Success breeds interest West Shamokin
NuMINE — For the first time in a long while, maybe ever, West Shamokin football players can hold their heads high in the community.
They’re coming off a breakout six-win season, the first winning season in school history and their first WPIAL playoff appearance. They had two separate three-game winning streaks last season. By comparison, they had never won more than three games in any of their previous 12 seasons.
It’s good to be a football player at West Shamokin.
The Wolves are no longer perennial losers. Long gone is the 46-game losing streak that defined them for a five-season stretch, and, the players say, the losing culture that was synonymous with West Shamokin is a thing of the past.
The community has bought into the hype, and there is a renewed sense of hope and excitement as another season kicks off.
“Everyone wants to be a part of it, and the community is behind us now, and it’s just fun. It used to be no one even cared,” senior quarterback Alex Lasslo said. “There’s a lot of excitement. Just even walking around the community, people are asking ‘Are you ready for football?’ ‘How’s the football team looking?’ We can finally say we’re looking good. And people are excited to come watch us play. If you ask them, ‘Are you coming to the first game?’ they’re like, ‘Of course.’ Before it was ‘I don’t know, we’ll see, maybe.’ But now it’s like a for sure. It kind of gets us excited. It’s going to be fun.”
“It used to be no one liked West Shamokin football and no one wanted to come out and play and lose,” senior Andrew Wingard said. “Now that we’ve been winning and everything, it’s changed — it’s very much changed.”
That much is evident by the Wolves’ roster.
In 2010, the Wolves had to forfeit their last game of the season against Punxsutawney because they didn’t have enough players to field a team. And most years, West Shamokin struggled to draw 25 players.
But all that has changed after the breakout season the Wolves enjoyed in 2013. The school pride is back.
It has generated a greater interest in football, and the proof is in the 40-man roster the Wolves opened camp with. It might be a record participation number for West Shamokin since the formation of the school in 2000.
“Last year, we started with 20-some. This year, our highest has been 40, and we’ve stayed above 35, which is amazing,” Lasslo said.
For second-year coach Jon McCullough, the increased turnout affords him opportunities he didn’t have before.
“It’s nice when you have that many kids because before it was hard to get a scout team put together,” McCullough said. “It makes things like that much more manageable.”
It doesn’t end there. The Wolves are two-deep at every position now, allowing for some healthy competition in practice.
“Now, we’re at the point now where our 2s are capable of pushing our starters,” McCullough said. “Our older guys know that they can’t go in feeling like they have it made because there are kids behind them that are pushing them. Whenever you have competition within your team, that helps to make you a better team. Whenever you’re able to sit back and know that no matter what you’re going to be in there, that leads to complacency and you think you’ve got it made. It’s nice that we have kids that are able to push other guys now.”
“Before, we didn’t have the numbers to be able to have people competing for positions, and competing makes everyone better,” Lasslo said.
With memories of last year still fresh in their mind, the Wolves are excited to kick off the season and keep the success going.
And for the first time since any of the current players can remember, there will be a buzz at Jack E. Boyer Field on Friday nights this fall. They hope to see you there.
“There’s a lot of talk, and it feels good for once because no one used to come a West Shamokin game because we always lost,” senior lineman Nick Huth said, “but now we’re winning and everyone is showing up.”
“Ready for some football. Everybody’s excited,” Wingard said.