Doug Scancarella, Correspondent
After finishing 1-9 last year, Wayne Valley football coach Roger Kotlarz was presented with a golden opportunity to attempt a quick fix. There were several vacancies on the schedule for 2018. Kotlarz could have attempted to fill those slots with opponents that were viewed as easily beatable.
The thought never crossed his mind. In four years at Wayne Valley, Kotlarz has always made sure his team faced a challenging schedule. The upcoming season will be no different. In fact, Kotlarz has just announced that Wayne Valley will open up out of state again. This time the foe will be Pennsylvania powerhouse Spring-Ford.
“You don’t improve by playing an easy schedule,” Kotlarz said. “We need to challenge ourselves.”
Kotlarz should know. In 2014, he took over a Wayne Valley team that went 4-6 the previous year and hadn’t had a winning season since 2009. His first three Wayne Valley teams went 5-5, 9-2 and 9-3. The latter made it to the state sectional finals.
After last year’s fall to 1-9, he is now facing a steeper uphill climb than in 2014. The challenge of playing mighty Spring-Ford may be just what the doctor ordered.
Spring-Ford is located in Montgomery County, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. It’s about 110 miles from Wayne. It is a regional school that serves the communities of Spring City, Royersford, Limerick and Upper Providence. It’s a Group 6 school (the largest enrollment grouping in Pennsylvania). From 2010-16 they averaged nearly 10 wins a year, before slipping to 6 last year.
“I think they’re very similar to us,” Kotlarz said. “Their enrollment is about the same as ours. They are also a team that has a very strong, winning tradition. They slipped a little last year, but not as much as we did. They still finished with a winning record.
“I think they look at us the same way. They know what we did last year, but they know we were very successful before that.”
This will be a similar trip to 2016 when Wayne Valley traveled to Downingtown West (30 miles southwest of Spring-Ford). Wayne Valley won that game, 34-31.
“I loved that trip,” Kotlarz said. “We visited a couple colleges (Villanova and Temple) and did some sightseeing (World War II Battleship the USS New Jersey in Camden and Philadelphia Museum of Art). It was a great bonding experience. We will do something similar this year.”
Wayne Valley hosted Downingtown West in 2017, meaning Wayne Valley didn’t travel out of state.
“We committed to a home-and-home with Downingtown West,” Kotlarz said. “I have no regrets as they were a great opponent. But in retrospect I think we missed out by not going on a trip last year. I think it’s important to have that bonding experience at the beginning of the year.”
The game with Spring-Ford is just a one-year deal. Interestedly, the two Downingtown West games gives Kotlarz a little bit of a gauge on Spring-Ford.
“Downingtown West and Spring-Ford didn’t play against each other, but they did have several common opponents those two years,” Kotlarz said. “So unlike when we played Downingtown West, we have a basis for comparison.”
Spring-Ford will hardly be Wayne Valley’s only challenge. The Indians start off the season with three road games. After the Spring-Ford game, Wayne Valley will be at Wayne Hills and then Nutley. They finally open at home in Week 4 against rival Passaic Valley. Wayne Hills, Nutley and Passaic Valley all managed to have winning records last year.
Later in the season, Wayne Valley will play NV/Old Tappan, a team that cruised easily into the North 1, Group 4 final before narrowly defeating Mount Olive in the championship game.
“It’s a difficult schedule and it is front-loaded with those first four games,” Kotlarz said. “Then you add on Old Tappan later in the year and we’re looking at a several big challenges.”
With numerous returning starters on offense and defense, Kotlarz believe his team will be up for those challenges.
The returnees include Nick Trani, David Trinidad, Greg Fox, Ryan Michels, Sam Bumbaco, Danny Murphy, Ricky Ruggiero, Justin Botero, Ian Lancelotti, Nick Duncan, Liam Dring, Jake DeLuccia, Joe Esposito and Elijah Lugo. The Wayne Valley JV went 8-1 last year.
Wayne Valley’s trip to Spring-Ford will be the fourth time they have traveled out of state for football. The previous trips include Spring Valley (N.Y.) in 1951, North Rockland (N.Y.) in 1981 and Downingtown West (Pa) in 2016.