The Blue Ridge and Elk Lake boys' teams were among those represented Sunday when the Coaches vs. Cancer conducted the second District 2 Basketball Media Day at Riverfront Sports in Scranton.
Blue Ridge features key returnees from the first championship boys' basketball team in the school's 70-year history. Elk Lake, where Kyle Kiehart is entering his first season as head coach, figures to be among the top challengers to the Raiders' hopes of repeating as Lackawanna League Division 4 champions.
Connor Cranage, the division Player of the Year choice by NEPASportsNation.com the past two seasons, made it clear that Blue Ridge is taking direct aim at another division title as well as a district championship after reaching the final at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza last season only to get blown out by traditional power Holy Cross.
"I just think we have a bigger drive this year," Cranage said. "We've been in the gym since summer. We've been lifting weights together. We've been getting skill work done.
"I think if we just stay humble, stay level-headed and not let anything get to us, we'll be good this season."
The Raiders also return record-setting, 3-point shooter Carson Gallagher, a second-team division all-star last season.
"For me, teams want to take away the lane and the paint," Cranage said. "When the defense contracts, it allows Carson to shoot. And, when Carson gets hot, people need to respect him and the lane opens up.
"We help each other out. It's hard to stop when you have guys who can drive and shoot."
Kiehart, who comes to Elk Lake after strengthening the Lakeland girls' program as its head coach, hopes to build for not just this season, but beyond, establishing a physical team that will get up and down the court.
"A lot of these guys are young," Kiehart said. "We're going to have 19 kids back next year who are on the team this year, so I think we just have to keep taking it game-by-game and keep working on what our culture is going to be and what our philosophy is going to be.
"Our junior class is really strong and I think we have some underclassmen who are going to shock a lot of people. From freshman to senior, we have a lot of kids who can combine into a good group.
"As the season goes on, we're going to get better. I think by the end of the season, we're going to be a well-rounded team."
SCRANTON – Lackawanna Football Conference Division 3 champion Lackawanna Trail had its season come to an end Friday night with a 43-25 loss to Steelton-Highspire in a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association quarterfinal meeting of the state's top two Class A football teams, according to rankings determined by PennLive.com.
Alex Erby, the state's all-time leader in career passing yards and touchdowns, led the Steamrollers by going 20-for-25 for 337 yards and four touchdowns passing while also running for a score.
Erby had plenty of help in the 534-yard attack.
Ronald Burnette carried 19 times for 166 yards and a touchdown. Durrell Ceasar Jr. caught nine passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns while Jaeion Perry had seven catches for 162 yards and two scores.
Steelton-Highspire scored the game's first 22 points before being outscored by Lackawanna Trail the rest of the way.
Demetrius Douglas had 99 of Lackawanna Trail's 216 rushing yards and Isaac Ryon returned the second-half kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown.
Lackawanna Trail is a divisional opponent of Susquehanna.
Dunmore, the team that ended the Sabers' season in the District 2 semifinals, is the last LFC team and one of two District 2 teams still standing.
Danny Pigga and quarterback Thomas Bowen each ran for two touchdowns in Dunmore's 41-25, home-field Class 2A victory over Camp Hill to reach the state semifinals.
Pigga carried 17 times for 195 yards as Dunmore piled up 339 on the ground.
Unbeaten Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 champion Dallas outlasted Bonner-Prendergast from Philadelphia, 28-27, in overtime in a Class 4A quarterfinal.
Two other LFC teams were eliminated.
Imhotep Charter topped host Delaware Valley, 31-7, in Class 5A Saturday and Northwestern Lehigh defeated visiting Scranton Prep, 27-6, in Class 3A Friday night.
Both Delaware Valley and Scranton Prep scored first.
Delaware Valley was threatening to make it 14-0 in the first quarter, but Imhotep Charter held on downs and broke an 83-yard touchdown run on the next play.
In girls' cross country, Mountain View senior Carissa Flynn finished 78th in a field of 196 top high school runners from eight states Saturday during the Nike Cross Country Northeast Regional at Wappinger Falls, NY.
Flynn ran the 3.1-mile course in 20:32.6.
Mackenzie Steele made the most of her playing time Nov. 20 when the University of Scranton women's basketball team remained unbeaten with an 86-43 rout of Albright College.
Steele led the Lady Royals to a 46-27 advantage on the boards, grabbing a career-high seven rebounds in nine minutes.
The 6-foot-1 senior center from Susquehanna made one of her two shots to finish with two points.
Steele has two points and eight rebounds in 14 minutes in two appearances this season. She has 17 points, 26 rebounds and seven blocked shots in 152 minutes in 29 career games.
Scranton, ranked sixth in the country among National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III teams, took a 4-0 record into Monday's scheduled home game against Stevens.
The fall and winter high school football seasons overlap for nine days beginning Friday.
Football, the only fall sport remaining, is down to the last four teams in the state in each classification. Included in that list is LFC member Dunmore and another District 2 school, Dallas.
The winter sports season opens the regular season with non-league and tournament competition.
Last week's high school football predictions were 3-1 (75.0 percent), bringing our records to 22-2 (91.7 percent) for the playoffs and 118-26 (81.9 percent) for the entire season.
This week's prediction: Southern Columbia 35, Dunmore 21.
In girls' basketball, two new tournaments help get the season underway Friday.
Mountain View is hosting the Lambert-Simons Tip-Off Classic and will play in the opener Friday at 5:00pm.
Coming off a state Class A semifinal appearance, the Lady Eagles will host Union-Endicott, NY in the 5:00pm opener. Western Wayne and Crestwood play at 7:00.
The tournament continues Saturday with games at noon and 1:15.
Blue Ridge will host the first Susquehanna-Bradford Girls' Tip-Off Tournament with a format copying the Susquehanna-Bradford Challenge for boys' teams.
Susquehanna plays Sayre at 6:00pm Friday, followed by Wyalusing Valley against Blue Ridge at 7:30.
Saturday's schedule calls for Susquehanna to face Wyalusing Valley at 1:30 and Sayre to meet Blue Ridge at 3:00.
Montrose also opens Friday night, hosting Valley View at 6:45.
Forest City does not open until Monday, Dec. 4 when it hosts Hanover Area.
In boys' basketball, Elk Lake travels to Carbondale Friday night for the 48th annual Michael "Red" Wallace Memorial Scholarship Game.
The game honors the memory of Wallace, who coached Elk Lake to two state titles. He graduated from Fell Township, which is now part of the Carbondale Area School District, and went on to play for the Boston Celtics.
The Susquehanna-Bradford Challenge is being played at Wyalusing Valley with Blue Ridge opening against Sayre at 6, then Susquehanna playing Wyalusing Valley at 7:30.
Susquehanna plays Sayre and Blue Ridge plays Wyalusing Valley Saturday.
Mountain View also opens Friday, playing at MMI Prep.
Montrose's opener is Saturday afternoon at Lake-Lehman.
Forest City's first two games are in the Finan Memorial Tournament, Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 4-5 at Carbondale.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Freelance reporter Spencer Decker assisted with this story, conducting the basketball Media Day interviews.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @tomjrobinson.