Well, it is July 21, the 82nd Dream Game is behind us and now all my efforts will be poured into getting ready for the 2016-17 High School Sports season. How are your vacations going?
I will make this a brief blog post, because time is short from here on out. I will begin my Tour Around the Camps on Aug. 8.
So, the Dream Game was played last night at John Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium. Graduated seniors took their final bows and many played football for the final time in their careers. It’s an emotional all-star game that many believe and organizers tout as the longest running high school football all-star game in the country.
For the second straight season, the City won in impressive fashion. North Pocono’s Tim Blaine had 91 yards receiving and a touchdown, Scranton Prep’s Kevin Holmes had 34 yards receiving and a touchdown, North Pocono’s Matt Kelly returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown and Delaware Valley’s Austin Cernek and Dunmore’s Garrett Murray each had rushing touchdowns in a 35-8 win.
In truth, the game was pretty entertaining. True, the City eventually overwhelmed the County, but honestly, in a high school all-star game, you can almost predict that based upon the teams when the rosters are announced.
With all due respect, the City did have The Times-Tribune Offensive Player of the Year in Dunmore’s Garrett Murray and the Defensive Player of the Year in Thor Balavage. The team also had All-Region players Tim Blaine of North Pocono, Kevin Holmes of Scranton Prep, Tyler Stafursky of Scranton Prep, Robert Stout of Dunmore, Chido Rwakonda of Delaware Valley and Zach Conrad of Susquehanna. That’s an impressive roll call.
In fairness, though, the County had All-Region players, Scot Wasilchak of Valley View, Mikkell Green of Riverside, Julio Galarza of Honesdale, Mando Sallavanti of Old Forge, Corey Bednash of Lakeland and Brandon Brzenski of Valley View. That is not a bad list, either.
But in today’s society where everyone has a voice via social media, complaining and quick-acting immediate reactionary comments flood the internet, and the critics of how to fix the Dream Game were echoing across the stadium and put a dark cloud over what is honestly just a high school all-star game that raises money for charity.
Here is the thing folks, all-star football games can get lopsided. It happens. Sometimes, even the team with more All-Region players lose — just ask me. In 1988, the City thumped the County, and believe me it was a thorough beating. The County had the majority of All-Region players that season. Did the City cry for reform? No, it just went out and kicked our butts. I digress.
True, the City has been dominating the mid-summer classic that is standing the test of time based upon the 10 most popular stories on thetimes-tribune.com today and the game drew more than 7,000 fans to John Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium:
However, because the City has been dominant in its wins recently, EVERYBODY wants change. And everybody has the answers.
- The City has all the “BIG” schools.
- We have to “REALIGN” the teams.
Ok, first and foremost, one of the things I love to do is be the voice of reason. So, let’s address some issues.
- When the Lackawanna Football Conference was formed after the Big 11 and Suburban Conferences shut down, it only made sense to add the Suburban Conference schools once exiled from the game to be included. To achieve the addition of those teams, Delaware Valley, which at the time was a program that more reflected a newborn calf trying to stand than the powerhouse it is now, and Wallenpaupack, Susquehanna and Montrose evened up the sides by being placed on the City roster.
- The City does, in fact, have Big schools. That’s because Delaware Valley is on that side of the ledger. Otherwise, it’s pretty Even Steven:
CITY — Scranton (6A); Delaware Valley (6A); Wallenpaupack (5A); West Scranton (4A); North Pocono (4A); Scranton Prep (3A); Dunmore (2A); Montrose (2A); Susquehanna (2A – but really 1A); Holy Cross (1A).
COUNTY — Abington Heights (5A); Valley View (4A); Honesdale (4A); Western Wayne (3A); Lakeland (2A); Riverside (2A); Mid Valley (2A); Carbondale Area (2A) Old Forge (1A); Lackawanna Trail (1A).
- To me the simplest solution would be to move Delaware Valley to the County team. Let’s say you did that. This season, Delaware Valley had three players in the game. True, those three players would be a BIG help to the County. Would they be four touchdowns of help? Maybe. Maybe not. But they would be pretty good.
What I am trying to say here folks is, the game can be lopsided. And it may be for years to come. But the real reason has little to do with the enrollment size of the schools for each team and more to do with the fact the LFC is in a cycle where the City schools — which six played in the tough Division I — are producing VERY talented players.
- Scranton Prep and Delaware Valley shared the Division I title last season. Scranton Prep won the District 2 Class AAA championship.
- Dunmore went 12-2 and won the District 2 Class AA title — AGAIN.
Guess what? Those three schools had 17 players combined in the game for the City. That means – ADVANTAGE: CITY.
In the 2015 game.
- Delaware Valley had won the LFC Division I title and the District 2 Class AAAA title.
- Scranton and Scranton Prep reached the postseason.
- Dunmore won the District 2 Class AA title and reached the PIAA Class AA final.
Guess what? ADVANTAGE: CITY.
All I am saying is, that right now, yes, the City all-star teams have been dominant. Maybe in two years, the County schools will be stronger. We just don’t know? But if the trend continues, do we just realign the teams every year and pick them like a Fantasy Football draft? I hope not.
Tweaking an all-star game that has 82 years of tradition is OK, especially when there is a need for equal competition and player safety is being cited. Let’s just not make wholesale changes for the sake of making changes. It’s an all-star game. Please don’t lose sight of that.
And don’t let the final scores overwhelmingly dictate how you interpret the game and the efforts of the players on the field who sacrificed part of their summers to play one final high school game under the lights.
See you all AROUND THE CAMPS!