JUNIOR HIGH FOOTBALL: Coughlin, GAR, Meyers Hold First Merged Practice
PLAINS TWP. — The evaluation process was already underway. Coughlin’s junior high football coach, Mike Mitchell, was mixing and matching as many as 30 football players to figure out the best fit for the upcoming season.
Then, plans suddenly changed last week. The Wilkes-Barre Area school district administrators saw the turnout at Meyers and GAR and understood it would have been difficult to keep the teams afloat — with, at times, as few as 19 players attending workouts between the two schools.
So the decision was made to merge the three junior high programs, an early step in an originally planned merger of all athletic programs at the three school beginning with the 2019 school year. Mitchell was starting from the beginning Monday, when he welcomed players from GAR and Meyers to practice at the Solomon/Plains facility.
“It wasn’t too much of a surprise,” said Coughlin junior high coach Mike Mitchell. “We knew it was going to be happening next years with the programs merging. It didn’t come as much of a shock, especially when we heard the numbers at Meyers and GAR and that they might not be able to have a team.”
Of the three programs, Coughlin was the most stable with as many as 25-30 players reporting for workouts throughout the summer. Meyers had as few as six last week at its practice, while GAR was hovering between 13-15 players. The fear, particularly at GAR, was with injuries and illness, it would be difficult to survive the season. Meyers clearly didn’t have enough with six players, and the only other option would be to fold the programs at Meyers and GAR.
That was not something the district wanted to do, and figured merging would be a way to keep the kids playing football.
Mitchell said he talked with the junior high coaches from Meyers and GAR on Friday, and received input as to what positions the kids play and where they would fit in.
In all, Mitchell expects to have five coaches on staff, with GAR and Meyers each supplying one. For the initial practice with the merged program on Monday at Solomon/Plains, Mitchell said he was anticipating having more than 40 players total at the workout.
“The more, the better,” Mitchell said. “We are just going to take it as it comes. We just have to do our job as coaches and evaluate the players and make sure they are in the right spots. We have a week to do that. We have our first scrimmage scheduled for Saturday.”
The team will host a tri-scrimmage with Lake-Lehman and Wyoming Area. The team does not have a scheduled game the first week when the junior high and freshman schedule kicks off. That will allow for an extra week of practice for the players to get acclimated to the system — as well as each other.
Once the games do begin, the freshman team will play on Saturday mornings, while the seventh and eighth grade team will play on Tuesdays after school.
“We are going to want the best kids playing on the freshman team,” Mitchell said. “The younger kids will be playing on the seventh and eighth grade team. That will give more kids the opportunity to play.”
As far as where the team will play its home games, Mitchell said early in the year the plan is to play at the Solomon/Plains facility and the players from GAR and Meyers will be taking a bus to the complex. He did say that in time, the team may use the turf field at Wilkes-Barre Memorial Stadium if the site is made available.
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