The Rick, Week 1 – 2020
By Rick Notari, BDFN
(1435-391 overall, .786 winning percentage)
In the Bubble…
It sure has been a strange six months in The Bubble since the Coronavirus hit Northeastern PA.
- Every level of sports came to a complete stop in the spring.
- The Rick and his Capos were put away.
- The “Let Them Play” group became the “Let Me Watch” group.
Now The Rick isn’t going to dive deep into any of those topics as they have been beat like a dead horse’s head in the king size bed of a Hollywood movie producer. Instead, The Rick is going to hand out some advice for fans.
- Be patient. This season is something we have never seen. From players to coaches to officials to teachers to administrators to legislators, we are in unchartered waters. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. They are all trying their best and doing what they deem necessary to get the kids back on the football field.
- Don’t be greedy. You wanted the kids to get back on the field and they are. Now stop making a big deal about being there to see them play. Stop being greedy. Sure kids like to perform for their parents and family, but do you think when they are in the sandlot or in the backyard they are worried about if you are watching or not? There will be various ways to watch the game – from the NPF streaming video to TV stations broadcasting games to standing outside the fence of your local stadium and watching from afar.
- Wear a mask. Social distance. Wash your hands. The Rick doesn’t care if you think the Coronavirus is a hoax. Do what is necessary for us to watch high school football this year. If your school district requires certain things of you then do it. Because if you don’t and there is an outbreak, then you have not only affected yourself and your family, you are affecting the ability of the entire team and its opponents to play the game they love.
Yes 2020 has been screwed up. Let’s not screw it up even more.
Time to check out some prognostications for the upcoming season. Keep praying that we are able to see it through!
WVC Division 1:
Champion: Berwick; Dark Horse: Dallas
The defection of Northwest and the compressed scheduled has created competition in the two WVC divisions this year. Three of the seven teams in WVC-1 have championship talent, and two other schools have the pedigree to make a run at the title. Despite being one of three 4A teams in the “Big School” division, Berwick is the favorite. The Bulldogs have been chomping at the bit to get this season underway as confidence is at a 21st century high. Berwick has been one of the few teams that have not stopped since the Governor gave the green light to begin workouts, and that alone puts the Bulldogs ahead of schedule. Berwick will lean on its defense once again as its top competition will feature potent offenses and explosive weapons. Wilkes-Barre Area and Williamsport will be the top threats to Berwick, with Valley West on the verge of being Valley West again. And don’t count out Dallas. Yes the Mounts have lost 21 starters from the team that played for a state title last year, but all of that extra practice for the reserves and the winning attitude that Coach Rich Mannello has instilled in the program will keep Dallas among the area best in 2020.
WVC Division 2:
Champion: Wyoming Area; Dark Horse: Lake-Lehman
WVC-2 will also be more competitive for the same reasons as WVC-1, but the clear cut favorite is Wyoming Area. Sure the defending PIAA Class 3A State Champ lost the best player in the state in his class, but the Warriors return key pieces in the offensive trenches and on defense. Plus, many of the skill-position backups got plenty of time last year as Wyoming Area steamrolled through the regular-season. Those reserves will be in the spotlight and they have the talent for the Warriors to repeat in Division 2. Lake-Lehman returns its high-powered offense piloted by a seasoned quarterback and could come away with this division if everything falls into place. That means winning at Wyoming Area and at Crestwood late in the season.
LFC Division I:
Champion: Delaware Valley; Dark Horse: North Pocono
It will almost be impossible during a short season for anyone other than Delaware Valley to win LFC-1. The Warriors were the team to beat coming in and continue to be that despite only having a four-game schedule on the slate as of Sept. 11. This division is down to four teams as Abington Heights will not play football this year, leaving Scranton, North Pocono and Wallenpaupack to battle DV.
LFC Division II:
Champion: Scranton Prep; Dark Horse: West Scranton
LFC-2 should be the most competitive division in the Lackawanna Football Conference this season. Valley View should be the favorite, but the Cougars announced earlier this week that they are not ready to play. Valley View has worked out sporadically as the school district and the virus have played havoc with their off-season schedule. Prep and Western Wayne could end up winning this division as both have returning talent to match Valley View – if the Cougars get to play. West Scranton also has some talent on offense, but the Invaders seemingly are snake-bitten every year. Maybe in that vein, 2020 is their year. Honesdale welcomes a new head coach, but they also return talent on both sides of the ball. So don’t sleep on the Hornets.
LFC Division III:
Champion: Lakeland; Dark Horse: Riverside
Like LFC-1, Division III will only feature four teams as Carbondale Area will sit out the season. Lakeland looks to be the cream of the crop with Dunmore right behind. The Chiefs return Maryland-commit CJ Dippre and a host of two and three-year starters that should push them to the top of LFC-3. Riverside returns the leading passer in the league in Johnny Gilchrist, but will have to replace a stable of receivers if it wants to put up video-game numbers on offense. Mid Valley rounds out the division under the direction of first-year coach Stan Yanoski.
LFC Division IV:
Champion: Old Forge; Dark Horse: Lackawanna Trail
Old Forge has run the small-school LFC division for a better part of the 21st Century, winning 10 titles in the past 15 seasons. This year should be no different. The Blue Devils return a load of talent on offense to go along with a majority of its offensive line returning. The top challenger will be Lackawanna Trail. The Lions don’t have a full rebuild – let’s call it a renovation – but they will need to fill in some spots around Ray Melnikoff to make a run at the Blue Devils. Holy Cross returns this year to the division, joining Susquehanna and Montrose for a full five-team set up.
D2 Class 6A:
Champion: Delaware Valley, Runner-up: Wilkes-Barre Area
The team to beat in District 2 has to be frustrated. Delaware Valley was primed to be an immovable object defensively with enough power on offense to make a run in the state playoffs. The Warriors had scheduled perennial WPIAL and state power Pine-Richland to open the season. That was cancelled as was the first five weeks of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The schedule now features just four games as Abington Heights has withdrawn from competition. The Warriors hope its four as Valley View is its opening game, and should the Cougars get shut down for a fourth-time, Delaware Valley will end up with a three-game season. Still, the Warriors are the favor to repeat with Wilkes-Barre Area left holding the silver.
D2 Class 5A:
Champion: Valley West
Easiest pick in the history of picks. Wyoming Valley West is the only Class 5A team in District 2 with Abington Heights sitting 2020 out. The Spartans will need to be one of the top four teams in the subregional to make the post-season. Either way, they get the crown.
D2 Class 4A:
Champion: Berwick, Runner-up: Crestwood
Berwick finally gets back to where it believes it rightfully belongs – on top. Relegated to runner-up and third-place status the past few seasons behind Valley View and Dallas, the Dawgs should be the best team in Class 4A. The class will be competitive behind Berwick, but everyone else is fighting for second place.
D2 Class 3A: Champion: Lakeland, Runner-up: Wyoming Area
Class 3A should be the most competitive of the six classifications in District 2 with Lakeland rising to the top when the shortened season ends. The Chiefs return the most fire power of a group of teams including Prep, Western Wayne, Lake-Lehman and defending state champion Wyoming Area. Any of those five teams could lay claim to the crown, but I believe its Lakeland’s year.
D2 Class 2A:
Champion: Dunmore; Runner-up: Lackawanna Trail
Lackawanna Trail moves up to Class 2A for the next cycle, improving the quality of teams in this class. The Lions have won the last two District 2 Class 1A crowns and are two years removed from a state finals appearance. Northwest also moves up to Class 2A and will play its games in the Northern Tier League this year, leaving the Wyoming Valley Conference. But this classification still belongs to Dunmore. The Bucks will have to replace its signal-caller, but they will be a typical Dunmore team in the trenches and that should push them to the top once again.
D2 Class 1A:
Champion: Old Forge, Runner-up: Holy Cross
Somewhat like Class 5A, D2 Class 1A is a foregone conclusion. It’s a two-team race and Old Forge is the hare with Holy Cross being the turtle. Despite winning the division the past two years, the Blue Devils have been beaten in the Class 1A final. With Trail moving up a class, Old Forge shouldn’t have to worry about that this year.
The Rick’s Six makes its debut this year. Nothing fancy. Just my opinion of who are the best Big School teams and the best Small School teams. Nothing else. Valley View is not ready to be ranked yet.
Here it is….
THE PRESEASON BIG-SIX
- Delaware Valley
- Valley West
THE PRESEASON SMALL-SIX
- Wyoming Area
- Old Forge
THE RICK’S PICKS
Disparity with the schedule and with the amount of teams in some classes is forcing us to go back to the original premise of The Rick’s Picks and its divisions. Here are the picks….
May their first child is a masculine child (The Big Boys)
Riverside at Wyoming Area
As it has already been well-documented, Riverside is the only LFC team playing in Week 1. And the Vikings chose to bang head with the big boys to start the season – the defending PIAA Class 3A State Champion Wyoming Area Warriors. Riverside returns record-setting quarterback Johnny Gilchrist to its AirShip Offense while Wyoming Area needs to replace the PIAA Class 3A Player of the Year in Dom DeLuca. But the Warriors do return five starters on offense and four on defense with a host of returning players who received experience last season in many blowout wins. This opener should have been a coronation for the champs, in front of their home crowd for the first time since 2019, but instead, COVID rules will dictate most fans will be outside on Boston Avenue watching through the fence. The Rick will take the champs in this one.
Wyoming Area 31, Riverside 20
The Luca Brasi (Toughest Pick of The Week)
Wyoming Valley West at Wilkes-Barre Area
This game could have been put in three or four different spots, but The Rick sees this as the best game of the opening week, and therefore, the toughest one to prognosticate. Wilkes-Barre Area comes into 2020 on a high, as it did last season what most can only hope to do in a program’s first year. The Wolfpack finished with a winning record and won a District 2 playoff game. Coach Cito Cinti did a fabulous job bring the three Wilkes-Barre schools together last season and looks to continue to build a big-school power in the Diamond City. Valley West is coming off a season in which it struggled, but many around the WVC see the Spartans as a team on the rebound, and one worth watching in 2020. This could be a break out game for Valley West, especially with the abnormal pre-season conditions. The Rick sees a down-to-the-wire battle in Cross River Rivalry South games. Whoever touches the pigskin last will be the winner.
Wilkes-Barre 34, Valley West 31
Don’t ask me about my business (No Rhyme or Reason)
Berwick at Lake-Lehman
No, The Rick is not picking an upset here. But this game at The Black Hole could be interesting. Berwick has high aspirations this season, and sees itself as a potential successor to Dallas and Valley View in Class 4A behind its defense. Lake-Lehman sees itself as a challenger for the Class 3A title behind quarterback Ethan Adams who threw for over two grand last year. This game is a test for both units, but it will be how each team’s opposite unit performs which will determine the outcome. The Rick thinks the Dawgs’ offense will be better than the Black Knights’ defense, and that will determine the result.
Berwick 24, Lake-Lehman 17
Leave the gun, take the cannoli (Easiest Pick of The Week)
Williamsport at Nanticoke
Williamsport travels to Nanticoke in search of redemption this season. The Millionaires saw a season of hope go down the drain because of injury in 2019. A healthy group from Billport should have no problem in this one. The only thing that may slow down the Millionaires is the high grass on the field at Greater Nanticoke High School.
Williamsport 35, Nanticoke 14
Going to the mattresses (A Rivalry-type Game)
Hazleton Area at Crestwood
The closest thing to a rivalry game – other than Valley West and WBA – is this one right here. The Hazleton Area and Crestwood school districts border each other, so why not. Let’s go to the mattresses! Hazleton has some experience back in the trenches, but the Cougars need to find some playmakers under its new coach. Crestwood on the other hand has some experience returning in both areas and on both sides of the ball. The Comets may surprise some fans this year, but The Rick will be one that will not be surprised if they play for some type of title in 2020.
Crestwood 22, Hazleton Area 7
I ain’t no bandleader (Give Some Respect)
Tunhkannock at Dallas
Both Tunkhannock and Dallas will be looking for some respect in 2020. The Tigers return quarterback Jack Chilson for a third season among eight starters on both sides of the ball. Tunkhannock has been building for 2020 for the past three seasons. But are the Tigers physically tough enough to get through what will be a demanding schedule, especially early. Dallas is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to experience. The Mountaineers return only one starter on offense, and two on defense, to a program whose only loss in 2019 was in the PIAA Class 4A State Championship game. Dallas is rebuilding, but if tradition is any indication, they are more likely reloading. The Rick loves tradition.
Dallas 26, Tunkhannock 19
Time to settle all Family business
Northwest over CMVT
Pitt over Austin Peay
Pittsburgh over New York Football Giants