedly play key roles in whatever success Lakeland enjoys on the field this fall.

CJ carved out a spot for himself in the starting line-up as a frosh and hasn’t looked back.

A tall, big-armed quarterback, Dippre is an imposing physical presence in the pocket. He’s already received attention from several NCAA Division I schools including Boston College and Bowling Green.

Dippre threw for nearly 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. He was also a legitimate threat running the ball, accounting for another 215 yards and six scores on the ground.

“CJ has an outstanding work ethic,” Coach Piwowarczyk said. “He’s got all the physical tools, but now he’s also starting to step up as a leader on and off the field. I’m expecting big things from CJ this year.”

Thomas is a senior and returning three-year starter. Robbie is a fixture on both the offensive and defensive lines. He opens holes on one side and slams them shut on the other.

Thomas is also an excellent student of the game and in the classroom.

“Robbie has such a great attitude,” said Coach Piwowarczyk with a smile. “He’s always really upbeat and positive. Robbie is one of those kids who’ll do whatever you ask to help the team.”

Ready to Roll

Following the scrimmage at Abington, Lakeland will begin preparations in earnest for Opening Night.

Week One of the 2019 LFC campaign will be Friday, August 23. The Chiefs will open up at home versus Honesdale. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Chapman Lake.

In addition to Dippre and Thomas, Coach Piwowarczyk is also expecting on-field leadership from Giovanni Spataro.

A talented junior tailback, Spataro is coming off a monster season in 2018. He rushed for more than 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore.

“Giovanni is a tough kid,” said Coach Piwowarczyk. “He hits the hole, runs hard and he put in a ton of work during the off-season. I’m really excited to see Giovanni take that next big step up.”

Lakeland will play a non-league game at Lake Lehman in Week Two, then host Riverside on Friday, September 6.

Other key games on the schedule include: Mid Valley (Sept. 20), Carbondale Area (Oct. 4), Scranton Prep (Oct. 18), and Dunmore (Oct. 25).

“The biggest thing I’d like to see in my first year is the team coming together and being more like a family,” said Coach Piwowarczyk.

“That’s the most important thing. If we work hard and have each other’s backs, the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”