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Tom Lucenti misses the old days.
The Montrose football coach is preparing his small roster for the upcoming season, trying to turn around recent struggles while facing an increasingly difficult schedule.
Lucenti was not a fan of the Lackawanna Football Conference even before the new schedule draw this season gave him a mandatory non-division game against Scranton High School, a program that not only has finally made a long-overdue move up in the local standings but has gained on the state's Class AAAA powers in recent years.
"I'd like to get things back the old way," Lucenti said. "Everybody down there (in the LFC) knows I would.
"I've been saying it at every coaches' meeting that I go to."
The Meteors hit what might have been a lull in their program's history at the same time former Suburban Conference and Big 11 schools joined up with the Wyoming Valley Conference in the two-year experiment of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Football Conference. The momentum lost during that time has been hard to turn around since a return to the Lackawanna Football Conference.
Lucenti would like to go back further with a return to as much as possible of the old Suburban Football Conference in which Montrose and Susquehanna were both among the top teams on a consistent basis.
"From about '88 to '98, when we were up around the top of the Suburban, I never made any claims that we should be anywhere else," Lucenti said. "The reason we have the schedule we have now is that schools like Dunmore, Scranton Prep and Lakeland made noise that they didn't want to play Abington Heights, Valley View and West Scranton any more.
"Now, that I don't want to play them, it's wrong for me to say so."
The Meteors' only wins last season came by shutouts over former Suburban rivals Susquehanna and Bishop O'Hara. Montrose finished 2-8.
The defense that came through in those wins appears to be the strength going into the season.
Montrose returns seven starters defensively and only three offensively.
"We have a lot of people back on defense, but we're still looking for some key spots," Lucenti said. "On both offense and defense, we could have one strong side of the line, but we're not settled on who is playing and where."
Nose guard Chris Short, tackle Larry Lundy and end Dennis Moore return in the defensive line. Tackle Zeke Lee and end Bud Roszel are likely to be the other starters.
Returning starter Dana Marsh will join Dustin Palmer and Justin Marbaker to share the two linebacker spots.
Dominic Lucenti, the coach's son, returns at strong safety while Kyle Stoddard is back at cornerback and Tom Burgh returns at free safety. Taylor Smith will fill the other cornerback spot.
Burgh, Stoddard and Marbaker all have experience at running back spots.
Lucenti, who played some as the back up last year, will take over at quarterback. Palmer is the new fullback.
Lundy, the right tackle, is the only returning starter in the offensive line.
Marsh is at center and Chris Short is at right guard. Some combination of Guy Roszel, Lee and Bobby O'Malley will probably fill the left guard and tackle spots.
Dennis Moore is at one tight end while Bud Roszel and Dean Moore are working at the other.
The Meteors, who will compete in Division II of the LFC, open with two non-division games. They play home against Lackawanna Trail September 3 before going to Susquehanna September 11.
Montrose graduates Rich Thompson and Chris Snee are each making progress in their professional careers.
Thompson is leading the Class AAA Pacific Coast League with 13 triples. Thompson, who plays for the Nashville Sounds who are the Pittsburgh Pirates' top farm team, is the only PCL player in double figures in triples.
Thompson also ranks second in the league with 36 stolen bases and is tied for fourth in hit by pitch with 12.
Snee is listed second on the depth chart at right guard halfway through New York Giants training camp and has a chance to be in the starting lineup for opening day. Snee, a 6-foot-3, 314-pound rookie from Boston College, is wearing number 67 for the Giants.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
BIFFLE Leads A Trio Of Fords At Michigan
Brooklyn, MI Greg Biffle led a trio of Fords across the finish line in Sundays Nextel Cup GFS Marketplace 400 for his first win of 2004, and the second of his career.
Biffle, who dominated the second half of the 200-lap race, took four tires on his final pit stop on Lap 175, while teammate Mark Martin, who finished second, only took on two.
Back on the track, Biffle was able to pull away from Martin.
He regained the lead after on lap 183 after leader Scott Riggs pitted. From that point on, it was all Biffle and the No. 16 National Guard/Flash Ford of Roush Racing.
"There was a lot of hard teamwork that went on to win this race," said Biffle. "What an awesome race. I think the fans saw a really good show.
"When we came out of the pits on that last stop, I was concerned about Mark, because he is an aggressive race car driver that always has something up his sleeve."
But two aces never beat a pair of fours.
"We came from back of the pack to run second, so that isnt too bad," said Martin. "We only took two tires because we knew if we took four, we could only run second. By taking two, we knew we could run second, and still have a chance to win.
"We didnt have enough tires on the left side to run with him, but we did everything we could do."
Martin has now moved up into 12th spot, and is just 33 points out of the top-10.
Dale Jarrett, another Ford driver finished third. There were six Fords, two Dodges, and two Chevrolets that finished in the top-10.
For the third consecutive week, Jimmie Johnson had an engine failure, and lost the points lead to Jeff Gordon.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Greg Biffle, 2. Mark Martin, 3. Dale Jarrett, 4. Jamie McMurray, 5. Kasey Kahne, 6. Kurt Busch, 7. Jeff Gordon, 8. Matt Kenseth, 9. Tony Stewart, 10. Carl Edwards.
Top-15 drivers that are in the chase for the Nextel Cup championship: 1. J. Gordon-3254, 2. Johnson-3186, 3. Earnhardt Jr.-3115, 4. Stewart-3089, 5. Kenseth-3018, 6. Busch-2909, 7. Sadler-2864, 8. Harvick-2832, 9. B. Labonte-2799, 10. Kahne-462, 11. Mayfield-2786, 12. Martin-2759, 13. Newman-2748, 14. Jarrett-2734, 15. McMurray-2722.
There are just three races to go, but all these drivers have a mathematical possibility to make the necessary top-10.
Conversation With RUSTY WALLACE Veteran Nextel Cup driver Rusty Wallace says he is having an unbelievable year. Currently, he is 18th in points, 781 behind the leader, and 294 out of 10th-place.
In other words, with just three races left before the championship chase begins, he has very little chance of making the field for the last 10 races. But still, the 48-year-old driver of the No. 2 Penske Dodge is upbeat about the season and his future.
"My thought process right now, Ive had an unbelievable year," said Wallace. "Yeah, we finally got back to victory lane, but I would have never thought wed had this many DNFs with crazy things going on, but the good thing is the performance has been there. The car has been running great all year long. We just cant seem to close the deal. I dont know what it is."
There have been reports that Wallace might be hanging up his driving helmet soon, but he denied them.
"Ill tell you this," continued Wallace. "Right now, my mind is 100 percent on racing. If I do make that call, one of these days, you guys will be the first to know because I want to celebrate it in a proper way and have a good time. Right now, Im not prepared to talk about retirement.
"This retirement thing from racing is going around in my head all the time. I guess the toughest thing Ill have to give up is the pure enjoyment of racing. I love racing and I still love racing. I feel like Im at the top of my game right now. You wouldnt know it from the poor finishes we have because of mechanical problems, but the performance of the car has been good. What will happen, Ill have to weigh whats going on. My kids are growing up. Steven is racing right now. Ive got the car business Im heavily involved in.
"Were building a new state of the art new Penske race shop. I wont to be more involved with that. There will be a time when it crosses. You think about things like that. Right now, I finally broke into victory lane at Martinsville and after that I knew I could win a lot more this year, I would have never thought Id go to Talladega and get caught up in a crash. Go to California and get caught up in a crash, blow a motor here, blow a motor there.
"I never dreamed Id be 17th or 18th in the points. I thought Id be eighth or better easy, but it didnt happen. Right now Im clawing my way back to the front. My main goal right now is to make hay out of every single year I can, but I dont have all the answers about the retirement thing. Itll be something Ill talk to Penske, my wife, Don Miller and well have big discussions about it. I dont plan on quitting right now. Ill go for another couple of years, but Im not guaranteeing anything after that. That 38-race schedule will wear a person down. Theres a lot of life out there rather than living in a motor home every weekend at a racetrack."
Wallaces major league NASCAR career began in 1980 when he ran two races for Roger Penske. Through the 2003 season, he had 598 starts, with 54 wins and 36 poles.
Its back to Bristol for all three of NASCARs major series. Each race will be held under the lights.
KYLE BUSCH Dominates Busch Race Here are the top ten results of the Busch Series Cabelas 250, held Saturday at Brooklyn, Mich.: 1. Kyle Busch, 2. Mark Martin, 3. Martin Truex, 4. Casey Mears, 5. Kasey Kahne, 6. Rusty Wallace, 7. Jason Leffler, 8. Greg Biffle, 9. Mike Wallace, 10. Mike Bliss.
TRUEX Continues As Busch Leader Top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Truex-3488, 2. Busch-3391, 3. Leffler-3090, 4. Biffle-3052, 5. Hornaday-2952, 6. D. Green-2938, 7. Keller-2934, 8. Hamilton Jr.-2896, 9. Bliss-2729, 10. Lewis-2588.
HAMILTON Leads Truck Drivers Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders; 1. Hamilton-2288, 2. Setzer-2204, 3. Chaffin-2092, 4. Edwards-2084, 5. Crafton-2075, 6. Musgrave-2043, 7. Kvapil-2038, 8. Crawford-1903, 9. Skinner-1886, 10. Starr-1885.
Wednesday, August 25, Craftsman Truck Series OReilly 200, race 16 of 25, 200 laps/106 miles, 9 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Friday, August 27, Busch Series Food City 250, race 24 of 34, 250 laps/133 miles, 8 p.m. TV: TNT.
Saturday, August 28, Nextel Cup Sharpie 500, race 24 of 36, 500 laps/266 miles, 7 p.m. TV: TNT.
Racing Trivia Question: Which Cup team will Terry Labonte be driving for in 2005?
Last Weeks Question: What is Nextel Cup driver Robby Gordons nickname? Answer. Robby Gordons nickname is "Flash."
If you would like to read additional racing stories by Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter, go to www.race500.com.
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