The Rick, Week 1 – 2022
By Rick Notari, BDFN
@TheBigBlueDevil
(1726-473 overall, .786 winning percentage)

 

Head on a swivel

There is an old saying on the gridiron that coaches like to bark out when players get lit up by a blindside block or if they are just standing around at the pile – “Keep your head on a swivel!” Well, The Rick has had his head on a swivel this summer due to the rash of mob actor deaths the past few months.

It’s been a bad beat this year for those who have portrayed mobsters on TV and film, including the original bad guy and The Rick’s favorite Godfather character James Caan – a.k.a. Santino “Sonny” Corleone. His movie death prompted The Godfather to cry out, “Look how they massacred my boy” and the scene of his death inspired a band to name themselves, “Sonny on the Causeway.”

Other famous actors, Ray Liotta (Henry Hill) of Goodfellas fame, Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts) from The Sopranos, locally known Paul Sorvino (Pauly) of Goodfellas, and Paul Herman (Beansie) from The Sopranos have all passed on to mob heaven this summer. That’s a lot of Pauls there. And The Rick’s middle name is Paul. So, you can see why I am being careful.

All have served as an inspiration for The Rick and this column in some short fashion. But in no uncertain terms, The Rick isn’t ready to join them anytime soon. Unless of course the real boss of the NPF Network decides to whack The Rick. It won’t be personal, just business.

And speaking of business, The Rick was 172-52 in 2021 and improved on his career record of 1,726-473. A good season could put me in reach of the elusive 2,000-win mark. So, let’s stop wasting time, and get to the 2022 picks….

 

THE DIVISIONS….  

WVC Division 1:

Champion: Hazleton Area; Dark Horse: Crestwood

The Rick is not so sure this pick is due to the rise of Hazleton Area or the perceived drop in some of the other programs in this division. But let’s go with the former. The Cougars have been building for this year, and with a group of returnees in key positions, Hazleton is the front-runner to start the season in WVC-1. A lot of pundits believe this is the Year of the Comet. Crestwood also returns some talent on both sides of the ball, but the Mountaintop Maulers have a tougher start to the season. Some believe Berwick is the mix here too, but The Rick believes if it’s not Hazleton Area, it will be Dallas.

 

WVC Division 2:

Champion: Wyoming Area; Dark Horse: Pittston Area

The WVC has gone to two divisions, but it doesn’t matter where they put Wyoming Area, the Warriors are once again the favorite to win WVC-2. Wyoming Area is a few years removed from its state title, but the trickle-down effect of that success is still being felt. The Rick likes Pittston Area as a dark horse in this division as the Patriots do have the largest enrollment of the seven teams in WVC-2. The division could come down to Week 10 when the Warriors cross the Susquehanna River to Charley Trippi Stadium, but this really is a one-horse race.

 

LFC Division I:

Champion: Delaware Valley; Dark Horse: Scranton Prep

There will be two teams within the LFC-1 with better records than Delaware Valley when the season ends. The Rick expects both Scranton Prep and Valley View to end the season with less losses than the Warriors. But those DV losses won’t come within the division, thus giving coach Keith Olsommer – the dean of District 2 coaches – another banner to raise in Milford. The Rick can see both the Cavaliers and the Cougars taking the crown, however, both are going to have to best DV on the road.

 

LFC Division II:

Champion: Lakeland; Dark Horse: Dunmore

The one team outside of LFC-1 that could compete in the big school division this season is Lakeland. The Rick has no doubt that the Chiefs could very well end the season as the top team in the entire LFC, but for now, let’s just plug them in as the team to beat in LFC-2. The rest of the division will battle it out for wins, but at this moment, The Rick does not see any of the other five squads giving Lakeland a run. But if there is a dark horse in the division, it is Dunmore. The Bucks are coming off a disappointing season in 2021 and are looking to get back to their dominant selves. Pride is a funny thing.

 

LFC Division III:

Champion: Old Forge; Dark Horse: Carbondale

Some eyebrows were raised last week when The Rick suggested to some friends that this may be the final year of dominance for Old Forge. The Blue Devils are senior heavy and shouldn’t need to rely on many underclassmen this season to feed a very hungry beast. Near misses at an elusive trip to Hershey the past three seasons has this team angry and self-aware that this is their last shot to play for gold. The schedule is harder this year but may very well be what the doctor ordered to cure what ails Old Forge in the postseason. Carbondale also welcomes back a talented upper class and will continue to build on last year’s turnaround. The Chargers, along with Lackawanna Trail, will give Old Forge a run should the Blue Devils falter.

 

THE DISTRICTS….

D2 Class 6A:

Champion: Hazleton Area, Runner-up: Wilkes-Barre Area

The only two teams at 6A after enrollment numbers dropped Delaware Valley and Scranton to 5A will have Hazleton Area or Wilkes-Barre Area gaining the nod as the top team from District 2. They may not win the title on the field as District 2 joins District 4 (Williamsport) and District 11 in an eight-team subregional. Typically, no district is guaranteed a spot in a subregional and must earn their way it. We will keep a close eye on the power rankings as the season winds on. But Hazleton Area should have no trouble solidifying a spot.

 

D2 Class 5A:

Champion: Delaware Valley, Runner-Up: Pittston Area

Delaware Valley drops to 5A where they should be able to be more competitive at the state level. The other five teams should be equal throughout the season and while they are playing for second, it will be fun to see where they end up in the bracket and how the four-team bracket shakes out. The Rick did a quick preseason bracketology and sees Pittston Area coming out to face the Warriors in the title game. But don’t count out West Scranton – that’s right, if you have been stowed away in a safe house the last three months you may not realize the Invaders are now part of The Family. And The Rick never goes against The Family – even the Scranton offshoots.

 

THE RICK’S PICKS….

D2 Class 4A:

Champion: Valley View, Runner-up: Dallas

Top to bottom, Class 4A should be the most competitive and most interesting of the six classes in District 2. Valley View is the early favorite but surely will be challenged by Dallas, Wyoming Area, and North Pocono. Crestwood and Berwick could even be in the mix. This eight-team bracket will be one that could see upsets in three of the four first-round games. The Cougars will be the one team that doesn’t face an early upset and will enjoy three games in November at home.

 

D2 Class 3A:

Champion: Scranton Prep, Runner-up: Carbondale

The good news for Scranton Prep is that all its serious competition has either moved up a class or dropped down a class. The bad news is, they shouldn’t face any post-season adversity until the state playoffs begin. Only four teams will play in this bracket, and it will be Carbondale, Lake-Lehman and Western Wayne joini6ng the Cavaliers in the postseason unless something drastic happens during the regular season.

 

D2 Class 2A:

Champion: Lakeland, Runner-up: Dunmore

Much like Class 5A and 3A, everyone besides Lakeland is playing for second. The Chiefs will be one of the top teams in any class in District 2 and should have no trouble winning in 2A after dropping down a class this cycle. Dunmore should have no problems being the No. 2 seed when the season is over, but the other two playoff spots will be up for grabs among the other five teams in the classification. The Rick may need a Snickers, or maybe it is divine intervention, but he sees Holy Redeemer and Holy Cross as the other two teams in the postseason.

 

D2 Class 1A:

Champion: Old Forge, Runner-up: Lackawanna Trail

Does it really matter that there are only two teams in Class 1A? It doesn’t because these are the only two Class 1A teams that have mattered on the district and state level during the past decade or so for District 2. Old Forge is back again trying to find the recipe for that elusive trip to the state final. Lackawanna Trail is also back to Class 1A after a successful run in Class 2A due to the ridiculous PIAA “Success” Formula which got even more ridiculous this past summer. The Rick digresses. The Lions typically give the Blue Devils fits in the postseason and this year could be no different. Either way, the winner should again make noise in the state playoffs.

 

Ok! Let’s get to Week 1….

 

THE RICK’S PICKS

The Rick’s Picks once again will feature seven highlighted games. The standard six from the past decade, along with one that seemed to find some footing. Last year we added a wrinkle to the picks – an upset special every week. We called it the “Fredo, You Broke My Heart” game and the response was so positive, we decided to keep it this year. So, enjoy the standards and the relative newcomer.

 

Also, look for the friendly competition between The Rick and The Consigliere, Tom Robinson from NEPA Sports Nation. T-Rob got the best of The Rick in 2021, but The Rick didn’t get mad, he just decided to get even. So, check out Tom’s picks at https://nepasportsnation.com/tom-robinsons-predictions-high-school-football-week-1-season/

 

Here are The Rick’s first game picks of 2022.

 

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

Wilkes-Barre Area at Scranton High

The Rick would love to see this game pushed back to later in the season. It just seems to me that sometimes the city schools don’t get as early of a jump on the season as the suburban schools do. So let these team’s get their feet wet a little with a few weeks under their collective belts before they face off. It should make for an even better game. Scranton will debut their new scarlet helmets in this one. But The Rick likes the color scheme of Wilkes-Barre Area a little better. And yes, The Rick is choosing colors to pick this game. Hey, I need to meet Title IX requirements just like the next goombah.

Wolfpack 23, Knights 12

 

The Luca Brasi (Toughest Pick of The Week)

Scranton Prep at Lakeland

Let it be known that when The Rick wrote this prediction up on Friday, I had Scranton Prep beating Lakeland 29-28 in what many would qualify as the game of the year in District 2 for the 2022 season. Then disaster struck on Saturday for the Cavaliers and the premier player in all of District 2. Reports that surfaced all weekend were confirmed on Tuesday that star tailback London Montgomery suffered an injury in Prep’s scrimmage that could cost him his senior season. Needless to say, this, changes the outlook of this game. And while The Rick thinks the Cavaliers will come out with a purpose to show they are not a one-man squad; the emotions of the weekend may be too much to overcome. The Rick is reversing his fortune-telling.

Chiefs 28, Cavaliers 20

 

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

Valley View at Crestwood

I really think this game won’t be as close as The Rick is predicting. Valley View must replace some toughness in the trenches, but most of the skill guys are back, including the Cougars quarterback and tailback. So, there may be some rust in the first game of the season as they look to gel. Crestwood also has some talent returning, but the Comets really struggled last season. A win in this game could turn Crestwood’s fortunate around and push them to a good start. But The Rick sees this as a VV win.

Cougars 28, Comets 21

 

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

Southern Columbia over Berwick

There was a time when The Rick would know the major players on the Southern Columbia roster. Its probably because it was the Tigers that ended my high school career in 1988. So, The Rick has always held a grudge. But this year, The Rick couldn’t name one of the stars that Coach Jim Roth has in his collection in Catawissa. The Rick could say the same about Berwick, because before the Southern Columbia dominance, there were the dominating Dawgs. But the Berwick dynasty is over and thinking that it isn’t is nothing more than old men living in the past.

Tigers 47, Dawgs 13

 

Going to the mattresses (A Rivalry-type Game)

Dunmore at Old Forge

The 70th matchup of Dunmore and Old Forge kicks off the Mattress segment for The Rick this season. The second-longest series in the Blue Devils history mostly leans in Dunmore’s favor. The Bucks don’t have the best winning percentage against Old Forge, but they do have the most victories over the Blue Devils with 40. They also have the most ties with six. Old Forge will close the gap this week, but The Rick expects this to be a tough, old-school matchup.

Blue Devils 26, Bucks 14

 

I ain’t no bandleader (Give Some Respect)

Holy Cross at Hanover Area

The Rick admits it. He was impressed with the grit Holy Cross played with last season. And seeing that many of the key players in their turnaround season are back, The Rick expects another solid season from the Crusaders. For whatever reason, Hanover Area just can’t get things turned around. The Hawkeyes were once built on toughness and pride. Somewhere along the last decade, those tenets have slipped away. If they can get back to playing that style, they can win some games. The Rick will need to see that first though.

Crusaders 23, Hawkeyes 15

 

Fredo, You broke my heart (Upset Special)

West Scranton at Riverside

Anyone that has read The Rick’s column the past 10 or so years and closely follows high school football had to know this game and this pick would turn up somewhere in the column. This old-school rivalry of neighboring school districts goes back a long way and has been rekindled for the 2022 season. Adding to the spice of the West Scranton-Riverside rivalry will be the debut of former Old Forge all-state star Jake Manetti as the Invaders head coach. Manetti is familiar with facing the Vikings air-raid offense as a member of the Blue Devils defensive staff the past two season, so that should help in the opener. But Riverside is starting fresh with a new helmet and logo scheme and the Vikings are approaching the season with positivity and confidence they can turn things around in 2022. The Rick thinks Riverside will improve on last season, but you never go against the family, even when they move across the river to the Jersey side. Invaders say, IT WAS YOU FREDO!

Invaders 20, Vikings 18

 

Time to settle all Family business

Dallas over Abington Heights

Mosley (FL) over Delaware Valley

Wallenpaupack over Honesdale

North Pocono over Valley West

Western Wayne over Lake-Lehman

Carbondale over Nanticoke Area

Lackawanna Trail over Mid Valley

Holy Redeemer over Susquehanna

Hazleton Area over Pittston Area

State College over Williamsport

Wyoming Area over Tunkhannock

 

SIX-PACKS AVAILABLE

It’s the third 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 to start the season. Nothing else. Remember, it’s where you finish at the end – not the beginning or the middle. Included with the list are each team’s regular season record from last season.

 

Here it is….

 

THE PRESEASON BIG-SIX

  1. Hazleton Area (8-4)
  2. Delaware Valley (9-4)
  3. Valley View (12-2)
  4. Dallas (8-3)
  5. Wyoming Area (10-2)
  6. North Pocono (10-3)

 

THE PRESEASON SMALL-SIX

  1. Lakeland (10-2)
  2. Old Forge (11-1)
  3. Scranton Prep (12-1)
  4. Western Wayne (4-7)
  5. Dunmore (4-7)
  6. Lackawanna Trail (8-4)