Editor’s Note: The story originally listed running backs who played in the LFC. The organization was actually the LIAA.
“October, when kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall…”
Those iconic words echo through the title track to U2’s 1981 album, October. It chills me to the bone that Bono and the boys have been at it for 40 years. I listened to it in my dorm room at East Alabama State Technical Nazarene Community College. You may have heard of it. Our nickname is the Drunken Hillbillies. It’s a long story. Something about the school being founded on the oldest working still in East Alabama. They were the only school in the country that had my desired major – Sports Television and Soap Opera Analysis. But, I digress.
The lyrics are what is most important here. Seven weeks of high school football is a large enough sample size to make some credible assumptions about what may happen over the course of the last three weeks and into the playoffs, both district and state. While I won’t get into the vagaries of District 2’s power ratings algorithm, which I think was created in a basement somewhere in Olyphant, and I care little about first round matchups which are about as competitive as Nicki Minaj in a spelling bee, I shall tell you that there are a few suppositions I can venture at this point.
First, Old Forge wins both league and district titles. Their schedule was composed mostly of junior high chess clubs, which may come back to haunt them once they play someone real. But, that does not alter the fact that the Devils will rock hardware at season’s end.
Second, Valley View’s loss of Adam Howanitz changed the entire landscape for big schools in District 2. While I rated the Cougars just a bit better than the Jesuit Giants in Division 2 of the LFC, now I’m not so sure. And, I don’t believe that Valley View is a prohibitive favorite in the 4A field, as they were a few short weeks ago. Can they still win both? Sure, but I can also still rid myself of this maniacal craving for Munchos. Damn you, Rick Notari.
Third, a question was posed to me by someone of vast football acumen this past weekend. He queried, “Is London Montgomery the best back in the history of the LIAA?” Interesting and provocative question. My answer is that the only back in my Fresca-addled memory that comes close to his level of athleticism and electricity would be going back nearly 30 years to Charles Lucke at North Pocono. If you don’t remember him, ask anyone who watched him torch defenses in the mid 90’s. While there may be other backs who posted incredible numbers (Terrin Ash, Brett Trichilo), Prep’s prodigy may just be the best ever. And remember that he lost half of his sophomore season to the malingering plague and he has played less than 24 minutes of football in the majority of his contests this year.
I feel much better now that I’ve bloviated on these issues. So let’s get on with this week’s must-see battles, starting down south.
WYOMING VALLEY CONFERENCE GAME OF THE WEEK
Wilkes-Barre Area (4-3) at Hazleton Area (4-3)
Remember that Wyoming Area is still the big dog in the WVC, while the rest are underfed dachshunds. But this one will separate two large schools and give us a sense of what’s real and what’s noise. The Wolfpack has won three in a row to push their record above .500. This will be a litmus test for Coach Ciro Cinti and one more opportunity for an identity win. Wins over Pittston Area, Valley West, and Tunkhannock are hardly resume builders, but a victory in the mountains of Hazleton will alter the complexion of the Pack.
The Cougars bounced Scranton last week and showed some versatility on offense. Hazleton is 4-1 after an 0-2 start with their only loss in that five-week skein coming to Delaware Valley, another program that has awakened following an early season malaise. Matt Buchman is a Christian McCaffrey in Cougar clothing. He is terribly dangerous coming out of the backfield and possesses great toughness running inside the tackles.
Someone will take a giant step forward here to 5-3 and slip the chains of mediocrity that have bound the rest of the conference. I like the Cougars by two touchdowns on their home field.
LACKAWANNA FOOTBALL CONFERENCE GAME OF THE WEEK
Lakeland (6-1) at Mid Valley (6-1)
Anyone who thought Mid Valley would play in a game of the week this year, raise your right hand. I didn’t think so. The Spartans have been the surprise story of this season under second-year coach, Stan Yanoski. Last week’s win in Dunmore turned many heads and changed many minds. The Spartans scored the first two touchdowns of the game and then showed enough fortitude to turn away the Bucks’ efforts to tie the game late. Color me impressed. Devin Ayala has rushed for nearly 1400 yards and has not been slowed by any of the defenses Mid Valley has faced thus far. The Spartans are old school. Establish the run to set up play action passing. So this week they face another major test, sandwiched between last week’s win and next week’s game against Lackawanna Trail.
I told you about Dominico Spataro. The Passing Paisan didn’t disappoint last week in the Chiefs’ heart-stopping win at Western Wayne. Any defensive coach who does not set up a spy to shadow Number 1’s every move is not worth his weight in Charleston Chews. I love Lakeland’s offense, their creativity, and the play of their offensive line. It seems as though the Chiefs have played in big games week after week after week. That will be a boon to their post-season chances, unlike some of their LFC brethren (cough, Old Forge, cough).
So what gives at Spartans Satadium on Friday night? I see both teams throwing haymakers throughout the first half. Ayala will make big plays in the run game for Mid Valley. Ultimately, though, I like the Chiefs to pull away late. The Spartans will need at least 30 to win this one. I can’t envision that against an extremely physical Lakeland defense.
I may have to camouflage my smartly-colored, brown Ford Escape in order to get to this one. My wife filled in the tunnel in the back yard behind the well. She’s grown suspicious from watching every episode of Murder, She Baked on the Cloying Melodrama Channel. But I’m not licked yet… I hope.
A Face in the Crowd