Nanticoke Area's Casey named all-state
Matt Bufano - Citizens Voice
Measuring in as a 6-foot-6, 300-pound lineman, Chris Bleich uses unique size and strength to his advantage on the gridiron.
But he also puts in the work, saying he goes to the gym six days a week to make sure he reaches his full potential when playing under the Friday night lights at Spartan Stadium.
Hes got such a tremendous work ethic, Valley West head football coach Pat Keating said of Bleich. Hes accountable, hes dependable, he works out as much as anybody. He really strives to be the best he could possibly be at what he does.
That dedication paid off for Bleich and Nanticoke Area senior Justin Casey on Monday, when the Pennsylvania Football Writers announced the two Wyoming Valley Conference standouts had earned all-state recognition.
A junior, Bleich was one of five offensive lineman and the only underclassman in the group to be selected all-state in Class 5A. He played an integral role up front for a Valley West running attack that averaged 223.1 yards per game.
Casey starred on both sides of the ball as a defensive end and tight end for the Trojans. He was one of six players who made all-state in Class 3A as a defensive lineman. Casey had 82 tackles and 13 sacks on defense, as well as 16 catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns on offense.
According to Nanticoke Area head coach Ron Bruza, Casey set new single-season and career records in sacks for a Nanticoke Area player.
Bruza called Casey the complete package, someone who excels on the field and in the classroom, as he is the schools Honor Society president.
He wants to be the best at everything he does. Just a great young man with a great future, Bruza said. Hes just a physical, dominant player with a motor that never stops.
The all-state teams in Classes 2A, 4A and 6A will be announced this morning.
Bleich said he was honored to be selected all-state. It was something he hoped to accomplish, he said, but was pushed to the back of his mind when it was game time.
Bleich is one of six players from the Class of 2018 verbally committed to play at Penn State. According to 247sports.com, Penn State currently has the nations No. 1 recruiting class for 2018.
Its been kind of exciting to see the way the team progressed through the whole season, Bleich said of No. 5 Penn State, which will play No. 9 USC in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2. From a 2-2 start to this is pretty amazing to see.
Bleich wanted to thank a number of people who helped him reach this point in his career, including Dwayne Downing, Stanley Blazick, John Centak, Steve Armillay and all the coaches at Valley West, as well as his father and his uncles Fritz and John.
He 100 percent deserves it, Keating said of Bleichs all-state selection. To me, I dont see anybody thats better than he is on film.
Casey is not yet committed to a college and he is currently playing a key role for Nanticoke Areas basketball team, which played Monday night at West Scranton.
School: Nanticoke Area
Caseys size made him difficult to block and tough to cover. He led the team with 16 catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, he had 82 total tackles and 13 sacks.
FOUR FOR FOUR
Head coach Ron Bruza has a new assistant coach to work with this season. Tony Chiarucci, a local high school veteran, joins the program as defensive coordinator.
The Trojans will run a 4-4 scheme, and while its not a major change, Bruza said the team is coming along nicely.
What Bruza likes about the scheme is that its a balanced defense that allows the Trojans to play to their strength.
So far, the players have been buying into what the staff is selling on the defensive side.
Last year the Trojans ranked seventh in the WVC in total defense allowing 262.1 yards per game. However, they ranked 13th in points allowed with 34.1.
2. STUDY THOSE ASSIGNMENTS
Turns out assignments are not only for the classroom. They have them in football as well. One area Bruza hopes to see improvement is on the scoreboard. Last year the Trojans averaged 24.6 points per game which ranked them eighth in the WVC. Even with that, the team finished 2-8. So something needs to improve.
It seems as if the Trojans may have found the answer. The offensive line last year was relatively young. The unit was mostly juniors who came into the season without much varsity experience. That proved to be a difference-maker against more veteran teams. That also hampered the run game, which was one of the experienced parts of last years squad.
This year the roles are reversed. The line is experienced but the backfield if filled with a group of youngsters looking to feel their way through the season. The most experienced running back on the roster this year is Dawson Hughes who carried the ball 14 times for 75 yards.
3. THIS IS IT
In 2013 the Trojans finished 5-6 and qualified for the Eastern Conference playoffs, they followed that up with a 4-6 showing in 2014. Last years two wins did not sit well with anybody involved with the program.
That has been the motivating factor during the offseason, the summer workouts and training camp. This senior class wants to go out winners.
Bruza is allowing this years senior class to take more of a vocal role as far as leadership is concerned on the field and in the locker room.
With a new level of leadership coming from within, Bruza is hoping the players can rally around one another and pick each other up.
4. THE SCHEDULE
Just like all the teams in the WVC this year, the Trojans will see some familiar faces and some they havent seen in quite some time.
The opener at Tunkhannock will prove to be a nice test right out of the gate.
The following week they are on the road again. The trips to Tunkhannock and Columbia Montour Vo-Tech are the furthest rides the team has to take this season. What Bruza likes about the schedule is that fans can recognize the opponents this year.
Crestwood and Pittston Area are two of the bigger WVC opponents the Trojans will face this season.
All told, the Trojans will play four Class 4A teams, five Class 3A teams and one Class A team.
SIZING UP THE TROJANS
Matt Wrubel returns for his second season as the starter. Last year he threw for 456 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for four touchdowns. He will be backed up by Colby Butczynski and Dylan Szychowski.
This will be a position by committee this season.
The backs are Dawson Hughes, Ian Novakowski, John Pietrzyk, Nate Harrison, Eric Jeffries and Mark Walters.
Hughes is the most experience back returning, having carried the ball 14 times last year. Novakoski and Pietrzyk each had 13 carries last season.
Szychowski, Matt Piontkowski, Walters and Darren Boseman are the receivers.
Of the group, Piontkowski had two receptions last season for 36 yards.
The centers are Kyle Bobeck and Andrew Gurzynski.
Kris Seiwell and John Guszak are at guard.
The tackles are Cooper Bartle and Austin Belles.
The tight ends are Justin Casey and Brian Reakes.
Casey led the team in receptions last year with 11 for 176 yards.
The ends are Piontkowski and Casey.
The tackles are Cooper Bartle, Brad Markowski and Kyle Bobeck.
Outside linebackers will be Pietrzyk, Novakowski, Harrison, Jeffries and Austin Cheslaw.
The inside linebackers are Guszak and Seiwell.
The corners are Mark Walters and Darren Boseman, while Szychowski is the safety.
Ricky Klepadlo is the kicker.Wrubel is expected to the punter.