ANDOVER, Ohio (WKBN) – Pymatuning Valley opened last year with 7 straight wins. The Lakers won their playoff opener against Hillsdale (18-8) at home before falling to Mogadore (32-14) on the road in the Division VI Region 21 Quarterfinals.
Coach Neal Croston expects to “compete in non-conference, advance to the playoffs and compete. We’ve won our league (NAC) three times in a row.” Py Valley expects to be in the mix once again this coming season.
2020 Record: 8-1 (5-0, 1st place in NAC)
Coach: Neal Croston
Previewing Py Valley’s Offense
Scoring Offense: 38.9 (compared to 4th in Area)
Total Offense: 335.9
Returning Starters: 5
Key Returnees: Devin Ray, SR/RB; Robert Verba, SR/TE
Key Losses: Tyler Bean, QB; John Chalfant, OL; Mason Inman, WR; Dillen Knowles, RB; Louie Phillips, OL; Devin Ray, RB; Victor Verba, OL; Jonah Wilkerson, WR
Name to watch for: Robert Verba, TE
Last fall, Pymatuning Valley was able to average 222.6 rushing yards per outing. The Lakers featured three ball carriers who gained over 400 yards during their condensed 9-game schedule – Dillen Knowles (541), Jonah Wilkerson (508) and Tyler Bean (434). All three players have since graduated.
This off-season, coach Croston will look for a new quarterback (to replace Bean) and another running back (with Knowles departing). “We plan on using Devin Ray again in the backfield. Our other options could be Garrett Smith, Robert Verba, Andrew Root or Jimmy Thomas or a couple of other young players.” Last year, Ray gained 218 yards rushing while averaging 7 yards per carry. Verba caught 10 passes for 117 yards from his tight end position.
“We have a solid starting five up front,” points out Croston, “however, we’ll need to find depth. James McCulloch, Hunter Smith and Thurmond Adkins all had solid junior years.”
Previewing Py Valley’s Defense
Scoring Defense: 9.0 (compared to 1st in Area)
Returning Starters: 7
Key Returnees: Devin Ray, SR/LB; Andrew Root, SR/DB; Jimmy Thomas, SR/LB
Key Losses: Tyler Bean, LB; Mason Inman, DB; Victor Verba, DL; Jonah Wilkerson, LB
Name to watch for: Jimmy Thomas, LB
The Lakers’ defensive strengths appear to be experience and their defensive line.
Py Valley must replace the contributions by Tyler Bean (40 tackles, 5 QB sacks), Victor Verba (3 QB sacks), Jonah Wilkerson (46 tackles) and Mason Inman (6 INTs).
Croston says, “We’re always looking for leadership from our seniors. We have ten returning from last year, many will be counted upon on defense.”
Linebacker Devin Ray returns as last year he was the team’s second leading tackler (47). Fellow linebacker Jimmy Thomas finished with 40 tackles and a quarterback sack. Thomas had the most defensive stops for a loss with 7. In the secondary, senior Andrew Root will also be back after recording 3 interceptions last fall.
2020 NAC Standings
Pymatuning Valley – 6-0 (8-1)
Fairport Harding – 4-2 (4-3)
Mathews – 3-3 (3-7)
Windham – 2-3 (2-4)
St. John – 2-4 (2-6)
Southington – 0-5 (0-5)
Aug. 20 – Mineral Ridge
Aug. 27 – Cardinal
Sept. 3 – Grand Valley
Sept. 10 – Rootstown
Sept. 17 – at St. John
Sept. 24 – at Fairport Harding
Oct. 1 – at Windham
Oct. 8 – at Southington
Oct. 15 – Toronto
Oct. 22 – Mathews