Millionaires want to continue success of district title team

Sun-GAZETTE FILE Williamsport’s Marcus Simmons carries the ball during the District 2/4 Class AAAAAA championship game against Delaware Valley last season.

As the outgoing players reflected, the returning players looked forward.

Williamsport concluded one of the best seasons in program history on a cold, gray Saturday afternoon last November in the Class AAAAAA state quarterfinals, losing to Pittsburgh Central Catholic. The seniors who helped lead a dramatic resurgence could look back at everything they helped create. The then-underclassmen looked forward at earning a time when they could try building off that success.

Now, that time has arrived.

Williamsport opens its season Friday at Central Mountain. A year after going 12-2 and winning the program’s first district championship since 1995, the Millionaires face serious questions. That, though, is not impacting the goals this team set for itself long ago.

“We left (that field) thinking it was great we did what we did, but right then it was onto next season,” senior lineman Tucker Kreisher said. “We’re just ready. Right then, we knew we had to get right back in the weight room to get ready for this season because we want it to be a great one.”

To make that happen, Williamsport must not only replace four graduated all-state players, but also all-state running back Treyson Potts who is out for the season with a torn ACL. The Millionaires lost more than 5,000 yards of production from the backfield and its top four leading receivers also graduated as did two-time all-state defensive end Ross Stebbins.

Rather than think about who is not there, Williamsport is focused on who is there and is confident it can put together another strong season. The Millionaires do have a good group of players back, led by all-state guard Kurt Danneker, as well as young players ready to show what they can do, like quarterback Joe Fagnano. Williamsport also has added motivation, knowing that many outsiders do not think they can achieve all it did last year.

“Last year was the best year we had in 30 years and the community really got behind us and that’s something you haven’t seen in Williamsport in a long, long time,” Danneker said. “We were really fortunate to be a part of that team and we’re really looking forward to doing it again this year.”

The past seasons have provided Williamsport a renaissance. The Millionaires recorded just two winning seasons from 2002-14 and went 8-32 in the four years prior to coach Chuck Crews arriving. They went 6-5 in Crew’s first season before becoming one of the state’s premier teams last season and averaging nearly 50 points and 500 yards per game.

The hard work and the success captivated the community. Williamsport drew big crowds throughout the season, especially throughout the playoffs. It was a stark contrast to years past where STA Stadium featured many empty seats. This team wants those crowds to remain the same size, if not grow bigger. It wants to make its own mark and create its own noise.

“We want that experience again. We want that every week at STA Stadium,” Danneker said. “Big plays draw big crowds so we have to make some.”

Williamsport will try starting to do so against Central Mountain. Friday’s game provides a good test to see what this season might hold. It offers a barometer to see Williamsport is at and where it might be going.

Williamsport already knows it is playoff-bound. All four teams in the District 2-4 field qualify. But the Millionaires want so much more than a playoff appearance. They want another championship and they want a shot at going even farther than last year’s memorable team did.

Do that and the 2017 Millionaires could create quite an identity for themselves.

“The guys that we lost instilled a new mentality in all of us and that’s definitely stayed behind and we’re going to use it to our advantage,” Danneker said. “There’s a lot of hard work ahead of us and it motivates us.”