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  • January 11, 2024
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To say that here was a little pressure entering the 2002 season at Mount Carmel Area would be an understatement. After all, it was an even year and the Torndaoes had won a state championship every other year since 1994. Although an experienced group of athletes was returning, some holes had to be filled in key positions. Add a very competitive schedule that included perennial state power Southern Columbia, always tough Marian Catholic, a Pius X team that had defeated MCA in 2001, and a rejuvenated Shamokin team. In addition, Quad A Pottsville and AAA Danville were added to the schedule that already included Selinsgrove, a team that had won three straight from MCA. Much like the ’73 team, this group set out on a mission that would take one game at a time.

The season started by avenging the loss to Pius with a 27-7 win on the road and a 49-16 blow out of Panther Valley. The next three weeks would tell whether this team had the goods to be a contender. All they did was go out and beat Southern, Shamokin, and Pottsville by a combined score of 103-0. This is the point where injuries started to mount and the outstanding leadership of the seniors took over. Randy Swank anchored the offensive linethat included freshman Joe Dowkus and junior Rick Greco at guard. Before the season, neither had played one down at offensive guard in a varsity game, Marshal Mirarchi moved to tackle from guard and Jon Skinner returned at tackle. Damian Buggy and Justin Leonowicz would take over a tight end. With Mirarchi and Skinner injured, Scott and Jonathan Novack stepped in and wouldn’t miss a beat. Shinskie had started every game at quarterback since the playoffs of his freshman year and had Steve Matzura and Tim Wargo to throw to,.as well as John Darrah and Nate Morgan. Drew Letcavage, Damien Scicchitano, and Mark Koveleski handled the tailback spot by committee aided by fullbacks Dave Borwn and Michael Leshinski. Matt Kufta handled the place kicking duties.

The Tornadoes would finish the regular season with wins over Marian Catholic, North Schuylkill, Shiekallamy, Danville and Selinsgrove. They would go on to defeat Montoursville and Highesville to win their 6th District Championship. This team had now put itself in position to keep the streak alive. Hard-fought wins over Lakeland and Northwestern Lehigh gave the Tornadoes their sixth Eastern Championship and a return trip to Hershey. Ina game that looked closer than it was, Big Red defeated Seton Lasalle for its 5th modern day state championship. Coach Mike Brennan had won his second title and has posted a 37-5 record in three years at the helm. Shinskie became MCA’s fourth Small School Player of the Year and was joined on the first team all state by Brown, Swank and Matzura. The fact that 14 players were recognized following the season on different all star teams, proves that it was a TEAM. 45 players had worked together for 15 weeks, one week at a time, to achieve that ultimate goal – a State Championship!

Caption for 2002 Championship Team

Row 1 – Dan Evans, John Eremich, John Darrah, Mark Koveleski, Steve Matzura, David Shinskie, Dave Brown, Randy Swank, Mike Leshinski, Pete Kulick, Damian Buggy, Jerry Lupotsky

Row 2 – Rob Varano, Mgr, Tim Wargo, Justin Leonowicz, Rick Greco,John Skinner, Marshall Mirarchi, Jeff Hicks, Sean Paul, Jon Novack, Mike Sosnoski, Bryan Polifka, Matt Kufta, Colim Menapace, Mgr

Row 3 – Michaek Scicchitano, Mgr, Damien Scicchitano,Dave Sebastian, Ray Kraynak, Jason Pachuski, Nate Morgan, Rod Buraczeski, Scott Novack, Adam Croker, Drew Letcavage, Trey Savitski, Joe Dowkus

Row 4 – Jon Shiko, Jason Boyer, Troy Kisela, Rick Litchko, Nick Chapman, Sean Fracalossi, Adam Hepler, Dave Quintero, Kyle Bartol, Josh Jaworski, John Janolek, Allen Homicz

Row 5 РRyan Geary, Jeremy Winn, Bob Scicchitano, Mike Kogut, Mike Brennan, Rob Varano, Rick Painter, Paul Babinsky, Bob Veach

Categories: 2003 Hall of Fame