2016: 3-7 in regular season to finish third of three teams in WVC Class 6A-5A Division; 3-8 overall; Lost to Williamsport, 48-14, in District 2-4 Class 6A semifinal.
Coach: Mike Brennan, 4th season at Hazleton Area, 8-23; 18th season overall, 121-85.
2017 Class: 6A
Returning starters: 6 offense, 9 defense
Returning division all-stars: Adrian Otero, 1st-LB, HM-RB; David Smith, HM-WR.
Defense: 4-4, 3 stack
With Adrian Otero in the forefront, Hazleton Area returns its leading rusher and passer, top two receivers and up to its top nine tacklers from a year ago.
Otero ran for 946 yards, made a team-high 73 tackles and was second with 23 catches.
Ryan “Sparky” Wolk returns for his third season as quarterback after throwing for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Otero, who ran for more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore, is also in his third season starting in the offensive backfield.
David Smith caught 32 passes for 528 yards and 4 touchdowns as a sophomore.
That combination has the Cougars hopeful of improvement in 2017.
“Our players put a lot of time and energy into the offseason,” Hazleton Area coach Mike Brennan said.
Linemen Michael Fuchick and Matt Brunza and tight end Will Strasser are the other experienced offensive players.
Damon Horton is at fullback, Josh Zukoski could take some time at tailback and Jacob Hunsinger and Nolan Schneider will play wide receiver.
Otero, a third-year starter, Austin Adreuzzi, Joe Larock and Horton all return at linebacker.
Kobey Jackson and Dallas Solomon return in the defensive line where they will be joined by Will Strasser.
Wolk, Smith and Joey Hatton are back in the secondary. Matt Fisher is handling the other spot.
Will Barr is the kicker.
“We expect to be a more competitive football team by exhibiting toughness and discipline.”