The Rick, Week 1 – 2023

By Rick Notari, BDFN
@TheBigBlueDevil
(1895-519 overall, .785 winning percentage)

 The Future of Football

Hello Friends (and foes),

It’s been a crazy off-season of football on both the collegiate and professional levels. And the only part of it that The Rick was involved in was the gambling end of it. More and More fans are gambling on college and pro football. Luckily, they still don’t allow gambling on high school games – well, unless you live in Peckville, Pittston or Pizzatown, USA.

The entire landscape of major college football is about to be blown up entirely. Armageddon began this summer. Tradition has been thrown out the window and money, now more than ever, is the primary goal in Division 1. On the pro level, the running back has become a devalued, low-paid position, where seemingly a low-drafted or free agent back can be a bell cow. Money driven again because of scheme and action, giving fans more of what they want – immediate highlights.

Are both changes coming to high school next?

Let’s start with the running back position. More and more NEPA high school teams are adopting a spread offensive look. Rosters seem to have more skill players than linemen, and even those linemen are looking more athletic than in years past. Coaches are starting to take advantage of that athleticism on the roster and are throwing the ball around in record numbers. The days of a 20-to-25 carry per game running back could be gone in the wind.

Realignment is always a favorite topic for The Rick, and with the two-year cycle ending after this year, and Williamsport bolting the WVC, we may as well discuss a total renewal of divisions in District 2. Let’s blow the whole thing up! Just like college football! The Rick has three options, one of which is a return to tradition, one is a regional realignment, and another is a program power setup. With 33 teams to work with, it’s a perfect storm of three divisions of 11 teams each for a 10-game schedule. There will be no need for crossovers.

Here goes:

 TRADITIONAL:

The Big 11Abington Heights, Delaware Valley, Dunmore, Lakeland, North Pocono, Pittston Area, Scranton, Scranton Prep, Valley View, West Scranton, Wyoming Area.

The Suburban ConferenceCarbondale, Holy Cross, Honesdale, Lackawanna Trail, Mid Valley, Montrose, Old Forge, Riverside, Susquehanna, Wallenpaupack, Western Wayne.

Wyoming Valley ConferenceBerwick, Crestwood, Dallas, Hanover Area, Hazleton Area, Holy Redeemer, Lake-Lehman, Nanticoke Area, Tunkhannock, Valley West, Wilkes-Barre.

 

REGIONAL:

NorthAbington Heights, Carbondale, Delaware Valley, Honesdale, Lackawanna Trail, Montrose, North Pocono, Susquehanna, Tunkhannock, Wallenpaupack, Western Wayne.

Central – Dunmore, Holy Cross, Lakeland, Mid Valley, Old Forge, Pittston Area, Scranton Prep, Riverside, Scranton, Valley View, West Scranton.

South – Berwick, Crestwood, Dallas, Hanover Area, Hazleton Area, Holy Redeemer, Lake-Lehman, Nanticoke Area, Valley West, Wilkes-Barre, Wyoming Area.

 

POWER:

Division 1: – Abington Heights, Berwick, Crestwood, Dallas, Delaware Valley, Hazleton Area, Scranton, Scranton Prep, Valley View, Wilkes-Barre, Wyoming Area.

Division 2: – Dunmore, Honesdale, Lakeland, Lake-Lehman, North Pocono, Pittston Area, Riverside, Valley West, Wallenpaupack, West Scranton, Western Wayne.

Division 3: – Carbondale, Hanover Area, Holy Cross, Holy Redeemer, Lackawanna Trail, Mid Valley, Montrose, Nanticoke Area, Old Forge, Susquehanna, Tunkhannock.

 

Remember, don’t ask The Rick about his business.

And speaking of business, The Rick was 169-45 in 2022 and improved on his career record of 1,895-519. A mediocre season will get me to the elusive 2,000-win mark. A great season gets me to 2,100. So, let’s stop wasting time, and get to the 2023 picks.

The Rick is going to make the divisional picks a little different this year. I am going to give you the full standings prediction and each team’s over/under for wins and The Rick’s Pick. May as well make some people mad right off the bat, right? Here goes….

 

THE DIVISIONS….  

WVC Division 1: Crestwood (O/U 8 – over), Dallas (O/U 7.5 – over), Berwick (O/U 7 – under), Williamsport (O/U 6 – under), Hazleton Area (O/U 5.5 – under), Wilkes-Barre Area (O/U 5 – under), Valley West (O/U 5 – under). The Week 2 Dallas at Crestwood game will ultimately decide this division, however, don’t count out Berwick. The Rick also said this a few years ago and wasn’t close to being right. But if the Bulldogs can win on the road at both Dallas and Crestwood, they could claim the division.

 

WVC Division 2: Wyoming Area (O/U 7 – over), Pittston Area (O/U 6.5 – under), Nanticoke (O/U 6 – under), Tunkhannock (O/U 5.5 – under), Lake-Lehman (O/U 5 – under), Hanover Area (O/U 5 – under), Holy Redeemer (O/U 5 – under). When I started breaking down the 2023 season, I had this different. But after further research all the way up until deadline, The Rick likes Wyoming Area to take back control of WVC-2. But it won’t be easy. The rival Pittston Area Patriots will keep pace until Week 10 when WA visits the PA at Charley Trippi Stadium. That game should decide the title. Nanticoke has the best shot to turn this division upside down. But the Trojans would need to win on the road in West Pittston and Yatesville.

 

LFC Division I: Delaware Valley (O/U 8 – over), Scranton Prep (O/U 7.5 – over), Valley View (O/U 7.5 – under), Scranton (O/U 7 – under), Abington Heights (O/U 6 – under), North Pocono (O/U 5.5 – under), Wallenpaupack (O/U 5 – under). Delaware Valley is the clear favorite in LFC 1. The Warriors have posted mediocre records (for them) for three straight seasons. Do not expect a fourth straight. Prep will be in the mix again, but they have some reloading to do. Valley View needs to replace a gaggle of talent, including in the trenches. Two tough games to open the season may put the Cougars behind the eight-ball. If, they survive Crestwood and Berwick, they could battle for the crown.

 

LFC Division II: Dunmore (O/U 8 – over), Western Wayne (O/U 7.5 – under), Lakeland (O/U 7 – under), West Scranton (O/U 6 – under), Honesdale (O/U 5.5 – under), Mid Valley (O/U 5 – under). The Bucks are back. After a few down seasons by their standards, Dunmore is ready to take control of LFC 2. And while, nothing is ever easy, the rest of the division faces some rebuilding. Lakeland lost a plethora of talent and Western Wayne has some gaps to fill. Honesdale could be the surprise team. The Hornets have been hovering around the .500 mark the past few seasons and just may be ready for a breakout year.

 

LFC Division III: Riverside (O/U 6.5 – over), Lackawanna Trail (O/U 6.5 – over), Old Forge (O/U 6.5 – under), Carbondale (O/U 5.5 – under), Susquehanna (O/U 5 – under), Holy Cross (O/U 5 – under). There will be some change in LFC 3 with Riverside gaining the nod as the favorite. The Vikings return many of their offensive weapons from a year ago and have dedicated themselves to improving in the trenches and on defense. That combination will be a dangerous one. A slow start is possible for Riverside but expect a full sprint to the finish. Trail is the top contender, but the Lions will have to travel to Taylor after hosting Old Forge. The Blue Devils are rebuilding as they need to replace 9-10 multi-year starters on both sides of the ball.

 

THE DISTRICTS….

D2 Class 6A:

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

The biggest class in District 2 is part of a subregional with Districts 4 and 11. Last year, both teams were eliminated in the first round of the eight-team tournament. The Cougars were the higher seed of the two teams and thus according to the paper rules of the district were awarded the title. Maybe this year they could let the two teams play for the title should they both lose in the first round.

 

D2 Class 5A:

Champion: Delaware Valley, Runner-Up: Scranton

The four top-seeded teams in the six-team field make the cut in Class 5A. Defending champion Delaware Valley will again win this class with another close win over the Knights. Abington Heights will face the Warriors in the semifinals and Pittston Area will face Scranton. West Scranton will just miss out on a berth because of its strength of schedule.

 

D2 Class 4A:

Champion: Crestwood, Runner-up: Dallas

Ten teams make up the Class 4A field with eight teams advancing to the tournament. Crestwood is the defending champion and will repeat in 2023. I think we are starting to see a pattern here. An early look at this class has the Comets and Dallas as the top tier teams with the other six The Rick picks to make the playoffs in a pack. Predicted first round games are North Pocono at Crestwood, Tunkhannock at Dallas, Nanticoke at Wyoming Area, and Valley View at Berwick.

 

D2 Class 3A:

Champion: Scranton Prep, Runner-up: Western Wayne

Prep looks to be head and shoulders above the other five teams in Class 3A. Western Wayne should easily grab the second seed and set up a rematch of last year’s title game which the Cavaliers won. But there will be a new team in the tournament this season. The Rick is going out on a limb and predicting that Montrose will qualify for the D2 tourney despite playing an independent schedule. The Meteors will be the fourth team behind Carbondale who will qualify as the third seed.

 

D2 Class 2A:

Champion: Dunmore; Runner-up: Riverside

The first – and only classification – that will not see a repeat winner is in Class 2A where Dunmore will dethrone Lakeland. The Chiefs will still make the field, but the revved-up Vikings will advance to the final. Susquehanna will be the fourth team to qualify, beating out Mid Valley for the final spot.

 

D2 Class 1A:

Champion: Lackawanna Trail, Runner-up: Old Forge

If you noticed in the paragraph above, The Rick stated that Lakeland would be the only team that will not repeat. Which means I am calling for Lackawanna Trail to once again rule the Class 1A jungle. Now all The Rick’s hometown people may be upset, but when they look at the numbers – and Old Forge is indeed a numbers town – they will understand the prediction. The Lions are 8-3 in playoff matchups against the Blue Devils with all three losses coming on the road. If Old Forge wants to take back the crown, they’ll need to find a way to host this game.

 

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. Here are The Rick’s first game picks of 2023.

 

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

Scranton at Wilkes-Barre Area

This game has not disappointed since its inception a few years ago. Nothing like the student-athletes

from the Electric City and the Diamond City kicking things off to start the local high school football

season. I wonder if Scranton and Wilkes-Barre would ever consider playing this game on a Thursday

night to open the season so the fans from all over NEPA could take the game in. What an electric

atmosphere this would be.

Knights 37, Wolfpack 31

 

The Luca Brasi (Toughest Pick of The Week)

Riverside at West Scranton

This game is a tough one to pick. While, The Rick thinks Riverside could get off to a slow start, I fully expect the Vikings to be one of the better teams in the LFC come Week 10. West Scranton continues to build a foundation for success and began that process last season with an opening week win on the road over Riverside. Both teams should be better this year, and this is a rivalry game. It may not be a bad idea to catch this matchup of neighbors if you are a fan of high school football.

Invaders 22, Vikings 21

 

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

North Pocono at Wyoming Valley West

This game could be one of the more interesting matchups of the week. Can North Pocono bounce back from a rough 2022? Can Valley West return to form after a disastrous winless campaign last season? These are the questions The Rick wants answered!

Trojans 24, Spartans 19

 

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

Wyoming Area at Tunkhannock

This game was a shootout last year. Expect more points again, but Tunkhannock should be better on defense as they welcome former Valley West Head Coach Pat Keating into the fold as the new Tiger King. Still, Wyoming Area will once again be an offensive force to reckon with as they look to ground and pound their way to another winning season.

Warriors 34, Tigers 21

 

Going to the mattresses (A Rivalry-type Game)

Wallenpaupack at Honesdale

This game prevented an up-and-coming Honesdale program from surpassing the .500 mark in 2022. Wallenpaupack won only one game last year – and this was it. The Hornets and Buckhorns don’t like each other. So much so, that this game is being played at a neutral site. Instead of just flipping the game to Wallenpaupack while the Hornets’ Nest gets a facelift with new turf which is expected to be finished shortly. The game, instead, will be played at the Sharkey Rosetti Complex on the campus of Western Wayne School District.

Hornets 23, Buckhorns 17

 

I ain’t no bandleader (Give Some Respect)

Carbondale Area at Nanticoke Area

This game will have some juice after last year’s meeting was marred with an ejection and some questioned calls on Carbondale’s part. Nanticoke has laid down some new turf and will christen its refurbed digs as the Chargers roll into town. The Trojans have high hopes for the season and expect to set the tempo on those expectations in Week 1.

Trojans 27, Chargers 13

 

Fredo, You broke my heart (Upset Special)

Pittston Area at Hazleton Area

Last season, I picked West Scranton over Riverside in this slot, so I can’t pick them again. Even though I like the Invaders to pull off the win again this week. Let’s go to the WVC where I believe Pittston Area continues to build its program. The Tomato Titans head south to Hazleton where they will need to prove The Rick right. And they will! Patriots say, IT WAS YOU FREDO!

Pittston Area 23, Hazleton Area 16

 

Time to settle all Family Business

Dallas over Abington Heights

Delaware Valley over Selinsgrove

Scranton Prep over Lakeland

Crestwood over Valley View

Western Wayne over Lake-Lehman

Dunmore over Old Forge

Hanover Area over Holy Cross

Lackawanna Trail over Mid Valley

Susquehanna over Holy Redeemer

Southern Columbia over Berwick

State College over Williamsport

 

SIX TRICKS

It’s the fourth 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 in the list are each team’s regular season record and final ranking from last season.

Here it is….

THE PRESEASON BIG-SIX

  1. Delaware Valley (5-5) 3
  2. Crestwood (9-1) 1
  3. Dallas (8-2) 4
  4. Scranton (7-3) 6
  5. Valley View (8-2) 2
  6. Berwick (4-6) 8

Just missed it: Wyoming Area (5-5) 14

 

THE PRESEASON SMALL-SIX

  1. Dunmore (7-3) 4
  2. Scranton Prep (7-3) 2
  3. Riverside (6-4) 7
  4. Western Wayne (8-2) 3
  5. Lakeland (10-0) 1
  6. Lackawanna Trail (6-4) 5

Just missed out: Old Forge (7-3) 6