HS Football: Williamsport has a new coach, a new look for the season

Williamsport’s season will begin as it ended the 2021 campaign with a game against State College.

However, that all changed last season with a 17-14 loss to State College in the District 4/6 Class 6A championship game. Coach Chuck Crews resigned after seven seasons in which he restored stability and respectability to the program.

Enter new coach Mike Pearson. He has head coaching experience at the high school level, having coached two seasons at Yucca Valley in California (1999-2000) and another three at his alma mater South Williamsport (2009-2011). He was also the first coach of Chestnut Hill College’s sprint football program and most recently served as Lycoming College’s track coach.

“I had no idea Chuck was going to retire and (his son) Charles was going to play in college,” said Pearson, whose son captained Crews a few years ago. “It caught me off guard. I was very happy to help out in a small role at Lycoming. But when Chuck retired, a need arose. So I talked to some friends and thought maybe I could help.”

Also new is how the Millionaires will qualify for the postseason. After being lumped into District 6 the past two seasons, they are back with District 2 programs as well as District 11 teams.


The picture of the attack is quite clear. Williamsport returns a lot of talented players at the skill positions, while the line will be completely rebuilt.

Sophomore wide receiver Jamair Harden burst onto the scene with 176 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against Crestwood. His year was derailed by an injury in the middle of the season, but he came back and led the Millionaires in receptions. Wide receiver Yazhir Slaughter didn’t put up the same numbers, but showed the ability to make a big play when he got his hands on the ball. Senior Ben Smith and junior Caden Holt will be tough.

Backfield is experienced. Quarterback George Whaley started the latter half of the season as injuries forced him to juggle skill positions. Junior Caleb Williamson also figures to take some snaps. Leading rusher Naseer Hannigan is back and quarterback Narick Burks has experience on both ends.

On the O-line, Austin Best is the only returning starter. Other candidates to start are Blake Butler, Waylon Dober, Brycen Delker, Dakoda Hamilton, Jason Love-Ritchie, Glenn Oakley and Caleb Way. All of them are above average size, but most do not have enough time to study at university.

“We’re learning how to build an offensive line with rookies,” Pearson said. “We have to be able to move the ball and get the ball to the playmakers knowing that we have a whole new line. This will be our biggest challenge. Every team will face challenges, but that’s just our reality and what we’re working on.”


There will be a major rebuilding of the defense, as Williamsport lost seven of its top eight players before the end of the competition.

Safety Alonzo Rice had 71 stops last season, fourth on the team. He was safely joined by Dominik Dziabelka. Whaley returns as a free safety. Harden and Hanif Carter will be the cornerbacks.

Burks, a returning starter, will anchor the defensive line. He led the Millionaires with 5.5 sacks last season. But again, he will be joined by mostly inexperienced guys from Best, Hamilton, Oakley and Josh Lake.

Hannigan, Deacon Brown, Elias Campbell and Nasir Williams will form what is essentially a new midfield team.

There is certainly talent on defense. The key will be how quickly the unit matures.


It’s a football cliché that games are won in the trenches, but it can be true with Williamsport as well. The Millionaires certainly have playmakers, led by the explosive Harden. However, these playmakers need time to work and the team needs to provide it.

The defense also needs to mature quickly with so much talent leaving, and even Pearson admits he will have to learn the conference. So the Williamsport team in the first few weeks may not be the same team in the second part of the season.

Additionally, the scheduling feature gives Williamsport six road games this year, including three in a row through the end of September.

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