By Tyler Trumbauer
Lehighton football was all about new beginnings last fall. A new head coach, a new coaching staff, a new philosophy and hopefully better results reinvigorated the team and the town.
Unfortunately for the Indians there was one ending mixed in with the abundance of commencements last autumn. It was the conclusion of Lehighton’s best player, the multi-sport star Jacen Nalesnik’s, high school career. The graduated senior will be on campus at Lehigh in a few weeks and will be on their baseball diamond this spring.
That leaves a big hole for head coach Tom McCarroll and his squad to fill.
“Coming in he was a kid that was really established in terms of his skills and his effort,” McCarroll said. “He was there to kind of set a tone and an example, but we played a lot of underclassmen last year. They shadowed him and picked up on things. They were able to get their feet wet. We may not be able to replace an individual, but we have individuals that learned from him.”
Although Nalesnik will not be in an Indians’ uniform on Friday nights this fall, there is a solid group of seniors that have one more season to give it their all. Those individuals are Nick Newton, Tyler Crumb, Tom Ruzick and Ty Clemons. Another key returner is their starting quarterback Tyler Can, who is a sophomore.
What McCarroll, who is entering his second year walking the Lehighton sidelines, hopes doesn’t return from 2012 is their record. The Indians are coming off a 3-7 season that included a 2-6 mark in the Mountain Valley Conference. However, wins and losses aren’t too important in 2013 to him either.
“Our expectations are not going to come in the form of wins and losses or anything concrete. It will come in the form of starting better and quicker. Working on our individual games and getting a better effort all around.”
The future of the MVC as a whole is uncertain with the recent talks of a merger with the Lehigh Valley Conference to form a “super-conference”. The latest talks show a possible relationship forming as soon as the 2014-15 school year. All of that doesn’t matter to Lehighton though as they are taking their ball and going to their new home, which will be the Schuylkill League and the Anthracite League for football.
McCarroll said at Lehighton’s media day late last week that he and his coaching staff aren’t worried about this being the Indians’s farewell season in the MVC.
“Some of the kids talk about it a whole lot more than we do. It really isn’t something that we as coaches think about. I don’t make the schedules. That is up to the athletic director. I don’t care who we play whether it be Mountain Valley Conference or Anthracite League. We will be ready to play.”
Lehighton spent most of their 2012 season warming up to McCarroll and his philosophy. They heated up towards the latter half of the season after it was past the point of saving. Strides have been made in the offseason by this team and that will result in some more victories for them, but their playoff hopes may be dim unless they become part of the Schuylkill League.