Good Thursday to you all!
Ok, I know we shouldn’t put too much stock in media polls for football. Anyone who listens to In the Zone (5 to 6 p.m. Mondays and Fridays on NEPAs ESPN Radio) knows I rip the AP college football poll every chance I get.
On the high school level, however, it does give fans a talking point each week, and even I admit the rankings themselves can at times be more a reflection of strength of schedule instead of actual quality of team. That being said, it has been a long-standing tradition to publish a Top 10 poll here at The Times-Tribune. I can remember in my playing days being involved in a couple of No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups and they were so exciting. As players, you just feel like a ranking next to your team gives the game some juice.
So this week, again, I am “forced” to cover yet another huge game partly created by voting of the sports staff members, and mostly by the players and teams on the field.
No. 1 Scranton Prep will be at No. 2 Delaware Valley on Friday night in an important Lackawanna Football Conference Division I showdown. And for the second straight season, it is the second straight week that Delaware Valley finds itself in the marquee game of the season.
That got me to thinking. Now, our record-keeping at The Times-Tribune for such things as Top 10 polls is not the greatest. But, what I did was think back to a few classic games that I remembered were No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups. Did I remember them all. … Probably not. Still, I was able to track down a few memorable ones dating back to when the LFC rebooted after the ill-fated NEPFC.
Let’s look back at some that I found:
No. 1 Abington Heights at No. 2 Scranton
October 18, 2002
Scranton began to become a factor in the LFC as one of the Class AAAA schools. Hoping to firmly establish itself as an up and coming program, the Knights needed to knock off the top program in the area. And they did so with a bang, 35-0. Stephon Burgette returned the opening kickoff 90 yards to the end zone and they finished off their destruction when Jeff Field scampered 73 yards for a score that made it 35-0 just 2:56 into the second half. Scranton took over the No. 1 ranking in the next poll, but interestingly enough, it lost in Week 9 to Honesdale.
No. 2 Lakeland at No. 1 Dunmore
September 20, 2002
John Wormuth caught a deep pass, broke a tackle and sprinted to the end zone with 7:17 left in the contest to lift the Chiefs to an emotional 20-14 victory over previously unbeaten Dunmore. The Chiefs improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Lackawanna Football Conference Division II spoiling Dunmore’s Homecoming Game. The Bucks fell to 3-1 and 1-1 in the Division. Wormuth’s effort completed the Chiefs comeback from a 14-0 halftime deficit. Dunmore gained 167 yards on the ground in that first half and had 11 first downs to Lakeland’s 4. But, the Chiefs outgained Dunmore, 218-114 in the second half. Interestingly, Lakeland took over the No. 1 ranking in the next poll, but lost at Valley View in Week 5. However, the Chiefs finished with an 11-2 overall record and reached the PIAA Class AA playoffs to finish as the No. 1 team in the final Times-Tribune poll.
No. 1 Dunmore at No. 2 Lakeland
October 29, 2004
Joe Tuzze and tailback Colin Striefsky combined to power the Chiefs to 297 yards on the ground and David Duchnik returned an interception for a touchdown in a 21-7 win over the Bucks. Later that season, the two teams met again in the District 2 Class AA championship game that Lakeland won, 31-6. Lakeland finished the season as the No. 1 team in the final Times-Tribune poll.
No. 2 Abington Heights
at No. 1 Delaware Valley
October 6, 2006
Dave Keisling and Shaun Pasternak were at their very best in a 21-13 win that kept Abington Heights unbeaten in the Lackawanna Football Conference Division I. Using his scrambling ability to avoid sacks, Keisling frustrated the Delaware Valley pass rush. He completed six passes for 128 yards, including three touchdowns. His first went 16 yards to Kurtis Medeiros in the first quarter, only moments before he absorbed a hit. The others went to Pasternak. Abington Heights finished that season as the No. 1 team in the final Times-Tribune poll.
No.1 Dunmore at No. 2 Riverside
October 31, 2008
In the most anticipated game of the decade, unbeaten Riverside hosted unbeaten Dunmore for the Lackawanna Football Conference Division II championship. Riverside’s play makers — Joe Klebon, Matt Talerico and Jay Velehoski — burned the Bucks, leading to a 34-20 win in front of a raucous crowd at Riverside Veterans Memorial Stadium. Velehoski had 225 yards passing and three touchdowns. Klebon returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in his first game back from a broken foot and also finished with 171 yards rushing and a touchdown. Both teams won District 2 championships that season as Riverside won in Class A and Dunmore in Class AA. Riverside ended as the No. 1 team in the final Times-Tribune poll.
No. 1 Valley View at No. 2 Delaware Valley
October 14, 2011
Valley View established a physical dominance early and let its overpowering defense take care of the rest in a 21-7 win at Warrior Stadium. Valley View, which was ranked among the top 10 Class AAA teams in the state, remained unbeaten at 7-0 and Delaware Valley fell to 6-1 overall. Valley View controlled both lines of scrimmage. With its bruising offensive front blowing open huge running lanes for both Pat Jeffers and Tyler Phillips, the Cougars racked up 192 yards on the ground in an impressive first half that featured five runs of more than 10 yards. Interestingly, Valley View would see its winning streak end the next week against Scranton Prep. However, the Cougars won the District 2 Class AAA championship and finished as the No. 1 team in the final Times-Tribune poll.
No. 2 Scranton at No. 1 Delaware Valley
October 19. 2012
Karlon Quiller put on a show catching eight passes for a conference-record 243 yards and four touchdowns, leading No. 2 Scranton over No. 1 Delaware Valley, 34-27, in a clash of District 2 titans. The Knights overcame a 20-point, first-quarter deficit to remain undefeated at 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Division I. Delaware Valley fell to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the division, but fought to the end, reaching the Scranton 30-yard line on a final play that featured a fumble recovery and run, a lateral and a penalty as time expired. Later in the season, Delaware Valley exacted revenge, defeating the Knights in the District 2 Class AAAA championship game.
No. 2 Old Forge at No. 1 Dunmore
September 20, 2013
Both small-school powers met twice in 2012 and split with Old Forge winning in the regular season and Dunmore winning in the District 2 Class A title game in a season
where Dunmore eventually advanced to the PIAA final. In a brutal, physically exhausting rematch, Dunmore made the most of its opportunities by converting a pair of fumbles into touchdownsin a 21-16 win. Old Forge (3-1) turned the ball over three times and two proved costly. On the opening kickoff, freshman Colin Holmes corralled a loose ball for Dunmore and on the first play from scrimmage, Brandon Kujawski, who threw for 112 yards, hit Josh Zilla for a 35-yard touchdown that energized an already rowdy student section. With the game tied at 14 in the third quarter, Old Forge forced a Dunmore punt. Zilla pinned it at the 5-yard line and two plays later Dan Drewes forced a fumble that Tim Drewes fell on as Dunmore set up shop at the 8. Daiqwon Buckley scored two carries later and the Bucks seized a 21-14 lead and the momentum. Old Forge would gain a measure of revenge by winning the District 2 Class A championship rematch, 27-7, and later advanced to the PIAA Class A final.
No. 2 Scranton at No. 1 Delaware Valley
October 17, 2014
Delaware Valley had a punishing defensive effort, then hit Scranton with an offensive storm in a 37-20 win. Lex Rosario had 152 yards rushing and a touchdown and Austin Cernek added 113 yards and a score to power the offense for Delaware Valley, which moved to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the division. As impressive as those numbers were, Delaware Valley won this game with its defensive line. Connor Lutz, Quinn Decker, A.J. Sieber and Brendan Heaney outmuscled the Knights and limited them to 51 yards rushing on 32 carries. It would also be the final high school game in the career of Scranton running back Jake McCarthy. Delaware Valley had one more challenge the following week against. … No. 2 Scranton Prep.
No. 1 Delaware Valley
at No. 2 Scranton Prep
October 25, 2014
In its second showdown in as many weeks, top-ranked Delaware Valley rose to another challenge by scoring with the pass and the running game in a 28-20 win that clinched a tie for its first Lackawanna Football Conference Division I title since 2004. Connor Lutz who came through in the clutch on two important receptions. He hauled in a 45-yard touchdown on a throw that quarterback Brett Cohen launched while scrambling away from a rush to tie the game at 7-7 in the second quarter. Then, as Delaware Valley was trying to run out the clock, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound tight end grabbed a short pass that converted a fourth-and-3 from the Scranton Prep 37 with less than 2 minutes left that allowed for the kneel down. Delaware Valley went on to win the District 2 Class AAAA championship.
That leads us to this week as No. 1 Scranton Prep will try to upend No. 2 Delaware Valley. It should be a good game, but if history shows us anything, these types of games can have both a positive and negative impact on both teams. They are often grueling, physical games that leave both teams battered and bruised. But ultimately, isn’t this what high school football should be about?
It’s late in the season. … The best two teams duking it out on the field.
I personally, can’t wait.
See you all Friday night in Milford.