The Rick, Week 1 – 2021

By Rick Notari, BDFN

@TheBigBlueDevil

(1554-421 overall, .786 winning percentage)

 

Hollywood Hitman

Merry Christmas high school football fans from the West Coast!

That’s right! It’s opening week of the most wonderful time of the year, and I am pre-gaming from Manhattan Beach, California where the weather is divine and so are the amenities. Make sure you enjoy this column, because frankly, I may not be coming back! If I can find a role as a Hollywood Hitman, I’ll be watching District 2 High School Football on my iPad from the veranda at Sapori’s in Marina del Rey on Friday nights. The gravy there is outstanding – as is the company!

Of course, I am sure Nevada Senator “Geary” Kucharski will do all he can to keep me in the fold. Hey, maybe predicting games from 3,000 miles away is just what the doctor ordered for this prognosticator. I mean, it can’t be any worse than when I am there in person. For the most part, the same teams win every year and the same teams, well, they get beat by those teams every year. Of the almost 200 games that will be played during the regular season, there are probably only 10 percent that will stump all the experts.

While dynasties and powerhouses are good for the area when it comes to state recognition, parody would be somewhat refreshing after picking games for the past 10 years and covering them for the past 25 or so. So, let’s go gridders! Step it up and let’s get crazy with some upset wins and some fresh blood come playoff time. Wait. Maybe I shouldn’t talk about fresh blood in a column titled, “Hollywood Hitman.”

Time to check out some prognostications for the upcoming season. Keep the faith and let’s hope we are able to see it through!

THE DIVISIONS….  

WVC Division 1:

Champion: Wilkes-Barre; Dark Horse: Valley West

Wilkes-Barre has proved in its two-year life span that it’s close to being ready to take its place among the upper echelon of the WVC. There has always been a talent overload in the Diamond City and now that they’ve come together, the sky is the limit. The schedule isn’t easy right off the bat, but the Wolfpack will be off and running if they gel early. Williamsport will give Wilkes-Barre a battle, but the Millionaires are traditionally slow starters and that could give WB the edge. Valley West is the dark horse this year. The Spartans have a somewhat easy schedule to the start of the season and could conceivably be 5-0 when they host the Wolfpack.

WVC Division 2:

Champion: Crestwood; Dark Horse: Berwick

Crestwood has become a player in District 2 the past few years. The sleeping giant in Mountaintop (or is it Mountain Top?) has dusted off the morning sleepers and will once again be dominant in WVC Division 2. The Comets return some key players from last year’s District 2 Class 4A title team and are banking on re-loading instead of rebuilding. Because we all know, giants don’t rebuild. It’s hard to believe anyone would ever pick Berwick to be a dark horse candidate, but the Bulldogs fell on hard times last year, and it’s eerily quiet in the land of nuclear power and potato chips. The combination of those two things makes The Rick wonder, are all the predictors sleeping on dem Dawgs?

WVC Division 3:

Champion: Wyoming Area; Dark Horse: Hanover Area

The Rick had originally penciled in Lake-Lehman to win this division, but after the reports of Saturday’s scrimmage on the East Coast crashed into The Rick’s phone like a tidal wave on a stormy day at Point Break, I have dialed expectations back for the Black Knights. I still have them notching more wins than losses, but now I have Wyoming Area as the favorite to take the title. The Rick likes Hanover Area to make a race out of this and maybe even win the title if they could knock off one of the two teams previously mentioned. The Hawkeyes have a favorable schedule, but they will need consistency, something they haven’t shown the past few seasons. I think Hanover could win as many as 7 or 8 games, but if trends are anything to take stock in, it could also be a 3 or 4-win season.

LFC Division I:

Champion: Delaware Valley; Dark Horse: North Pocono

Does anyone reload better than Delaware Valley? Sure, they are a Class 6A school, but it’s been how long since they weren’t top notch? The Rick really doesn’t know. Too many cervezas for me. Anyway, the Warriors are the team to beat once again. But they can’t slip up. North Pocono is right on their heels. And the Trojans have the type of schedule that could have them near the top when they host Delaware Valley in Week 10. A lot of the Jimmy the Greek types also have Wallenpaupack in the mix as the Buckhorns gained a lot of experience last season with a young squad. Maybe purple could be the new black.

 

LFC Division II:

Champion: Scranton Prep; Dark Horse: Western Wayne

This division will come down to Scranton Prep and Valley View. The two schools will face off in Week 10 which could very well be a division championship game. The Prep has been a program that just reloads in its recent history while the Cougars have been waiting for this year’s team to reach their senior seasons for quite some time. Western Wayne is the dark horse. It is only a matter of time before the Wildcats explode. Head Coach Randy Wolff has led the remarkable turnaround in Varden by getting the best and biggest athletes in the school district to commit to winning football. Don’t be surprised if this is the year the Wildcats move to the next level.

LFC Division III:

Champion: Lakeland; Dark Horse: Mid Valley

For the first time in a long time this division will be up for grabs. Lakeland is the leader in the pre-season clubhouse, but you can never count out Dunmore. Mid Valley is the dark horse, only in the sense that they haven’t been heard from in a long time. But the Spartans could end up with the best record in this division. And don’t sleep on Carbondale. The Family always needs a cop on its payroll, and The Rick has new coach Jeff Arthur as his Police Capt. McCloskey. Arthur inherits a fresh slate after the Chargers took 2020 off and has over 50 kids on the roster. His enthusiasm for the game and for the kids of The Pioneer City will pay dividends sooner than later.

LFC Division IV:

Champion: Old Forge; Dark Horse: Lackawanna Trail

There are a lot of people in District 2 that see the regular season as a formality for Old Forge. But don’t tell Head Coach Mike Schuback that. The veteran leader of the Blue Devils knows you buckle your chinstrap every week and get ready for a war – especially when you wear the Blue & Gold. Old Forge opens the season at home with Mid Valley and Dunmore, and while they will be favorites in both games, the Spartans and Bucks aren’t going to be runovers. Trail isn’t really a dark horse in this division, but they are really the only challengers to the Blue Devils. And the Lions get Old Forge in Tunnel Hill this year in Week 10 – and that’s usually when Head Coach Steve Jervis has his club playing their best ball.

THE DISTRICTS….

D2 Class 6A:

Champion: Delaware Valley, Runner-up: Hazleton Area

Warriors – come out and plaaaaaay! This grouping has been Delaware Valley and everyone else. Expect Hazleton to be at ludicrous speed by the end of the season. But don’t expect the Warriors to go plaid in the playoffs! (By the way, Williamsport is now playing in District 6.)

D2 Class 5A:

Champion: Wyoming Valley West, Runner-Up: Abington Heights

Don’t be surprised if Valley West not only wins D2 Class 5A this year (and not by default), but also wins the WVC 1. If all goes right for the Spartans, this could be a year to remember. After a year away from the game due to COVID-19, Abington Heights will try to get back on track. The Comets will be better by Week 11, but The Rick is not sure they will be better than Valley West.

D2 Class 4A:

Champion: Valley View, Runner-up: Crestwood

If The Rick’s predictions come to fruition and Prep outlasts Valley View for the LFC Division 2 crown, then the Cougars are going to enter the district playoffs with something to prove. So, while The Rick doesn’t see a division crown in Valley View’s future, I like Team Paw to beat Crestwood for the Class 4A title and get to the PIAA Playoffs.

D2 Class 3A: Champion: Scranton Prep, Runner-up: Western Wayne

The Rick keeps looking at D2 Class 3A and keeps thinking, this is a toss-up. There are probably four teams in this bracket that can win the whole thing. I’ll take Prep over Western Wayne right now, but don’t look past Wyoming Area and Lakeland either. It could be a heck of a Final Four competition wise. Lake-Lehman, Mid Valley and Hanover Area could also be in the mix. But for now, IGNATIAN NATION REJOICE!

D2 Class 2A:

Champion: Lackawanna Trail; Runner-up: Dunmore

There are four teams in this bracket. All of them from the Lackawanna Football Conference. So, playoff positioning will be key when Week 11 rolls around. Who will get to host the matchups, and the title game, will factor exponentially in Class 2A. The Rick is going out on a limb here – and I am sure giving all of my fans in Bucktown something to pin up on their mirrors ala Rocky Balboa when he trains in Russia – but I will take Trail to win its first ever Class 2A title with a Week 12 win at Tunnel Hill over Dunmore.

D2 Class 1A:

Champion: Old Forge, Runner-up: Holy Cross

God bless Holy Cross. When Week 11 rolls around Old Forge will be tuning up for a playoff run. That will not loom well for the Crusaders. The Blue Devils are the perennial favorite here and that will not change in 2021. Class 1A is technically a subregional tournament with District 1, but the two District 2 teams will play in Week 11 as will the top two District 1 teams. District 1 is Bristol, Morrisville, and Jenkintown. Then in Week 12, the winners will meet.

 

Six-Packs Available

It’s the second season of The Rick’s Six. Nothing fancy. Just my opinion of who are the best Big School teams and the best Small School teams. Nothing else. Remember, it’s where you finish at the end – not the beginning or the middle.

Here it is….

THE PRESEASON BIG-SIX

  1. Delaware Valley (8-2)
  2. Wilkes-Barre (8-2)
  3. Williamsport (7-3)
  4. Valley View (8-2)
  5. Crestwood (8-2)
  6. North Pocono (8-2)

*Missed it by that much…. Valley West (6-4)

 

THE PRESEASON SMALL-SIX

  1. Scranton Prep (10-0)
  2. Old Forge (10-0)
  3. Lakeland (7-3)
  4. Western Wayne (6-4)
  5. Wyoming Area (7-3)
  6. Lackawanna Trail (7-3)

*Missed it by that much…. Dunmore (6-4)

 

THE RICK’S PICKS

Last year, COVID-19 forced us to go back to the original premise of The Rick’s Picks and its divisions. This year, we are going to keep it the same. This way we can make sure to highlight some of the best matchups as the season progresses.

But we will add one wrinkle to the picks – The Rick is going to give you an upset special every week. We’re going to call it the, “Fredo, You Broke My Heart” game. Because really, was Michael Corleone ever more upset than when he found out his older brother took sides against The Family.

For the record, The Rick was 119-30 in 2020. And as an added attraction in 2021, throughout the season, we’ll be keeping score in our own friendly rivalry, matching picks with Consigliere Tom Robinson in his weekly feature on our partner website, NEPASportsNation.com. With no ties in high school football and three games on which we disagree, there is guaranteed to be a leader after Week 1. Check out The Consigliere’s picks at www.nepasportsnation.com.

Here are The Rick’s first picks of 2021.

May their first child be a masculine child (The Big Boys)

Scranton at Wilkes-Barre

Nothing like a rivalry game between the two cities that represent the Seats of their respective counties. Scranton travels to Kingston to take on Wilkes-Barre Area – who will play at Valley West Stadium this season. The Knights and Wolfpack have each given us entertaining games the past few seasons, and The Rick expects this Week 1 matchup to be a classic. Diamond City over Electric City this year!

Wilkes-Barre 37, Scranton 34

 

The Luca Brasi (Toughest Pick of The Week)

Dunmore at Western Wayne

The Rick is torn, hence this game being the Luca Brasi for Week 1. Reports out of Bucktown on their demise are premature. Dunmore will be young, but the Bucks are hungry after last season. And what better way to make a statement, than in Week 1 against a team The Rick likes very much this year – Western Wayne. The Wildcats are on the way up and a victory over the Bucks could signal the final ascent to the top. The Rick is sticking to his guns on the WW edict. Here come the Wildcats….

Western Wayne 21, Dunmore 14

 

Don’t ask me about my business (No Rhyme or Reason)

Lakeland at Lake-Lehman

Lakeland travels to the Back Mountain to open the season in a game that will be big in the standings come playoff time. Lake-Lehman has some rebuilding to do, but the Black Knights have shown in the past their remodels don’t take quite long. In honor of his long-ago consigliere Don David Fife – a Lakeland legend – The Rick likes the Chiefs this week.

Lakeland 14, Lake-Lehman 8

 

Leave the gun, take the cannoli (No-Brainer Pick of The Week)

Nanticoke at Scranton Prep

Lots of Prep love in The Rick’s column this week. My enforcer The Great Hobbini is not going to be too pleased with this. But this is the Cannoli Game. Leave the Trojans, take the Cavaliers.

Prep 44, Nanticoke 16

 

Going to the mattresses (A Rivalry-type Game)

Honesdale at Wallenpaupack

This matchup of long-ago Suburban Conference rivals, kicks things off for two teams with high hopes this season. Wallenpaupack has some bounce back in its step after a tough season in 2020. Honesdale welcomes back second-year coach Paul Russick, a breath of fresh air, as the Hornets continue to build its program. The Rick’s least favorite colors are red and purple, so let’s flip a coin on this one. Heads for horns, and tails for stingers. It’s heads!

Wallenpaupack 22, Honesdale 13

 

I ain’t no bandleader (Give Some Respect)

Holy Redeemer at Holy Cross

Holy Holy Batman! Another rivalry game in Week 1. This one features the two Catholic schools in Lackawanna and Luzerne County. (If the Bishop is reading this, please form one football team for both these schools – a Catholic School Co-Op! It would benefit everyone – your students, your program, AND their opponents.) Both these teams will get a competitive game to start the season, something they may not see for the rest of the year. So, if you are looking for something to do on Saturday afternoon, take a ride to St. Anthony’s Playground in Dunmore and check out two teams busting their tail for what could be their only victory of the season.

Holy Redeemer 31, Holy Cross 21

 

Fredo, You broke my heart (Upset Special)

Susquehanna at Riverside

There was a time when this game had blowout written all over it. That time has passed. There was a time when it was unthinkable that Susquehanna could come to Taylor and beat Riverside. That time has also passed. So it is without reservation that The Rick gives you his inaugural, “Fredo, you broke my heart Upset Special” Game of the Week. Sure, the Vikings need to replace their stat-monster quarterback in what is surely a complicated offense. But that should not matter when one thinks Riverside-Susquehanna, especially since the Sabers are a mystery right now. The Rick sees that mystery getting closer to being solved Friday night. Sabers say, IT WAS YOU FREDO!

Susquehanna 28, Riverside 26

 

Time to settle all Family business

Tunkhannock over Abington Heights

North Pocono over Pittston Area

Valley View over Dallas

Valley West over West Scranton

Lackawanna Trail over Carbondale

Old Forge over Mid Valley

Wyalusing over Montrose

Southern Columbia over Berwick

Wyoming Area over Hazleton

Crestwood over Williamsport

Athens over Hanover Area

Gateway over Delaware Valley