The Rick, Week 1 – 2019
By Rick Notari, BDFN
(1235-338 overall, .784 winning percentage)
Last year, The Rick – a.k.a. Paul Richards – was forced to move to Yuma, AZ after entering the program for wise guys like me. However, after being assured that the East Coast was clear, I am being allowed to return to Northeastern Pennsylvania to continue my sooth-saying of local high school football from a home of my choice. (Let’s hope that also means I will be invited to the premiere of The Irishman this fall.)
My agent Jerry McGuire – no not the one from the movie – tried to get me a role in the film pictation of “I Heard You Paint Houses,” but Scott Mackinozzi from Da Valley beat me out for a bit part. McGuire though was able to get me a sit down once week for the next 8-38 months (depending on my behavior) with Garrison DiMaggio from Avoca, Dominick Petrizato from Old Forge and Sidney Callahan from Dunmore. It’s a probationary thing, but hopefully it will pan out. Sounds like a good gig!
The Loss of Holy Cross
Much like Holy Cross waited, The Rick has waited until moments before kickoff to offer his thoughts for publication on the Holy Cross “situation.” However, unlike the administration at Holy Cross, The Rick is not months late with an analysis of a dire situation.
So let The Rick be the one to call a spade a spade here.
The Holy Cross administration did a disservice not only to its own students who wanted to play football but also to the member schools in the LIAA and in District 2. By waiting until there was less than a week left before the kickoff of the high school football season to announce they would not field a team, they took away the opportunity for their own players to play the game they love this season, and they took away the opportunity for 10 other schools to play a full season of games.
The Rick finds it far-fetched that the administration did not know until July 30 that there would not be enough Crusaders to field a team. Heck, most, if not all of the LIAA, has seen this coming for years. It’s been a few years since the Crusaders have been consistently competitive, and they have rarely fielded a roster of more than 25 players recently.
If I were running things, Holy Cross would be banned from participating in LIAA varsity football for the next three years and their entire athletic program would be put on probation for that same allotment of time. The damage they did to the Lackawanna Football Conference is indefensible.
The Crusaders would then have two options during that time. Play freshman and junior varsity football in hopes of building its program up to one that can sustain a competitive, 10-game varsity schedule or they could try to play varsity football as an independent so they can schedule six-to-eight games against teams that they can compete against without having to play schools they cannot compete against.
Sure it sounds harsh, but it is something that needs to be done if Holy Cross and the LIAA are truly interested in having varsity football return to St. Anthony’s Playground.
The Born Power Index
For years The Grocer – a.k.a. Paul Gerrity – has asked that The Rick provide a point-spread on the games. I was a little hesitant as we do this for fun and do not really want anyone wagering on The Rick’s Picks. I mean if I am not going to get any money out of this, then why should you!
But The Rick found this website that rates teams and then compares them according to that rating. The Born Power Index (www.bornpowerindex.com) is the site, and The Rick is going to use it to give the fans a point-spread for The Godfather games.
The Rick will still only give himself credit for straight wins and losses, but the BPI will be considered when picking the scores.
The Rickter Scale
The Rickter Scale is back! As you know, The Rickter Scale is somewhat complicated yet somewhat simple, and will rank the Top 13 teams every so often because The Rick likes the number 13.
First off, The Rick did his preseason predictions, picking every game on the District 2 High School Football schedule for the 2019 season. Next, it’s a simple mathematics formula that The Rick thought was easy enough, made the most sense, and passed the eye test.
The Rick will also tackle the BIG PICTURE before we get to guessing the games of Week 1. Last year The Rick picked 7 of the 13 champions correctly before a snap was taken. Notice (Again): The Rick is the only prognosticator who makes preseason predictions!
Alright, the explanations are over. Let’s get to some predictions!
THE PRESEASON RICKTER SCALE….
1. Delaware Valley (10-0) 10.4
2. Hazleton Area (7-3) 8.6
3. Valley View (10-0) 8.2
4. Berwick (7-3) 8.2
5. Williamsport (7-3) 8.2
6. Dallas (8-2) 7.8
7. Abington Heights (7-3) 7.6
8. North Pocono (5-5) 6.7
9. Scranton Prep (7-3) 6.0
10. Wyoming Area (9-1) 5.6
11. Lakeland (7-3) 5.0
12. Lake-Lehman (6-4) 4.7
13. Old Forge (8-1) 4.2
WVC Division 1:
Champion: Hazleton Area; Dark Horse: Wilkes-Barre Area
Slowly but surely Hazleton Area Head Coach Mike Brennan has built the Cougars into a contender when it comes to the WVC Division 1 and District 2 Class 6A titles. The largest high school in the district is once again taking football seriously. The Cougars will win WVC-1 but not without a challenge from Williamsport. Wilkes-Barre Area is the dark horse in this division. The Wolfpack will experience growing pains during its first year of existence. But they will have talent as the merger of Coughlin, GAR and Meyers will provide athletes in all facets of the game.
WVC Division 2:
Champion: Dallas; Dark Horse: Pittston Area
Dallas may very well be the best team in the entire WVC this season. The Mountaineers return not only starters on both sides of the ball, but stars. Quarterback Michael Starbuck, running back Lenny Kelly and wideout Luke DelGaudio all return to a balanced offensive attack. Many see the Mountaineers back in the D2 Class 4A title game. But first they must get through a solid WVC Division 2 schedule that includes Hazleton Area, Berwick and arch-rival Lake-Lehman. The Dark Horse in WVC-2 is Pittston Area. The Patriots had a successful scrimmage against Valley West last week but their schedule is daunting with Berwick, Dallas, West Scranton, Williamsport, Scranton Prep and arch-rival Wyoming Area part of the slate. If they can grab one of the crossover games and any of the mentioned WVC games, the Patriots could be in for a winning season.
WVC Division 3:
Champion: Wyoming Area; Dark Horse: Lake-Lehman
Wyoming Area is by far the favorite in WVC Division 3. Lake-Lehman, The Rick’s Dark Horse, will provide the only serious division competition to the Warriors, and that may not even be that much as the boys from West Pittston are a talented bunch. Wyoming Area’s regular-season schedule will prove a bit tougher this year but that will come from outside the WVC, with the addition of Lackawanna Football Conference powers Scranton Prep and Dunmore. Still, the Warriors should have no trouble getting to the post-season as a division champ. Should they falter; the Black Knights will produce another winning campaign to put the pressure on.
LFC Division I:
Champion: Delaware Valley; Dark Horse: Abington Heights
Delaware Valley is again the class of the LFC-I. They should see no challenge from any of the other four teams in the division as they flex some muscle with the biggest roster in the LFC. However, news out of Clarks Summit this past week has Abington Heights getting the “sleeper” nod after a few un-Comet-like seasons in Camelot. The Rick usually doesn’t put much value into scrimmages, but if what I heard is true about last week, then the Comets are indeed back to be reckoned with.
LFC Division II:
Champion: Valley View; Dark Horse: Western Wayne
Valley Who? Yes. It’s Valley View. The Cougars have reloaded for their 50th anniversary and look to make 2019 a memorable season. Many of those Cougar Crazies are licking their chops for another crack at the state playoffs. But the regular-season comes first, and even though some fans do not believe Valley View can be touched, there are solid contenders on the schedule, including WVC powers Berwick and Dallas. Yes both those games are at Papa Bear, but they cannot be ignored. Much like Wyoming Area in the WVC, something catastrophic would have to happen for Valley View to not win the title. Should it happen, The Rick likes Western Wayne as the Dark Horse in LFC-II
LFC Division III:
Champion: Dunmore; Dark Horse: Riverside
Remember when The Rick anointed LFC-III as the “Dunmore Division”? Well, it seems as if I was wr-wr-wr-wrong last year. Lakeland upset the Bucks on the last week of the season to take the division. However, The Rick still likes the Bucks this year. Yes the Chiefs will challenge, but despite their talent at quarterback and tailback, they have some other spots to fill they could keep them out of the championship mix. The Dark Horse again is Riverside. They are going to have to turn games into track meets and basketball games on offense – sprinting buy people on fast breaks and pulling up for three-pointers – but if they can score against the powers in their division, they have a shot to take home the division title.
LFC Division IV:
Champion: Old Forge; Dark Horse: Susquehanna
The last time Old Forge did not win a division that didn’t include Dunmore was 2010. Since then, Old Forge has six LFC division titles. The two years they did not win a title in the past eight years, the Bucks captured the crown. Dunmore is not in LFC-IV, so expect once again for the Blue Devils to take home top honors. The division loses a team in Holy Cross (see above), so teams will only play a three-game division schedule. Trail will battle Old Forge for the championship, but after its trip to the state title game in 2018, the Lions need to replace important cogs to their machine.
D2 Class 6A:
Champion: Delaware Valley, Runner-up: Hazleton Area
The Rickter scale likes the matchup between these four teams in D2 6A. Delaware Valley will host Scranton and Hazleton Area will host Williamsport. Look for a rematch of last year’s final with the Warriors outlasting the Cougars on the turf in Milford at DV Stadium. Delaware Valley is still the class of 6A football in NEPA.
D2 Class 5A:
Champion: Valley West, Runner-up: Wallenpaupack
Here is a crazy prediction for you. Neither team will make the D2/D11 Subregional tournament. Looking at the District 2 website, it seems as if the top four teams make it regardless of district. So The Rick is wagering that neither the Spartans nor Buckhorns qualify for the tournament. Best guess is that they would then play in Week 11 to determine a District 2 Class 5A champ. The Rick will take Valley West to host and win the title game.
D2 Class 4A:
Champion: Valley View, Runner-up: Dallas
This should be the most fun classification to watch all season. There are a lot of good teams, and a few teams that could be great. Here’s how The Rick thinks it will pan out. First round: Valley View over Pittston Area; Berwick over Crestwood; Dallas over West Scranton; and Abington Heights over North Pocono. Semi-Final: Valley View over Abington Heights; Dallas over Berwick. Final: Valley View over Dallas.
D2 Class 3A: Champion: Wyoming Area, Runner-up: Scranton Prep
Three different teams all have a legitimate shot at winning District 2 Class 3A as the season starts. Only six of seven qualify for the playoffs. Scranton Prep and Wyoming Area will get a bye in Week 11 with Lakeland beating Hanover and Western Wayne beating Lake-Lehman in the first round. Prep then outlasts Western Wayne and Wyoming Area beats Lakeland. The Warriors beat the Cavaliers in the final.
D2 Class 2A:
Champion: Dunmore; Runner-up: Riverside
The Dunmore classification (see above) comes down to a matchup with on-the-rise Riverside. The Bucks in true, typical fashion get better as the season progresses. The Vikings will need to stay healthy and follow the same recipe – improve with each week. This will be an interesting matchup in Week 12 if The Rick’s stars align themselves – The Dunmore Buck Truckin’ ground game versus the Riverside Air Armstrong passing game. The Rick is old school. Run the ball and play defense when it’s cold and muddy and win a title.
D2 Class 1A:
Champion: Old Forge, Runner-up: Trail
This rekindled rivalry will play its most intense game in Week 11 this year when Old Forge and Lackawanna Trail meet for the District 2 Class 1A title. Why will it be its most intense game? Because both teams – and a lot of pundits around the area – believe this game is a springboard to Hershey once again. The Lions proved it last year by steamrolling the East side of the bracket to get to the final week of the season. The Blue Devils think this year it is their turn to make a run.
THE RICK’S PICKS
May their first child is a masculine child (Class 6A)
Wilkes-Barre Area (+37) at Crestwood
In the winter of 1983 as a young 12 year old, The Rick remembers the North Carolina State men’s basketball team upsetting the Houston Cougars for the NCAA title. CBS Sports used the Duran Duran hit “Hungry Like The Wolf” in their highlight packages of the NC State Wolfpack during the Cinderella run. I sure hope the new Wilkes-Barre Area football team uses the song during its inaugural season. The Rick can picture the team chanting, “hungry like the wolf, hungry like the wolf, hungry like the wolf….,” as they huddle before running out of the lockerroom and through one of those big paper signs. The Rick has chills just thinking about it. As for the game, The Rick likes Crestwood. But the Comets won’t cover the BPI rating difference. Still, it would be cool to see WBA Head Coach Cito Cinti running around the field after the game like a young Jimmy Valvano did in 1983.
Crestwood 27, Wilkes-Barre Area 13
The Luca Brasi (Class 5A)
Valley View (-16) at Wallenpaupack
Wallenpaupack is fresh off its best season in over a decade. Valley View set the standard in 2018 and has lost some of its best players to graduation. But don’t expect a barnburner here. The Buckhorns are in rebuilding mode while the Cougars are reloading for another run at a state title. Valley View returns dual-threat quarterback Janaasah Boone to lead the offense which won’t be your daddy’s three-yards and a cloud of dust effort. The Cougars are more that the electric Boone as the talent is young and plentiful. If that talent proves dependable and Valley View is able to put Boone in multiple formations to maximize his ability, look out. The BPI has this rated a two-touchdown game. The Rick sees it more like four.
Valley View 36, Wallenpaupack 8
Don’t ask me about my business (Class 4A)
West Scranton at North Pocono (-6.5)
One of the big upsets of Week 1 last season was West Scranton blasting North Pocono, 27-0. The two teams meet again and The Rick is skeptical on picking North Pocono again. This year, the Trojans have lost some major pieces from last season and West Scranton has some big guns back. Ugh, The Rick is stumped. I am going to go with the home team – the Trojans in probably one of my most “Don’t Ask Me About My Business” picks in a few years. The Rick will even take North Pocono to cover the BPI rating even though I think this game is a pick ‘em.
North Pocono 14, West Scranton 7
Leave the gun, take the cannoli (Class 3A)
Dunmore (+18) at Scranton Prep
An old school rivalry opens the season once again for Dunmore and Scranton Prep as the Bucks and the Cavaliers tangle on Saturday afternoon at Scranton Memorial Stadium. Prep has been on quite a run the past few seasons and Dunmore, well, is Dunmore. But last year, the Cavaliers squashed the Bucks, 31-0, to kickoff 2018. Both teams are inexperienced up front this year, and it will be up to the playmakers to make things happen for both offenses early in the season. Kevin McHale is at the helm officially this year for Dunmore after the legend, Jack Henzes retired. (McHale served in an interim role last year while the Henzes was sidelined.) All eyes will be on him in Bucktown. But The Rick doesn’t think the Crimson faithful should grade the new ball coach on just Friday night’s results. It’ll be a good one, but IGNATIONS REJOICE!
Scranton Prep 26, Dunmore 13
Going to the mattresses (Class 2A)
Susquehanna at Riverside (+8.5)
Maybe for the first time in local high school football history, two teams will face off for the third consecutive time – on the same field. When Susquehanna travels to Taylor to take on Riverside tomorrow night it will be the third straight game between the now, Class 2A rivals. The Sabers beat the Vikings twice to end last season, first in Week 10, and then in the opening round of the District 2 Class 2A playoffs. And while Susquehanna looks to bring out the brooms, an explosive Vikings offense returns to avoid the sweep. Quarterback John Gilchrist and wideout Razen Reyes, both off record-setting campaigns, look to light up the scoreboard once again this season at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The BPI has the Sabers favored, but The Rick has the other side in an “upset” to start the season.
Riverside 27, Susquehanna 17
I ain’t no bandleader (Class 1A)
Lackawanna Trail (-25 ½) at Northwest
The defending Eastern PIAA Class 1A champ opens the season against one of its District 2 Class 1A rivals when the Trail Lions travel to Shickshinny to take on Northwest. Fresh off its first trip to Hershey, the Lions will need to replace some important pieces of the team that went to the state final. But Trail returns the middle of its offense and defense in FB/LB Ray Melnikoff. The Rangers are rebuilding and probably in their last season in District 2 as they are making the move to the Northern Tier League in 2020. The NTL is made of up teams from District 4.
Trail 32, Northwest 6
Time to settle all family business
Scranton (-10 ½) over Valley West
Delaware Valley (+7) over Pennridge
Berwick over Abington Heights (+30 ½)
Lakeland (-4) over Honesdale
Wyalusing (-5) over Montrose
Western Wayne over Lake-Lehman (+13)
Wyoming Area over Mid Valley (+45)
Old Forge over Carbondale (+27 ½)
Pottsville (+8 ½) over Hazleton Area
Williamsport (-12) over Central Mountain
Pittston Area (+5) over Nanticoke Area
Dallas over Tunkhannock (+39 ½)
Athens (-4) over Hanover Area