Good Thursday to you all!
We are back at the high school football season and we are heading into the final stretch of the regular season. It is Week 7 and we have some pretty important games, especially in the Lackawanna Football Conference Division II and among the biggest schools as they complete the Round-Robin part of the schedule in Class 6A.
Before we do, however, Week 6 was another good week for those big schools as the LFC Division II season also got started. First and foremost, I saw one of the most exciting games of the season. While I hate ranking actual games, the Delaware Valley rally against Valley View in Week 2 and Scranton Prep’s late surge, also against Valley View, are so close when it comes to entertainment and competitiveness, they are in a dead heat for Game of the Year honors.
Again, though, I am getting ahead of myself.
The weekend started on Friday night, a day after I had asked for all of NEPA to come together in support of the Loomis family from Lakeland after Leah Loomis died in an accident earlier in the week. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank everyone out there, because what I saw were strong signs of love and compassion from all students from every school. Cheerleaders from surrounding districts gathered at Lakeland High School for the fallen cheerleader. At the Western Wayne game on Friday night, right after their Homecoming ceremony, they held a moment of silence. And coaches and players from Western Wayne offered me their condolences for the Lakeland school district and my daughter, Meghan, who was a close friend of Leah’s.
Susquehanna, which hosted Lakeland that night, also honored Leah. As did the Lakeland cheerleaders. Every moment offered showed just how classy this area is in an hour of need.
So, I say thank you again. And let’s all keep trying to spread hope and unity. You are the generation that can change the future with your hearts.
Back to the field
OK, I got a chance to see Western Wayne in person. Look, Randy Wolff is an outstanding coach, and based upon what the team showed in his first season, a 6-5 overall record and an Eastern Conference playoff game win, the program is on the right track.
Coming into this season, though, knowing that the Wildcats had to replace record-setting quarterback Scotty Walck, there was some hesitation around the conference about just how good the season would be in 2017. Early returns showed they have plenty of talent. The Wildcats steam-rolled through the first five games of the season and gave up only 7 points in the first four. This was a great opportunity for me to catch Western Wayne in person. That’s really how I am able to gauge just how valid an overall record is. And let me say, I was impressed.
Now, I know there are only bleachers on one side of the Sharkey Rosetti Sports Complex and it was Homecoming, but the place was jam-packed. There was an echoing buzz surrounding this game against rival Honesdale, and let’s be honest, it probably hasn’t been this intense since the Wildcats finished 9-2 and won a postseason game in 1995.
What’s ahead for Western Wayne?
Western Wayne was overpowering and went on to a 41-14 win over Honesdale to move to 6-0 for the first time in the history of the program that began in 1973. Now the Wildcats could clinch a District 2 Class 3A playoff berth as early as this weekend and that too would be a first for the program. Western Wayne (6-0) will be at North Pocono (4-2) and this will be the biggest regular-season game for the program — Ever.
There are still games against Scranton Prep (6-0), Valley View (3-3) and West Scranton (0-6) in Division II, so the Wildcats will have every opportunity to prove just how good they are in the big picture.
It’s a very exciting time for the Wildcats and their fans. Take some time to enjoy it, too.
On Saturday afternoon, beneath overcast skies, Valley View challenged Scranton Prep. This game had all the makings of a classic right from the get-go when Valley View seized an early lead against a defense that had given up 17 points and posted four shutouts in its first five games.
Scranton Prep responded and took a 7-6 lead, and that 1-point difference, which resulted when Scranton Prep’s Ivan Balavage blocked Valley View’s extra-point attempt on the first score and Scranton Prep kicker Alec Buttner connected on the first of his five in the game, loomed VERY large in the big picture.
Valley View built a 20-7 lead as the speed of Seth Vernon was on display and Sam Pittsman returned an interception for a score. But the Cavaliers maintained their poise despite facing their most daunting adversity in the last two seasons. Matt Gilmartin pounded away at the Valley View defense in an attempt to keep the ball away from the Cougars’ big play makers. Quarterback Leo O’Boyle showed some quick feet and the ability to escape a rush and before I knew it, the score stood at 20-14. Vernon struck again blazing a trail to the end zone on a 48-yard sprint. And Gilmartin, who just kept chipping at the Cougars defense, scored and we had another wild one going on as Valley View held a 27-21 lead at the break.
Having used up a lot of energy in the first half things calmed down on the scoreboard. On the field, though, Valley View withstood a lost fumble on the kickoff, forced a field goal to sail wide right, and tackled the punter for a loss of yards, to keep the Cavaliers scoreless. Three defensive stands with their backs directly against the wall. And then Vernon bolted for a 55-yard touchdown and the Cougars had a 34-21 lead.
With only 12 minutes to play, Scranton Prep, which had the ball almost the entire second half, broke through when Gilmartin scored with 10 minutes to play to close within 34-28. The Cougars had another defensive stop deep in their own territory. They also had an interception in the end zone,but that got wiped out by a penalty. Then, O’Boyle hit tight end Cree Coccodrilli with a touchdown pass in the final minute of play. Buttner hit his fifth extra point and the Cavaliers had a 35-34 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, the Cavaliers recovered a fumble, and thanks to power runs by Gilmartin, who finished with a school-record 46 carries, ran out the clock.
Scranton Prep 35, Valley View 34
It was Valley View’s third heartbreaking loss of the season and its second narrow defeat at the hands of Scranton Prep, which has not lost in the regular season in its last 15 games. Last season, the Cavaliers defeated Valley View, 12-8. The Cougars have lost to No. 1 Delaware Valley, 28-24, No. 2 Scranton Prep, 35-34, and No. 3 Scranton, 28-21, in three of the best games of the season. That’s an impressive resume even with them coming out on the short end of the scores. Nobody — and I mean nobody — should question the validity of Valley View’s ranking at No. 5 in The Times-Tribune High School Football Poll. If you do, you just don’t understand strength of schedule and are simply looking at wins and losses. I will take close losses to that level of competition any day of the week when evaluating teams.
After everything from Week 6, it all sets up another great week in the LFC Division II.
Take a look
Inside the LFC Division II
Western Wayne at North Pocono
As I mentioned earlier, this is the biggest game in the regular season in Western Wayne program history. They can debate me all they want about the old Suburban Conference, this far exceeds any game from that era. North Pocono is the defending District 2 Class 4A champion. The only losses by the Trojans have come against Delaware Valley and Scranton — two Class 6A teams. This is going to be an intense battle and the fallout could be critical to both team’s seasons.
Valley View vs. West Scranton at PNC Field
This is West Scranton’s Homecoming game and it certainly has some cache being played at PNC Field. Valley View needs a win. After its back-to-back heartbreaking losses to Delaware Valley and Scanton, the Cougars responded with wins over Pittston Area and Abington Heights by an average of 36.5 points. West Scranton has been hit by an avalanche of injuries. Andre Chollete Jr. has returned, but it’s been a physically taxing six weeks for the Invaders. This one is also going to be a #Pinkout game as both teams are raising money during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Here is some VERY important information about the game:
Don’t forget the upcoming PNC Schedule
- October 7: West Scranton Flag Football, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- October 8: Old Forge Jr. Football vs. Olyphant Lions, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- October 10: Valley View vs. West Scranton, Freshman Football, 5 p.m.
- October 14: RAILRIDERS BOWL – Old Forge vs. Lakeland, 7 p.m.
- Lakeland and PNC Field will honor the 1977 and 1987 undefeated Lakeland Chiefs teams.
- October 15: Old Forge vs. Lakeland Junior Varsity game, Noon
Scranton Prep at Honesdale
Honesdale is another team recovering from injuries. With leading rushers Andy Carroll and Garyn Barnes both out, it really hamstrings the Hornets attack. Scranton Prep would like to carry that momentum from the fourth quarter into this week and the rest of the season, because this division is very balanced. The Cavaliers, too, lost some key players in the carnage of the Valley View game, which will impact the team moving forward.
Battles among the Big Boys
Delaware Valley at Williamsport
OK, these two teams are looking to grab the No. 1 seed for the District 2-4 Class 6A playoffs. Why? Because there are 162 miles between the two schools and last season, the home teams won the two meetings. Delaware Valley won at home, 49-42, Williamsport won at home, 55-21. This is going to be a fun game.
Scranton at Hazleton Area
Scranton is licking its wounds. Literally. The Knights have a lot of players banged up and this one is going to be a tough road assignment when not 100 percent. Hazleton Area gave Delaware Valley all it could handle last week. Again, these two teams are battling for seeding for the District 2-4 Class 6A subregional playoffs.
Lackawanna Trail at Old Forge
These are two of the three teams battling for two spots in the District 2 Class 1A championship game. Lackawanna Trail ended a 10-game losing streak to the Blue Devils last season. Old Forge has limited its opponents this season to 51 points in six games this season.
That’s all for today.
Remember to pick up a copy of The Times-Tribune for this week’s edition of GAMEFACE. The feature is on Dunmore quarterback and state champion javelin thrower Gavin Darcy. Who would have thought the Bucks, traditionally a running team, leads the LFC with 12 touchdown passes this season?
Where will I be?
Lackawanna Trail at Old Forge
Watching College Football All Day!