By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — He has coached young, inexperienced teams in the past, and turned them around, but never at Mount Carmel.
Carmen DeFrancesco brings his Red Tornadoes to town Friday night against Shikellamy with only four returning starters on both sides of the ball.
“We have a lot of holes to fill, but our kids have been great all summer, they’ve been to workouts, they had a great camp, but they’ve got to grow up real quickly,” DeFrancesco said, noting that the coaches did not see much progress from week one to week two.
“And that is a concern for us. We are really going into Friday night’s game with a lot of unanswered questions which will be answered real quickly,” the Red Tornadoes’ fourth-year head coach said. “Especially against a much improved Shikellamy team.”
“They are a much better team (than last year when the Red Tornadoes won easily). Their skill players impressed us and any time you’ve got good skill players, that’s a real plus,” he said.
He also said the Braves tackle well in the secondary, which could also be a problem with the Red Tornadoes switching to a pass-heavy offense behind senior quarterback Zach Wasilewski.
“We think they are an overall very solid football team and we’re going to have our hands full.”
Tilford said his players have been practicing and preparing for the opener with a lot of pride and confidence.
“A win over Mount Carmel would really be a boost for our program and the 2013 season,” he said.
He said with Mount Carmel intending to open up the offense, the Braves’ secondary will have to play very disciplined and run to the ball to prevent big plays.
“They obviously have a really talented athletic quarterback in Wasilewski,” he said.
Tilford said he thinks his team is solid with overall team speed at halfback and wide receiver and depth at the skill positions.
“We feel to be successful we need to be able to rotate and play lots of kids and use that depth to our advantage,” he said.
“We have really solid numbers with 50 plus players in ninth through 12th (grades) and are excited about the direction our program is heading.”
The Braves not only return experience in fullback/linebacker Dwayne Pepper and linemen Jake Hare and Blake Bettleyon, but an exciting running back in Ryan Wary, the District 4 Class AAA 100- and 200-meter champion at running back, who missed last season with a preseason injury. They also bring back senior quarterback Garrett Kemberling, who was lost late last season to an injury.
Kemberling has been used sparingly in the preseason but Tilford said he is ready to go. He did not scrimmage because of a muscle strain sustained in camp.
“Garrett is a gamer and we look for him to be making the plays he can to help us win.
Tilford believes the keys to the game for the Braves will be how the newcomers handle things up front to give the backs a chance to make plays, and how well they can contain Wasilewski and big tight end Christian Kelley (a converted lineman).
DeFrancesco plans to run a no-huddle, but was unable to do it in the two scrimmages, so he is anxious to see how it works in a game situation.
“They are coachable kids and if we get some success early, we think we can be pretty good. If we can hang in and survive the first part of the season, I know we will get better as the season goes along. With a young squad it’s so vital for us to get off to a good start, so we are really pinning a lot on this game Friday night.