God smote me with a thunderbolt reserved only for the haughty and those who are dumb enough to pick against London Montgomery. Prep’s tailback defies all superlatives, so I will not attempt to add any to the long list supplied by the “knights of the keyboard” in other media outlets. Prep pounded Paupack, making me look silly for even entertaining the idea that Prep would be challenged before their Week 10 clash against Valley View. So be it. At least Dallas’s resounding victory over Wilkes-Barre restored some of my damaged vanity.

So what about this week? Who knows? It seems that the COVID scourge refuses to leave us. At press time, I’m not exactly sure who’s playing and who is not. As my fearless cat, Martha, likes to say, “let’s not cry over spilled tuna water.” Let’s just choose two games, one in each conference, throw a few ones in the wallet in case the pizza at the refreshment stand looks more edible than styrofoam, and sprint out the back door before my wife throws her copy of Anthony Trollope’s History of Julius Caesar at my dome.

Should we grab a Fresca for the road?

Pittston Area (1-2) at Hazleton Area (1-2)

I know, I know. This is not exactly Ali vs. Frazier. It might not even be Conor McGregor vs. Logan Paul. But I like games that allow us to make decisions about teams as the season moves from its beginning to its middle.

Both of these teams won in surprise outcomes last week. Hazleton dropped Berwick at Crispin Field, a win that could spin the campaign around for the Cougars. Now the Cougars struggle running the football. Mightily. But the junior pass-catch combo of Tyler Wolfe to Connor Shamany brings fans to their feet. Hazleton needs to develop a running game as the season moves forward in order for their attack to have some semblance of diversity heading into the playoffs. A win Friday at home evens the scales and adds momentum heading into next week’s road trip to Dallas.

There was no game on the Week 3 slate that surprised me as much as Pittston’s thrilling win over Valley West. Nick Barbieri needed a win like Martha the Cat needs Fancy Feast Chicken Pate. The Patriots entered last week’s tilt with no momentum and without key athletes on both sides of the ball. Wins like that tell us something about the character of the players and of their coach. That certainly impressed me. Sophomore signal-caller Drew DeLucca is getting better. If he can limit ill-timed interceptions, the Patriots can hang in this one.

My take is that this will be close into the 3rd quarter. The skill people and size advantage on the Hazleton side will eventually allow the Cougars to pull away.

Wallenpaupack (2-1) at Lakeland (3-0)

Lakeland is an interesting football team. They have answered any questions put their way, particularly in their Week 2 punch-out of Lackawanna Trail, on the road. But the opponent this week is a different animal than any they have faced thus far. Paupack is a big school with big-time athletes in both backfields. If the Chiefs win this, it will most certainly be decided by the monstrous Lakeland front wall.

Chief quarterback Dominico Spataro (shouldn’t he be playing in Old Forge with that name?) leads his football team in rushing and passing. And to call him diminutive would be an understatement. But he is electric in the pocket and on the move and runs the Lakeland Spread to perfection. The Chiefs’ offense is tough to decipher for opposing defenses and Spataro must be spied on. This is a step up in class for Lakeland. A win will reverberate all the way to places like Varden, West Pittston, and Wyoming Avenue in Scranton.

Coach Mark Watson has a difficult job this week as his Buckhorns prepare for the Chiefs. There is a tender psychology in high school athletes that is both fragile and resilient at the same time. First, his team could read the scoreboard on Friday night. That thumping from Prep represented a failed test and a reminder of other seasons and missed opportunities. Still, Wallenpaupack is, in my eyes, a heavy favorite in 5A. Their answer at Chapman Lake on Friday will most certainly be pregnant with meaning. After this week’s contest, the Buckhorns have home contests against North Pocono and Valley View in two of the next three weeks. There is absolutely no time for feeling sorry for themselves. It the Buckhorns get bopped at Lakeland this week, the spiral could become steep, and certainly not pointed in the right direction.

Somehow, in my mind’s eye I sense that Roman Levant, the placekicker at Wallenpaupack, will play some role in the outcome. Expect the Buckhorns to escape, but not without scars.

Finally, there is nothing like a Fresca for the ride down 81 to Hazleton, or up the Wildcat to Chapman Lake. Not that I’m watching my weight. Well, then again…

A Face in the Crowd