Good morning, everyone.
Forgive me if I have a few typos today. I woke up to the chill of an Arctic blast covering NEPA and where I live, it is DOWNRIGHT cold!
Being the determined Blogger I am, I have my Lafayette College Football knit cap on and am dressed in layers, topped off by my Columbo-esque Gore-Tex coat and am ready to churn out this week’s post. See, in my house, no matter how cold it is outside, I am not turning the heat on until Nov. 1. Mother Nature will not defeat me in 2016.
So, I look at the calendar and despite the frigid temperature outside, it still reads October and here we are ready to sign off on the 2016 regular season. It is Week 10, and even though I have kidded all fall that everybody is making the playoffs, that is not entirely true and has been a bit insensitive of me.
It does appear, however, that 13 and maybe even 14 of the 20 teams in the Lackawanna Football Conference will be part of the District 2 postseason. And addition one, maybe two teams could be ticketed for the Eastern Conference championship weekend. That is a very high percentage of teams adding a week to the schedule.
But for those teams, players and coaches who will not be playing in Week 11, this weekend brings to a close months worth of work, dedication and commitment.
Obviously, this will be an emotional time, especially for seniors, who have invested the better part of the last four years to the sport for their respective high school programs, and more than likely some six years before through junior football programs.
I remember back to the week of my final high school game. I never wanted practice to end, and coming from me that is a revelation, because anybody who played with me will testify to the fact that Paul Pidgeon (our quarterback) and I, who played offense only, spent the second half of those sessions in the warmth of the locker room, while our brethren who played on both sides of the ball battled the unfriendly elements of late November. Still, these were special days, and as much as we all despised practice, they were also days and moments we would never share together again.
Now, I had the great fortune of being a very small part of what turned out to be a special team in 1987. We began playing together as a group in 1984, and what I have always found amazing about that group is, for the most part, we all played the exact same positions we did when we were members of the freshman team. So, for four seasons, we were a brotherhood. We had a huge senior class, one that declared itself on a mission after a regular-season loss at Valley View the year before that denied us a Big 11 championship and a playoff berth. We lifted, we trained and we grew closer. It all worked out in the 12 games that came before that final week. We had no state playoffs to look forward to, so we all knew the Eastern Conference Class A final would be the end of a wonderful and memorable journey.
People who don’t experience the camaraderie of a high school sports team can’t appreciate its lifelong value. True, while we saw the finish line, the distraction of maintaining our focus on the ultimate goal made the practices more bearable. And naturally, aiming to achieve a championship also created a sense of eagerness to kick the darn ball off and get down to business. It’s a trying balance of emotions.
Well, without boring you all with any additional details of what turned out to be the most rewarding team experience of my senior season, I shall spare you all. But, suffice to say after the celebration of us completing a 13-0 season, it took a great deal of time for me to fill my gym bag, clean out the locker I would never use again, and reflect back on my time as a high school football player. At the time, as I just sat alone staring at the grass from our cleats that covered the tile floor, this stood as the end. All of the aches and pains, the ice baths, the lifting, the running, the sacrifices were done. No more blood, sweat and tears (Sorry for stealing the concept, Donnie Collins). No more practice, no more squeezing my mullet covered head and bandana into a helmet, no more screaming fans, no more status, no more games.
We all don’t get together much as a large group these days, but put a few of us beaten up old men in a room with a DVD of that season, and all the memories come storming back. (Just ask my daughters and their friends).
As much as we endured and feared those long, grueling practices, as we all age, we would all probably do anything to go back to our glory days. (I can see sports editor Chris Imperiale singing in the newsroom).
And I bet this year’s seniors would too. Cherish this weekend.
OK, here’s what we have on tap. You couldn’t ask for a better set up in scheduling with Abington Heights playing at Delaware Valley with the LFC Division I title up for grabs.
Listen, I know everybody wants the District 2 championships and the PIAA playoffs to be the most important two goals each season, but you know what, these LFC Division titles should be important also. I’m sorry, but if we lose sight of the value of a league title, then we are forgetting all the work it takes to achieve it.
Always appreciate rewards for hard work.
at 2-Delaware Valley (7-2)
Warrior Stadium, Milford
Friday, 7 p.m.
OK, on the surface this battle for the LFC Division I title looks like a clash between the explosive offense of the Warriors against the stonewall defense of Abington Heights. And it is. Remember, if nothing else, I am the Master of the Obvious. So, I will be taking my second trip to Milford for this one. Delaware Valley enters the game averaging 446.8 yards per game, while Abington Heights gives up a meager 210.9. These programs always seem to rise to the challenge when they face each other. It’s also nice that Delaware Valley coach Keith Olsommer and Abington Heights coach Joe Repshis introduced the I-84 Black and Blue Jug to the rivalry. I love when teams can celebrate with a trophy after the game, and this one will also supply a second one from the LIAA. I will bundle up, because I hear it’s going to be a bit chilly.
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at 6-North Pocono (7-2)
North Pocono Trojans Stadium, Moscow
Friday, 7 p.m.
WOW! All season it looked like this would be the marquee matchup of the final week and it still has a lot of Mojo. Scranton Prep can wrap up the LFC Division II title all for itself with a win. The Cavaliers are already the No. 1 seed and overwhelming favorite for the District 2 Class AAA playoffs. They are giving up only 148.1 yards per game with a lot of that coming when the starters have exited. Offensively, Scranton Prep has shown to be able to play power football of need be with the running game. North Pocono, which started the season with so much promise, racing out to five straight wins, needs this game also. Right now, the Trojans are the No. 1 seed for the District 2 4A playoffs, but Wyoming Area is breathing down their necks. That No. 1 seed is coveted, especially because the teams are so closely balanced in that classification. This will be an intense game with a lot of hard hitting as both teams want to build momentum for Week 11.
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at 1-Dunmore (9-0)
Dunmore Veterans Memorial Stadium
Friday, 7 p.m.
When the season began, you circled this game. These two programs have been the most successful small-school programs in the last six seasons. Old Forge is the last LFC small -school team to beat the Bucks, with that win coming in the 2013 District 2 Class 1A final. Now, the hoopla has been dampened a bit as Old Forge will not be in the district postseason, but it’s my guess it would like to be an obstacle in Dunmore’s relentless pursuit of an undefeated regular season. Dunmore enters the game having won 33 straight games against LFC division opponents, and that is truly dominant and a bit frightening. The Bucks are also the No. 1 seed for the District 2 Class 2A playoffs, a title they have won each of the last two seasons.
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at Mid Valley (5-4)
Spartan Stadium, Throop
Friday, 7 p.m.
This is a battle of two teams headed for the District 2 Class 2A postseason. Lakeland is having its best regular season since 2010 and has really turned up the intensity defensively. Mid Valley, which will be in the playoffs for only the 10th time in the program’s history, is excited about getting a shot to have a good showing in Week 10 at home. Both teams rely heavily on the running game, but surprisingly Lakeland scored its first three touchdowns last week on pass plays in a driving rain storm? So I guess anything is possible.
Nick Kerekes, DE
Had 12 tackles with five for loss and added two sacks as the Comets defeated Scranton, 10-7, to set up this week’s title game.
Tyler Smith, WR
Hauled in a touchdown pass and returned a pint 68 yards for a score in a 54-7 win over Wallenpaupack.
Jake Osborne, WR
Evan Carey, WR
Combined for four receptions for 192 yards and three touchdowns, and 142 yards rushing with two touchdowns in a 47-0 win over Western Wayne.
Nick Sottile, WR-KR
It almost seems impossible, but he returned his fifth opening kickoff for a touchdown against Lackawanna Trail in a 21-18 win that clinched a D2 Class 2A playoff berth.
Gavin Darcy, QB
Rain and wind had no impact here as the junior threw for 103 yards and two touchdowns against Carbondale Area.
Rob Bomba, DE
Had 11 tackles with two for loss and a sack as the Chiefs defeated Montrose, 48-6.
Colin Munley, WB
Sprinted for 154 yards on 12 carries and scored two touchdowns as the Spartans clinched a District 2 Class 2A playoff berth.
Matt Craig, RB
Ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns in limited time during a 35-6 win over Honesdale.
Brendan Mozeleski, RB-LB
Ran for 171 yards and scored five touchdowns in a win over Holy Cross
Max Borgia, DL
Braden Burrier, LB
Led a defensive unit that limited West Scranton to four first downs and 35 yards rushing on 25 carries in a 28-7 win.
Ok, that’s it for Week 10.
With six classifications, I am going to be quite busy this weekend getting ready for the playoffs. My good man, Steve Bennett, will likely be crunching the numbers as there are still a few playoff spots available.
Don’t forget to pick up The Times-Tribune on FRIDAY for gameface Week 10. I have a pretty emotional story about Dunmore’s George Cole, who is one of the key players for the top-ranked team in the area.
I will be at Abington Heights-Delaware Valley on Friday, and yes on Saturday, I plan on being at Susquehanna-Holy Cross, so I hope there is room in the press box!
Have a great weekend, and thank you again to those players, especially the seniors, who help make this job so rewarding.