Willis returns as Py Valley looks to rebound from a disappointing 2016

The Lakers welcome Mineral Ridge in week one.

Pymatuning Valley Lakers High school Football

2017 Pymatuning Valley Football Preview
Head Coach: Neal Croston, 8th season (31-39)
Last Season: 2-8 (0-5), 6th place in NAC
Division: VI (Region 21)

Last 10 Years
Overall Winning Percentage: 45.5% (45-54)
Playoff Appearances: None
Playoff Record: 0-0
League Championships: 1 (2008)
League Record*: 27-23
*-NAC member from 2009-2017; East Suburban Conference member 2007-2008

More:High School Football previews from other teams

2016 Results
Windham 28 Lakers 14
Newbury 27 Lakers 14
Grand Valley 51 Lakers 6
Mathews 20 Lakers 14
Chalker 32 Lakers 22
Lakers 24 St. John 13
Garrettsville Garfield 56 Lakers 6
Campbell Memorial 35 Lakers 0
Cardinal 27 Lakers 6
Lakers 22 Mineral Ridge 18

2016 Team Stats
Scoring Offense: 12.8 (equivalent to 52nd in Area)
Total Offense: 271.1
Scoring Defense: 30.7 (equivalent to 43rd in Area)
…The Lakers’ offense has dropped from scoring 24.4 points per game in 2014 to a unit which averaged just 11.4 last Fall.

Northeastern Athletic Conference Lineup
Grand Valley
Pymatuning Valley
Southington Chalker

The Good News
Returning Starters: Offense – 6; Defense – 7
The team’s leading rusher Gaige Willis is back for his senior year. Willis gained 1102 yards on 179 rushes (6.2 avg) and scored 12 times. “Our strength this season will be our run game,” indicates coach Neal Croston. “We return three senior lineman (led by Caleb Bean), a big strong running back (Willis) and our tight end (Steven Dodge).” Willis, a state champion in wrestling, also was the team’s leading tackler in 2016 with 89 defensive stops. Junior Logan Drnek finished the season as the Lakers’ quarterback as he threw for 293 yards and 2 scores. Senior Dodge – who was the team’s second leading tackler (60) from his defensive end position – also is the Lakers’ leading returning receiver (13 catches, 202 yards). Junior defensive back Jacob Chiles also returns after posting 2 interceptions and 39 tackles as a sophomore. Rising sophomore Logan Giddings was a standout track and field athlete but closed out his freshman year as a starter.

2017 Schedule
Aug. 25 – Mineral Ridge,7
Sept. 1 – Cardinal, 7
Sept. 8 – at Liberty, 7
Sept. 15 – Garrettsville Garfield, 7
Sept. 22 – at St. John, 7
Sept. 29 – at Southington, 7
Oct. 6 – Mathews, 7
Oct. 13 – at Grand Valley, 7
Oct. 20 – Newbury, 7
Oct. 27 – at Windham, 7

The Bad News
“We’ll be watching our pass game closely as we will be looking for consistent passing with our new receivers,” says Croston. Luke Hockran, who gained 425 yards rushing and another 222 receiving, has since graduated. Also, Gunnar Ellis and Isaac Orahood have received their diplomas too. Ellis finished 2016 with 43 tackles on defense and caught 17 balls for 205 yards on offense. Orahood, who was called onto play quarterback in the middle of last year, completed 45.2% (38-84) while throwing for 414 yards (2 TDs). Isaac also was involved on 31 tackles.

Key Number
Py Valley is 1-18 in their last 19 games. They’ve been able to score 23-points or more just once (September 23, 2016 vs. St. John, 24) during that span.

Featured Stat
Since 2011, the Lakers have featured four 1000-yard rushers:
2016: Gaige Willis – 1102
2014: Nick Such – 1376
2012: Quintin Ratliff – 1270
2011: Kurtis Marsh – 1033

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