Good morning, everyone!
Yes, I am still a bit charged up after last night. Here’s the thing, each June and July, you fans and even sports writers like me, get peppered with high school football coverage WAY TOO EARLY! I am sorry, it’s just how I feel. Especially in July. Countdowns to kickoff, really? Rankings and team previews before any kid has even put on pads for an “official” practice, even more really? I mean, look, I love football. I got in a few games in high school, even had a cup of coffee in college, but honestly, July is the SUMMER! Go to the beach. Take your kids on vacation. Cut the grass. The season will be here before you know it, and right around Week 4, you will all be sick of the nonstop coverage. I apologize, but I can’t adopt to this overkill for a season, quite honestly, nobody knows much about in terms of what a team looks like. Oh sure, we can all walk the plank and predict, “Delaware Valley is going to be good, or Dunmore should be good, or I think Scranton Prep will be OK.” But to inundate even the most loyal sports fans with nonstop preseason football coverage is brutal.
Oh yes, the Dream Game. That’s right, we play this all-star classic in the sweltering, dog, days of summer. Now, full coverage of this event is excluded from my rant and here’s why. There is an actual game at the end of the week’s worth of notebooks, player profiles and videos. It’s not a month away. These teams actually practice a few days together and we get to see them come together. And these are graduated players who are all-stars, dropping the curtain on their high school, and in many cases all, playing days. So, it’s a nice way to put a bow on the 2016-17 scholastic season and kickoff the 2017-18 season.
GET THE PAPER
This summer, the game lived up to expectations. To their credit, the organizers put their heads together and took in some ideas from the Lackawanna Football Conference Coaches’ Association to improve the game on the field after a couple of one-sided contests that saw fans drenched in sweat leaving early. The subtle swap of Delaware Valley to the County and Lackawanna Trail to the City helped. But, also Abington Heights, Valley View and Lakeland all supplied big senior classes from strong teams which really leveled the playing field.
Another important rule is the defense must play man-to-man defense. Look, I played running back, and take it from a guy who had four carries after practicing for 10 days, there are a lot of backs picked for the game. To get them all in, get them carries, and get a rhythm is close to impossible. Forcing teams to throw a certain percentage of the time, and making it tough to defend, provides an exciting brand of, let’s call it Madden video game football for fans, rather than the real possibility of a 14-7 or 7-6, ground and pound, punt game. I know it’s tough on defensive backs and their egos, but it’s an all-star game, there needs to be action.
Finally, the rule nobody really knows in the stands helps. When a team scores, but is still trailing by 9 or more points, it gets the ball back on a kickoff. It appeared last night, the County was going to provide the third straight romp in the series, leading 27-4 at the start of the fourth quarter. After wilting in the stands for much of the night, fans started making their way for air conditioned cars. But, the City scored a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to make it 27-12. Then, it got the ball back and started driving, again. The team reached the County 9-yard line and had it not been for a big sack, could have at least made it an even closer final score.
Any way, it was a great game in between. There were some really outstanding, athletic plays. These dynamic players made spectacular catches, athletic runs after catches and provided some really intense tackling. It was hard-hitting, physical and entertaining. Honestly, it was football, just in the summer. These players take the game very seriously. I got the impression players on the County were a bit tired of hearing about the last two blowout losses.
There is a lot of pride on the line in the Dream Game. Scranton’s Jacob Watts could only talk about how tough a loss this was to take, even after I tried everything I could to get him to be happy after the game. North Pocono’s Matt Craig, who always wears his emotion on his sleeves, couldn’t fight back tears, as he realized his playing career had ended and his memories with a very accomplished group of senior teammates with the Trojans had ended. And Abington Heights’ Colin McCreary said it best after leading the County to a 27-12 win with a great quote:
“The win is great, but the friendships and the relationships are what this game is all about.”
The County built a 7-2 lead in the first quarter. That’s right, a 7-2 lead. Valley View’s Evan Carey got things going with one of those thrilling catches where he cashed it in for a touchdown.
And to the wise guy on Facebook who thinks I am a joke, yes, I did miss this touchdown on video. Sometimes, you know, when you are trying to take video and stats, you forget to hit the big red button. So, yes, I missed it, but Jason Farmer didn’t!
COUNTY 7, CITY 0
Later, Montrose’s Colin Mondi corralled Lakeland’s Michael Lowry in the end zone for a safety. In the second quarter, Scranton’s Austin Eiden tackled Riverside’s Cody Glogowski in the end zone forcing an intentional grounding penalty for a second safety and we had the unusual score of 7-4 until the final minute of the first half. Dangerous Donnie Collins, who accompanied me on the sideline like in the old days when we had more manpower, felt like he was covering a RailRiders game.
COUNTY 7, CITY 2
Then, McCreary went to work, dissecting the City defense and using his full arsenal of weapons. He found Abington Heights teammate Brandon Hardy for a breath-taking 32-yard completion (No, not the one everybody is talking about) to set up a 25-yard touchdown pass to Riverside’s Nick Sottile to make it 13-4 at the break. These receivers really attack the ball and go after it to catch it at its highest point.
COUNTY 13, CITY 4
In the second half, another leaping catch by Hardy (no, still not that one) for 16 yards from Riverside’s Cody Glogowski, helped ignite the County’s longest drive. Western Wayne quarterback Scott Walck burst through the defense on a draw for 19 yards and a pass interference penalty led to Valley View’s Jake Osborne taking in a 23-yard touchdown on a double reverse play. McCreary added a point after to make it 20-4 with 6:33 to play in the third and the County sideline really became wild.
COUNTY 20, CITY 4
Riverside linebacker Riley Gaughan made a terrific open-field tackle on West Scranton’s Tamon Brown on a screen pass and Carey made a tackle and the County defense forced a City punt. A 9-yard run by Delaware Valley’s Kyle Dillon, who made his triumphant return from ACL surgery, and an 8-yard run by Riverside’s Paul Coleman, set up another Hardy catch. Yes, “THE CATCH.” McCreary launched the ball high into the air and Hardy lunged, extended as far as he could, and somehow pulled the ball in for a touchdown. It left everyone clutching at their heads in disbelief. The County led 27-4 and to that point had dominated the game.
HERE IT IS
COUNTY 27, CITY 4
The City responded. Scranton’s Jacob Watts hit Rayquan Groves for 17 yards and West Scranton’s DaShawn Minnick for 42. Craig got in the end zone on a 7-yard run and added a 2-point conversion to make it a 27-12 game with 4:44 remaining to play.
COUNTY 27, CITY 12
When the City got the ball back because of the 9-point deficit rule, Watts went back to work. He hit Brown for a 13-yard completion and a 45-yard completion to take the ball to the County 9-yard line. But the County defense tightened up and Lakeland’s Kevin Johnson and Rob Bomba combined on a critical sack that helped seal the stand.
FINAL: County 27, City 12
Senior players, all I can say at this point is, GOOD LUCK and THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
FROM THE 83rd SCRANTON LIONS CLUB
Photos by Christopher Dolan
OK, that is a wrap!
Now, PLEASE go enjoy what is left of this summer. I am going to the beach for a week.
- The 5-day heat practices start Aug. 7.
- AROUND THE CAMPS begins Aug. 7 when I visit the first two of 20 practices.
- Two-a-day practices begin Aug. 14.
- SCRIMMAGES will be Aug. 18
- WEEK 0 (Boy this still remains a ridiculous reference) is Aug. 25
SEE YOU THEN!