The Rick, Week 16 – 2018
By Rick Notari, BDFN
(1235-338 overall, .784 winning percentage)
A ticket to ride
Well, it’s Week 16 and for the first time in a few seasons, The Rick is still writing in the final week of the high school football season. If you have been living under a rock all season, it’s because Lackawanna Trail has joined District 2 royalty as one of only eight teams to play for a PIAA State Championship.
The Lions punched their ticket last week with an impressive win over Juniata Valley, earning the right to represent District 2 and the eastern half of Pennsylvania in Hershey tomorrow afternoon against District 10 and west champ Farrell.
One thing every coach, player and fan that has been part of a state championship game will tell you is to, ‘enjoy the ride.’ These moments don’t come along too often, so make sure you take it all in. The atmosphere will be something you have never experienced, and may never experience again.
Now let’s pick THE game….
THE RICK’S PICKS (73-27)
I ain’t no bandleader (Class 1A) 11-4
PIAA Class 1A Championship
Lackawanna Trail (13-1) v. Farrell (14-0)
Lackawanna Trail’s one-dimensional offense has steamrolled opponents this season and throughout the post-season. The four-headed rushing attack of Nate Rolka, Ray Melnikoff, Jeffrey Resto and Cody Moyle had paced the Lions during their magical run to the Land of Chocolate.
Running the football throughout the month of November has allowed Lackawanna Trail to maintain possession, eat up the clock, and keep the ball away from some high-powered talent on the opposite sideline long enough to wear their foes down to the point of surrender. The Lions will once again need to follow the same game plan if they are to stay in the game with Farrell. The Steelers are paced by a trio of staggering offensive talent, and an all-state defender that no one on the east side of the Class 1A bracket possessed.
So how good is the Farrell offense? They have punted just 11 times this season.
Quarterback Kyi Wright committed to Pitt after receiving 13 Division 1 offers, including ones from West Virginia, Wisconsin and UCLA. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Wright went 91-for-128 passing for 1,635 yards and 28 TDs this season. The senior threw only two interceptions. Wright also rushed for 586 yards and 12 TDs on 74 carries. But maybe more astonishing is that this big-time offensive player also plays linebacker for the Steelers and was second on the team with 76 tackles.
Running back Christian Lewis has rushing for 2,219 yards and 29 touchdowns this season. The 6-foot, 180-pound senior has offers from FCS schools Albany and Miami (OH). Lewis also caught seven passes for 108 yards and two TDs. His 204 points on the season led Farrell as the Steelers became the highest scoring team in school history.
Farrell amassed over 600 points this year, scoring at least 40 points in 13 of its 14 games. The Steelers scored 50 three different times, 60 points on two occasions, and 70 points in another two games. Farrell’s closest game was a 31-19 win over Mercer County rival Wilmington Area in late August. By the way, the Greyhounds play Southern Columbia for the PIAA Class 2A title on Friday afternoon.
Rounding out the three-headed monster on offense for Farrell is wide receiver Jourdan Townsend. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior has offers from Michigan State, Kansas State and Rutgers among 10 others. He has caught 70 passes for 1,245 yards and 23 touchdowns. He too averages two touchdowns a game with 184 total points on the season.
Defensively, Tymir Green joins Wright in the linebacking corps. The all-state linebacker has a team-high 82 tackles this year in what can be surmised as what amounts to be an 8-game schedule as 11 of Farrell’s 14 games went to the Mercy Rule. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Green also has 342 yards and 10 TDs rushing on just 40 carries.
It sure looks like there are a lot of possible highlights to be made by such an explosive offense, but the Trail defense has proven up to the task all season. The Lions will need to stymie at least one of the Steelers offensive facets to stay in this game. And The Rick thinks they will. But it is going to be awfully hard to stop both the electric running and passing of this Farrell team.
In turn, Lackawanna Trail will need to be productive in passing the football as well as running it. The one-dimensional teams from Northeast PA that have gone to Hershey have struggled in their time there. Rolka has the arm to get it done, but his receivers will have to step up big time.
Experience will also play a factor into this game. Farrell is 17-7 all-time in the PIAA playoffs. The Steelers have been to Hershey before and will use that experience to their advantage on Thursday.
Farrell 41, Lackawanna Trail 21
Leave the gun, take the cannoli (Class 3A) 14-6
Time to settle all family business (125-14)
St. Joseph’s Prep 34, Harrisburg 22
Penn Hills 24, Manheim Central 21
Erie Cathedral Prep 37, Imhotep 27
Aliquippa 25, Middletown 20
Southern Columbia 37, Wilmington 21