Athlete of the Month: Cristian Buckley

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore senior tailback Cristian Buckley is making the most of a short season.

With the regular season shortened to five games due to COVID-19, the senior stalwart totaled over 1,000 rushing yards in just five regular season games en route to Dunmore capturing a seventh consecutive District 2 title.

Cristian, 18, rushed for 208 yards on 18 carries, including a 66-yard touchdown run with 29 seconds left in the first half that broke a 15-15 tie in Dunmore’s 57-15 route over Riverside Friday, October 30, at Dunmore.

With Lackawanna Trail’s loss the following day to Old Forge, Dunmore earned the District 2 Class 2A title and a trip to the state playoffs. 

Cristian rushed for an astounding 313 yards in Dunmore’s first win over Wallenpaupack. He also rushed for 212 yards in the Bucks win over Mid Valley, giving the senior stalwart three games of over 200 yards rushing. 

Son of Connie and Michael Buckley, Cristian said he is hopeful of playing Division I college football. He applied to Bryant University in Rhode Island where he hopes to be accepted, play football and study business management. 

The star tailback said he has learned a lot from Dunmore head football coach Kevin McHale. “He teaches us not only about football, but about life and life lessons,” said Cristian. “He teaches us how to overcome adversity and never give up.”

Cristian said his parents also teach him to never give up.

The quick, explosive back has six touchdowns, five rushing and one receiving, this season. He now has over 3,000 career rushing yards. 

“It was great getting to 1,000 yards in a five game season,” he said. “It was my first year rushing for 1,000 yards. But I could not have accomplished this without my teammates. I have a great offensive line and our fullback, Karl Kincel, is an outstanding blocker.”

He talked about what it takes to excel as a tailback in high school football. “It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. You also need to be a leader on and off the field.”

Cristian said he has worked hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I concentrated more on my studies and worked a lot.” The senior scholar-athlete maintains an academic average in the mid 90s and works at Schautz Stadium, Dunmore.

He is Vice President of the Health Careers Club at Dunmore.

“I want to play football at the college level, hopefully Division I,” he said.

“My goal is to be successful in life.”

Cristian enjoys listening to music in his spare time and would like to see Lil’ Wayne in concert.

The senior football standout said he will play basketball for the first time in his high school career this year. He will also participate in track and field for the first time since eighth grade. “Why not?,” he said. “It is good to be active during these times. It gives me something to do and work hard to accomplish.” 

Cristian is more than enjoying his time at Dunmore High School. “I would not trade it for anything else in the world,” he said. “No doubt. We always look at the bright side here.” 

“Successful” Offseason Brings Excitement for Bucks, Coach McHale

Bucks Coach Kevin McHale is shown with his sons, Colin, 8, and Jack, 11, at the stadium in Dunmore.

Courtesy: Rich Banick Photography

By Zach Albert
Dunmorean Intern

In a borough that has strong pride in its football history, Dunmore has an energy around the beginning of each season that Dunmoreans never forget. As a winning culture has existed since the days of Coach Jack Henzes, Coach Kevin McHale uses Henzes’ “invaluable” knowledge and experiences to continue leading his team to success.

Despite 2020 having about two months without any COVID-19 guidelines, preparation for the season remained the cornerstone throughout. “From January on, attendance turnout has been great and has been maintained, even since the beginning of shutdowns and implementing online meetings and face shields,” McHale says.

Coach McHale emphasized a “day-by-day” mentality with his players and staff, while maximizing the reps available. “Usually we would have as many reps as possible, but with the health guidelines limiting the amount of them, we are doing the best we can with face shields and other protective measures.”

While physical preparation and conditioning are important to success in game situations, mental preparation is just as important. The intangibles of team chemistry and the unwillingness to give up are two that Coach McHale has noticed in his players this offseason. 

“Our senior class leadership has been exceptional. We have a great mix of talent and knowledge from over ten returning players and new players with skills in other sports, and we as coaches expect all to contribute,” he notes.

Challenges certainly existed for Coach McHale and his staff, aa there were times the football season was in jeopardy. As meetings were typically in closed spaces with the team, staggered schedule starts and online meetings were implemented to prevent losing these meetings altogether. 

“The student players have kept their heads up throughout the offseason despite the challenges and changes put upon them. A real threat of canceling the season a few months ago did not stop them.”

With the season now starting at home with Wallenpaupack, the Bucks will experience a shortened season, and Coach McHale is confident his team is as ready as they can be going in. 

UPDATE: The Dunmore Bucks opened their season on Friday, Oct. 2, with a 17-6 win over Wallenpaupack Area.

Holy Cross Players in Learning Stages as Football Resumes

By Steve Svetovich

After a one year suspension due to lack of participation, Holy Cross head football coach Dave Gatto build together enough players to field a team this season.

“Nobody figured we would be playing this year, but we are,” said coach Gatto, now in his third year as Crusader head football coach after serving four years an an assistant.

There are 21 players on the Holy Cross roster this season, with only a five-game schedule due to COVID-19. 

“We are expecting a couple more players to join the team,” said Gatto. “Most of the guys who came out for this year’s team never played before. We have only two seniors, eight juniors, seven sophomores and four freshmen. We were trying to get to 19 or 20 players to field a team and we did. 

Holy Cross coach Dave Gatto

“It is going to be a learning experience.”

Coach Gatto is assisted by Vince Coviello, Chris Coviello, Joe Giorgio, Jake Gatto, T.J. McDonnell and Jim Talarico. 

“I have a great coaching staff.” 

Holy Cross lost its first game of the season, 56-7, to powerhouse Lackawanna Trail, Friday, Oct, 2, at Clinton Township.

Holy Cross scored late in the contest on a two yard touchdown burst by Wyett Walchak. A Logan Tierney 39-yard kickoff return set the Crusaders up at the Lackawanna Trail 35. A personal foul penalty aided the touchdown drive. Walchak booted the extra point.

The Crusaders will play another powerhouse, Old Forge, Saturday, October 10. Holy Cross will finish the short season against Montrose, Holy Redeemer and Susquehanna.

Junior Sean Herbert, who never played football before this season, is the team’s quarterback. “He’s a good athlete and a smart kid,” said Gatto. “He can move and he’s learning a lot. He never played before, so we are happy for him.”

Herbert worked out on conditioning and lifting with the football team last season before the decision was made to not field a team for 2019. 

He worked out on his own getting ready for 2020 and even served as a recruiter getting enough other students to suit up this season in order to field a team.

Other players on the team include senior lineman Robert Kane, senior fullback/linebacker Brandon Ludovici, junior wide receiver Zach Luciani, junior linemen Nick Cabets, Matt Tucker and Gurpreet Lahl, junior backs Gavyn Grems and Cameron Moczulski, sophomore tight end/middle linebacker Tierney, sophomore two-way tackle Andrew Naim, sophomore center Vince Tananna, sophomore guard Cody Schoonover, sophomore running backs Walczak and Fred Strein, sophomore tight end Bobby Staples, freshman tackle Chris Petrucci and freshmen receivers Kevin Whelen, Connor Art and Brandon Art.

Holy Cross continues to play its home games at Monsignor Crotti Field at Saint Anthony’s Playground, Dunmore.

Holy Cross has a male enrollment of 109 students.

“We re a very young team,” said coach Gatto. “Most of these kids never played football before, but they really wanted to play. They are willing to learn. 

“We were willing to throw them into the water. The attitude has been great so far. Our first two opponents are extremely tough, but we feel the team will be very competitive the final three games.

“We are a small school. Last season, a few of the seniors left. The perfect storm hit us and knocked us out, so we could not field a team. 

“Our principal, Ben Tolerico, was in favor of us fielding a team this year. We put a team of 21 together and expect a couple more. So we have something going for now and the future here at Holy Cross. And the enthusiasm and attitude has been great. They are learning week by week.” 

Holy Cross plays in the Lackawanna Football Conference Division IV.