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Joe Zabielski reached the point in Saturday's scrimmage with Athens when it was time to put in a second team.
Unlike last season, the Susquehanna Sabers football coach actually had a second team to put on the field.
"In comparison to last year, it was a step up," Zabielski said of the first scrimmage. "We have the same kids as last year in a lot of positions, but we have numbers. We were fresher."
Part of what kept the team fresh -- at least in a scrimmage setting -- was not having to keep a few players on the field when it was time for the second unit.
It is obvious that some changes have already taken place. Zabielski has reason to hope this season is as different as possible from last when he made his head coaching debut while the Sabers struggled through the first winless season in the program's 33-year history.
"Morale is very good," Zabielski said. "I'm very pleased."
Morale will be watched closely after the Susquehanna and Blue Ridge school districts made an off-season decision to co-sponsor football.
The program will be run out of Susquehanna High School and will still be known as the Sabers, but Blue Ridge students are playing high school football for the first time since the 1970s. At that time, Blue Ridge sponsored its own struggling program.
Concerns that a program which once produced two straight state playoff appearances could also disappear led to the drastic action at Susquehanna after dwindling numbers in the program contributed to the 0-10 season in 2002.
"People have skepticism about the merger," Zabielski said. "They feel like the kids will be at odds."
That makes it only natural to observe more than how the team performs on the field at this point in the season. Zabielski likes what he sees.
"On the sideline, the kids are standing together, not off in different groups," he said. "On the field, they're helping each other out."
The last co-sponsorship in District 2 ended when Carbondale was getting as few as two or three players from Sacred Heart after the Crusaders dropped their program.
With a lineup full of returning starters and a group of players that has competed on the high school level, many of the prominent positions are held by Susquehanna players as the season opens. Blue Ridge students, however, make up 23 of the 50 players that worked out the first week and will be a notable addition.
After a season in which the roster numbers dwindled below 20 at times and the program could not sustain a junior varsity or freshman team, the Sabers had 41 players in uniform for Saturday's scrimmage. Zabielski said five other players were on the sideline, three were excused and one was missing from the team without an excuse.
Junior varsity games should be back this season and the likelihood of reviving the freshman program is the next step.
"We wanted this year to get the solid varsity and junior varsity started," Zabielski said. "Even with seventh graders staying in pee wees with the weight limit increase, there should be enough eighth and ninth graders for a freshman team."
Zabielski said there are 11 freshmen on the combined varsity/junior varsity roster this season.
A year ago, three freshmen, Bobby Reddon, Ernie Taylor and Jordan Jackson saw time in the starting lineup.
"Realistically, they could have been playing freshman football," Zabielski said. "They would have had more fun against players their own age."
A LOOK AT THE LINEUP
Although the Sabers will be young on the field again this season, many of their positions will be filled by players who gained starting experience during last season's struggles.
Five offensive linemen return.
Sam Whitney is at center, Tony Beamer and Chris Cavanaugh at guard, and Reddon is at tackle. Pip Yannone moves from tackle to tight end.
Trent Emert, one of the players from Blue Ridge, moves into the lineup at right offensive tackle.
"We were very happy with what we saw," Zabielski said of a scrimmage effort in which the offense consistently gained yardage. "We came off the ball much better."
Quarterback Ryan Dubas, fullback Erik Hines and wide receiver Tristan Tarbox also return to the lineup.
Louis Villella, another addition from Blue Ridge, is a wide receiver.
The tailback position is open among five contenders, including Taylor, who saw playing time at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back last season. The others are Anthony Dorunda, Lee Page, Dustin Shaw and Kris Shimer.
Shaw, from Blue Ridge, appears ready to take over one of the starting cornerback spots.
Three of the defensive returnees are moving.
Yannone goes from tackle to nose guard, Cavanaugh from interior line to end and Beamer from nose guard to linebacker.
Hines and Joe Truskolaski return to the other linebacker spots and Tarbox is back at free safety.
Whitney and Reddon are the tackles and John Bixby is at end. Nate Huyck, who saw some action last season, is at cornerback.
The Sabers open the season Aug. 30 at home against Carbondale and travel to Montrose Sept. 5 for the meeting between the county's only two high school football teams.
The rest of the schedule, with home games in CAPS, is: Sept. 12, at Riverside; Sept. 20, BISHOP O'HARA; Sept. 26, at Wallenpaupack; Oct. 4, LAKELAND; Oct. 10, at Lackawanna Trail; Oct. 18, SCRANTON PREP; Oct. 24, at Mid Valley; Nov. 1, OLD FORGE.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
NEWMAN Wins At Michigan, Brooklyn
MI With 52-laps to go Ryan Newman topped off the fuel tank in his No. 12 Alltel Dodge and then went the remaining laps to win Sundays Winston Cup GFS 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
The win was his fifth of the season and the 50th for his team Penske Racing.
Newman passed Kurt Busch with three laps to go in the 200-lap race, and went on to a 1.6-second victory over Kevin Harvick, who had won Saturdays Busch Series race.
"Ryan is not only a smart driver, but he knows how to conserve fuel better than anyone else I know," said crew chief Matt Borland.
Busch ran out of fuel with two laps to go and finished 18th.
"I heard that the 97 car (Kurt Busch) was going to have to push his luck a lot more than us," said Newman. "I wanted to be in a position to win if he did run out."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in several small accidents and wound up 32nd. Points leader, Matt Kenseth crossed the stripe in ninth spot and extended his point lead to 329 points.
Polesitter Bobby Labonte was out of the race after 105 laps.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Ryan Newman, 2. Kevin Harvick, 3. Tony Stewart, 4. Greg Biffle, 5. Steve Park, 6. Robby Gordon, 7. Michael Waltrip, 8. Ken Schrader, 9. Matt Kenseth, 10. Johnny Benson.
Top-10 points leaders after 23 of 36 races: 1. Kenseth-3432, 2. Earnhardt Jr.-3103, 3. J. Gordon-2971, 4. Harvick-2953, 5. Waltrip-2923, 6. Johnson-2908, 7. B. Labonte-2825, 8. Newman-2816, 9. Busch-2810, 10. R. Gordon-2777.
What Is The Real DALE ,JR. Thinking, Brooklyn, MI, Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted he has used the news media in his ongoing negotiations with Dale Earnhardt Inc., his late fathers teams.
"Every once in a while, you guys come in pretty handy," Dale Jr. said. "It's nice to have a little leverage. I've been without leverage for a long time."
He has not signed a contract to driver the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, and rumors have been flying about his future.
One rumor has him wanting a piece of the DEI teams, now owned by his step-mother Teresa Earnhardt.
He said Saturday at Michigan International Speedway that his share of ownership in the Busch Series team was more than he wanted, and owning a share of his father's company, DEI, is "not really a big deal to me."
"I guess people were speculating on what could be the holdup, what could be the situations of disagreement or the circumstances that need to be compromised in the contract between me and Teresa," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I guess that was one of the things that people thought might be of my interest, but it's really not. But I don't really find any interest in ownership at this particular time.
"I enjoy the Busch Series team that I have, and I'm only 50 percent owner in that. It's fun, and I'm learning. That'll be the experience that'll tell me whether I want to have anything to do with ownership down the road. But right now, I've got enough. I ain't got to where I want to be as a race car driver. I've got a long ways to go as a race car driver. Ownership's way, way, way out of the picture right now.
"My mind and my heart are in driving the 8 car, and it always has been. But I want to get what I feel like I deserve for it. I entertained the idea of driving for somebody else. You always do that. You daydream about everything in this sport. But it never is anything I thought would be reality.
"On the other side of that, I'm definitely out to get what I feel like I deserve. As sure as everybody can be about me driving the 8 car for as long as I drive, I'm not going to do it for free. I expect to get paid and get compensated as I would anywhere else in this business.
"Compared to other pro sports, we are underpaid. We make plenty enough money to live the lifestyle we want to live, but there's a lot of money in this sport and not much of it goes to the drivers. That gets kind of frustrating sometime."
In addition to Earnhardt, Tony Stewart, who drove Earnhardts Busch car Saturday is also weighing contract offers.
HARVICK Wins Rain-Shortened Busch Race Despite not having the dominant car all day, Kevin Harvick won the Cabela's 250 when the race was stopped due to rain after 110 of 125 scheduled laps at Michigan International Speedway.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Kevin Harvick, 2. Kasey Kahne, 3. Bobby Hamilton Jr. 4. David Green, 5. Scott Riggs, 6. David Reutimann, 7. Casey Mears, 8. Michael Waltrip, 9. Shane Hmiel, 10. Dave Blaney.
RIGGS Is Busch Leader The top-10 points leaders after 23 of 34 races; 1. Riggs-3192, 2. D. Green-3190, 3. Keller-3096, 4. Hornaday-3058, 5. Vickers-3044, 6. Hamilton Jr.-2900, 7. Wimmer-2788, 8. Hmiel-2787, 9. J. Sauter-2772, 10. Compton-2697.
All three of NASCAR's major series' are at Bristol, Tennessee.
Wednesday, Aug. 20, Craftsman Truck Series O'Reilly 200, 16 of 25 races, Starting time: 8:30 p.m. (EST); TV: Speed Channel; Distance: 200 laps/110.6 miles; Defending champion: This is the first truck race at Bristol since 1999.
Friday, August 22, Busch Series Food City 250, 24 of 34 races, 250 laps/133.5 miles, 8 p.m. TV: TNT.
Saturday, August 23, Winston Cup Sharpie 500, 24 of 36 races, 500 laps/266.5 miles, 7 p.m. TV: TNT.
Racing Trivia Question: Where is Michael Waltrips home state?
Last Weeks Question: How many Winston Cup teams does Richard Childress have? Answer: Three and they are driven by Kevin Harvick, Robby Gordon and Steve Park.
Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. If you have a racing question that you would like answered send it to The Racing Reporter, P.O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL, 36616, or e-mail it to: email@example.com.
The American Legion baseball team, "The Generals" along with their coaches and personnel were honored at an awards dinner on Saturday, August 9, 2003 in Susquehannas American Legion Memorial Hall.
Team General Manager/Coach Bob Polish serving as master of Ceremonies, and doing a great job as usual, gave a report on the teams activities during the current season, elaborating on the deeds of the ball players, coaches, personnel and several invited guests.
Members of the 2003 team were: Susquehanna Larry Cassidy and Ryan Dubas; Mountain View Eric Correll, Ken Decker, Johnny Evans, Ernie Griffis, Joe Johnson, Mike Molenko; Forest City Jason Marsicano, Sean McGraw, Jack Weaver, Bob Weaver; Scranton Josh Kulick; Lakeland Joe Lemoncelli; and P. J. Lemoncelli of Penn Tech College.
Coaches: Bob Polish, GM/coach; Bob Chmiel, Brian Rock, Paul Lemoncelli.
Following Benediction and the Pledge of Allegiance, Kevin Edwards, sports editor and columnist for the Wayne County Independent was guest speaker.
Special remarks were by Joseph Healey, Penns. Central Chairman of the Pennsylvania American Legion Baseball Committee.
Special awards were presented to the following:
Special Achievement Awards to Brion Stone for "hitting for the cycle" vs. Elk Lake June 30; Sean McGraw for "20 strikeouts" in a 12-inning game against Waymart, June 28; Brion Stone in compiling a .442 batting average.
To Jack Weaver, pitcher, for a 1.82 Earned Run Average; Brion Stone, awarded a Gold Glove, for Defensive Player of the Year; Jason Marsicano, selected by the coaches for the Silver Spike Award.
To Johnny Edwards, "Rookie of the Year" award; P. J. Lemoncelli and Brion Stone, 2003 Graduate Awards; Eric Correll, the Generals "Unsung Hero" award.
A special Achievement Award went to Aaron Phillips for his "No-Hitter" against Honesdale team, June 21, 2001. (The award was accepted by Aarons sister, Milissa Philips.)
A "Medal of Excellence," encased in a beautiful frame, was awarded by Head Coach Bob Polish to Will Zerfoss; Lou Parrillo, columnist for the Susquehanna County Transcript; and Joseph Healey. Two were awarded (Posthumously) to Richard Sicker and Thomas Horan. The awards represent the dedication of the recipients over the past several years to American Legion Baseball.
Mr. Polish, who has handled the major work of keeping American Legion Baseball alive in the area, should be highly commended for his dedication. Mr. Polish is aided by Tom Hurley, of Post 86 in "keeping the sport alive in Susquehanna County." Mr. Hurley has been connected with the Legion program since its inception here.
Prior to the program a delicious smorgasbord was served. After the program, group pictures were taken. Following is an excerpt by Coach Polish, taken from the program book: "For those who remain confined within the boundaries of their own existence, a tangible reality will never be realized without first experiencing the dreams and visions of those whose pursuit goes beyond the ordinary parameters of what is considered reality."
The American Legion along with the Strider-Teskey Post 86 of Susquehanna is committed to Americas youth, which is why they have sponsored American Legion Baseball since 1925. The goals of American Legion Baseball are the development of team discipline, individual character, and leadership development qualities in young people.
Great Bend, PA Greenwood Park was alive and full of energy on Sunday, July 27 as residents gathered to honor Tim Fancher. Tim was a local runner who collapsed while running and never recovered. It is nice to see how the community has gotten behind this race. The course is an out and back, that is mostly flat with a couple of "speed bumps." Weather was hot and humid, but 147 registered and 135 finished!
Jeff Rood (21), of Susquehanna, PA, won the 5K run, in 16:15 which matches his last years time and result. (The race was certified and lengthened from the previous year so Jeff did actually beat last years effort.) Jeff runs for Millersville College. Gary Malinko (19), of Old Forge, PA, was second, in a time of 16:58 and Erik Maki (41), of Cortland, NY, was third, in 17:36.
Lauren Tingley (20), of Susquehanna, won the 5K run for women, in 19:11 which breaks the course mark. Lauren runs for Penn State University. Rachel Hall (18), of Susquehanna was second, in a time of 20:00 and Charlene Lyford (37), of Greene, NY was third, in 20:26.
The 5K Walk for men was won by Jim Hopper, Jr. (54), of Bloomsburg, PA, in 32:12 and the womens was won by Ashley Fancher (11), of Vestal, NY, in 41:00.
There was a kids run, with ribbons and books for all. There was a chicken barbecue, a raffle, many door prizes, gift certificates and medals for the winners. Even the goodie bags were "loaded," so everyone was smiling.
The highlight of the event was the uncovering f the monument for Tim, that was just put in place this weekend. All proceeds from the race are donated to the parks, in memory of Tim.
The third annual Tim Fancher Memorial 5K is already in the works for next year, and youre invited!
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