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.

An Athletic Season that Almost Was Not

Courtesy: Rich Banick Photography

By Zach Albert
Dunmorean Intern

The Dunmore Bucks football team had a definitive start to their season with a win over Wallenpaupack Area on Friday, Oct. 2, but a collective effort on the administrative side made this possible. Working diligently with state health officials and following state guidelines throughout the pandemic, Superintendent John Marichak continually put the safety of his students, coaches, and staff at the top of his priority list.

Offseason workouts for Dunmore typically begin after the December holiday break, so January and February 2020 workouts went ahead as planned. As COVID-19 spread worldwide and a pandemic was declared in early March, shutdowns and changes in procedures did not deter the administration, coaching staff, and players from making needed adjustments.

“The guidelines provided by the CDC, federal, state, and local governments during the COVID-19 pandemic are part of ensuring our students, staff, and faculty remain safe. We also have implemented other recommendations through the diligent work of our school board, athletic directors, Mark Finan, Timothy Hopkins, Maureen Burke, and our maintenance staff,” Marichak points out

“All have been phenomenal in getting our academic and athletic seasons executed as we have thus far while keeping the safety of our students, faculty and staff at the forefront. Though challenges existed in all phases throughout this pandemic, the offseason workouts were able to occur, and we are excited for the regular season to start. Not having spectators will be tough for the students, but they know the community will be behind them.”

With a limited schedule, each game can arguably have “more impact” than a year with ten or more games. After the opener against Wallenpaupack, the Bucks are on the road for the first time against Mid Valley. 

The Bucks return home for the Oct. 16 matchup against Lackawanna Trail, followed by a trip to their old nemesis in Lakeland. Though there will not be a hostile crowd in this Oct. 23 matchup, the pressure of the penultimate game exists. Dunmore finishes the regular season at home against Riverside on Oct. 30, Halloween Eve.

 “Mark Finan, Tim Hopkins, and the school board worked hard with both the LIAA (Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association) and the PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) on scheduling and we are thankful a season schedule was eventually decided and agreed on,” Marichak says.