The Rick, Week 15 – 2018
By Rick Notari, BDFN
(1225-336 overall, .784 winning percentage)
The Eastern Final
This is a public service message brought to you by The Rick.
When our two local teams make it to Hershey next week, please do not refer to them as “Eastern State Champions.” Why you may ask? Well first off, there is no such place as Eastern State. When teams are eventually crowned Pennsylvania or PIAA State Champions, both is grammatically and factually correct. But referring yourselves as Eastern State Champs is not.
If you want to make a big deal out of winning the eastern half of the PIAA bracket in your classification – something The Rick promotes – you should say that your team is the “Beast of the East” or are the PIAA Class whatever Eastern champs. Actually, Lackawanna Trail can say that right now because they are in fact the only team from the eastern part of the state remaining in the Class 1A tournament. Juniata Valley is from District 6 which is considered the western part of the state.
So congrats to PIAA Class 1A Eastern champ Lackawanna Trail. The Lions are indeed, The Beast of the East!
Now let’s pick some games….
THE RICK’S PICKS (72-26)
I ain’t no bandleader (Class 1A) 10-4
PIAA Class 1A Semifinals
Lackawanna Trail v. Juniata Valley
Well this is it Trail fans. Don’t get me wrong, as a fan, there was nothing like watching Old Forge play for a state title in 2013. Despite the tough loss there was still a sense of achievement that went with just being in Hershey. And I am sure a victory would have been one of the most thrilling moments of a lot of peoples’ lives – especially the kids who were on the field giving their all for those of us in the stands. But winning the game before – the Eastern Final – and the week leading up to the championship game… There was nothing like it!
The celebratory throwing of the Hershey kisses at the game. The caravan of cars up Route 81 and the parade through the town to the football stadium to a sea of people celebrating the victory was extraordinary. The buildup all week in town, and the night before celebrating in Hershey and taking everything in on game day was amazing.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because as fans, it is your job to make sure the Lions get to enjoy their moment playing for what every football player dreams of – taking a ride down to Chocolate Town to play for a state title. The Rick has told you for a few weeks now that you had better than average odds of getting to Hershey. Now I am here to reinforce that and tell you it is now your time.
Once again, it won’t be easy. District 6 champ Juniata Valley comes in riding a 10-game winning streak. The Hornets have not lost since September 7. The Rick was in Vegas that weekend. Since then, Juniata Valley has beaten former state power Bishop Guilfoyle and Cinderella Northern Cambria to win the D6 title. The Hornets have done so on the arm and legs of senior Quinn Zinoblie. The 6-foot-3, 195 quarterback has thrown for 1,137 yards and 12 TDs, and rushed for 887 yards and seven TDs in Juniata Valley’s first 10 games of the season. Zinoblie also plays inside linebacker and is JV’s leading tackler. Senior running back Jaxson Rand is also a threat, having rushed for 1,056 yards and 12 touchdowns in the Hornets’ first 10 games. He has also added 12 catches for 201 yards and four scores.
There is your quick scouting report fans, but even though The Rick likes to give you a look at the other team, when you’ve gotten this far, it’s more about your team than the opponent. And the Lions have proven they have quite a team with the likes of Nathan Rolka, Jordan Edwards, Cody Moyle, Jeff Resto, Ray Melnikoff, Zac Cost, and the rest of the roster. So go out and get yourself the Hershey kisses that with the red and white wrappers. They make them, believe me! The Rick had blue and gold Hershey Kisses on hand five years ago. Now go have some fun!
Lackawanna Trail 27, Juniata Valley 20
Leave the gun, take the cannoli (Class 3A) 14-5
PIAA Class 3A Semifinals
Scranton Prep v. Middletown
It’s the Prep version of the “Revenge Tour” on Friday night when the Cavaliers take on the Middletown Blue Raiders for the third straight time in the PIAA playoffs. This time a berth in the PIAA Class 3A title game in Hershey is on the line.
The District 3 champion Blue Raiders beat Scranton Prep the last two years by a combined score of 75-13, with a 35-0 shutout in 2017 and a 40-13 victory in 2016. But this year the Purple Haze is a little bit different animal. In 10 of its 15 games, they have allowed just 35 points. In the other five games, opponents have scored 70 points, including 27 in the Cavaliers only loss of the season to Valley View, and 19 in a win over Lakeland for the District 2 title. All told, that has Prep allowing just 49 points in 13 of its games this year. It’ll be that type of defense that Prep will need to win this game.
Middletown has scored more than 40 points in eight of its 14 games. Its only loss was to Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt – the District 3 Class 4A champion that plays in the Western Final on Friday. The Blue Raiders offensive assault is led by what PennLive.com calls the “thunder-and-lightning” running of backs Jose Lopez and Richie Sykes.
Lopez who was the Mid Penn Capital Division MVP has rushed for 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, while Sykes has racked up 1,164 yards and 20 TDs. The duo has also combined for 30 receptions out of the backfield for 403 yards and five touchdowns. Scott Ash is their veteran signal-caller at quarterback, and has thrown for 1,384 yards and 14 touchdowns. Leading receiver Christopher Joseph has 13 catches for 399 yards and five TDs, and Lamar Ventura has 11 catches for 208 yards and a score.
That’s a lot of offense for one team. But Prep is clicking at the right time and the pistons seem to be firing in unison for the Cavaliers. The Rick knows The Prep has been in the same situation the past two seasons against Middletown. But something just seems different this year. It’s almost like everyone is sleeping on the Purple Haze even though The Rick has assured you during the past few years that NEPA’s sleeping giant had awoken. So in consultation with MaxPreps.com and BornPowerIndex.com, The Rick proclaims, “Let the purple and gold kisses rain down from the tower high atop The Castle on Wyoming Avenue.”
As the Deacon once told me, ‘We’re goin’ down to Chocolate Town.’
Scranton Prep 31, Middletown 30
Don’t ask me about my business (Class 4A) 15-4
Time to settle all family business (116-13)
St. Joseph’s Prep over Pine-Richland
Harrisburg over Coatesville
Archbishop Wood over Penn Hills
Manheim Central over Upper Dublin
Erie Cathedral Prep over Bishop McDevitt
Imhotep Charter over Bethlehem Catholic
Aliquippa over Sharon
Wilmington over Steel Valley
Southern Columbia over West Catholic
Farrell over OLSH