By EMMETT MCCALL
Are you ready for some football?
After weeks of practice and months of anticipation, the 2011 high school football season will kick off tonight for all nine TIMES NEWS area teams.
A couple of years ago, I did an A-to-Z rundown of high school football in my season welcoming column. This year, I thought I would change from an alphabetical look at the season to a numerical look.
So here it is, the 2011 scholastic football season by the numbers:
0 – As in the number of losses Allentown Central Catholic had a year ago during its 16-game blitz to a PIAA Class AAA State Championship. This year, the Vikings return their quarterback, their top receiver and their top running back from a team that averaged over 400 yards and 40 points a game … can you say repeat?
1 – Teams in the area that won't play a true home game all year. Jim Thorpe will be using Panther Valley's field for its home games this season because of work being done to fix drainage problems on its field.
2 – New head coaches in the TN area this season as Lon Hazlet takes over at Panther Valley and Chris Walkowiak takes the reins at Palmerton.
3 – Area teams that qualified for postseason play a year ago. Pleasant Valley made the D-11 Class AAAA playoffs and Northern Lehigh and Jim Thorpe were in the D-11 Class AA playoffs.
4 – Returning players who ranked in the top 10 in yardage among area running backs last season. Northwestern's Ty Cunningham (3rd, 1,024 yards); Pleasant Valley's Rob Getz (6th, 710); Marian's Paul Martin (7th, 668) and Palmerton's Alex Vignone (8th, 584) will all be back this season.
5 – Local teams that return their starting quarterback. At no position is experience more critical, which means the offenses at Lehighton (Josh Agosto), Marian (Corey Quick), Northern Lehigh (Dylan Hofmann), Northwestern (Ben Snyder) and Panther Valley (Nick McArdle) have a nice advantage.
6 – Non-Friday night football games area teams are scheduled to play this season. If you are looking for games to see when your favorite team isn't in action check out these games: Lehighton at Panther Valley (9/15); Marian at Pius X (9/24); No. Lehigh at Pen Argyl (10/8); Mahanoy Area vs. Jim Thorpe at Panther Valley (10/15); Schuylkill Haven vs. Jim Thorpe at Panther Valley (10/22); Palmerton at Pen Argyl (10/29). All the games are on Saturday except the Lehighton at Panther Valley game which is on a Thursday.
7 – Games the TIMES NEWS Sports Department Facebook page will be giving live updates from during tonight's opening week of the season. When the scores change you will get immediate updates of the Lehighton at Marian, Jim Thorpe at Tamaqua, Panther Valley at Mahanoy Area, Pleasant Valley at Nazareth, Palmerton at Notre Dame, Northern Lehigh at Southern Lehigh and Palisades at Northwestern games. If you haven't "liked" the TIMES NEWS Sports Department Facebook site yet, do it now and keep abreast of all the local teams.
8 – Consecutive years that Northern Lehigh has beaten Northwestern the longest current streak in matchups between two TIMES NEWS area teams. The Bulldogs' actual win streak is nine games since they beat the Tigers twice during the 2003 season.
9 – Seniors on the Jim Thorpe roster, which is the fewest of any area team. Lehighton with 22 and Northwestern with 19 have the two largest senior classes.
10 – Years the Anthracite Football League has now been in existence. The league was formed back in 2002 and included eight teams (Jim Thorpe, Mahanoy Area, Marian, Minersville, Panther Valley, Schuylkill Haven, Shenandoah and Tamaqua) during its inaugural campaign.
13 – Games won by Northern Lehigh a year ago as it lost just once in 14 games and captured Colonial League and District 11 championships. The Bulldogs beat Jim Thorpe and North Schuylkill in the D-11 playoffs and Wilkes-Barre GAR in the State playoffs before falling to West Catholic in the PIAA quarterfinals
35 – Years Stan Dakosty, the longest tenured coach in the area, has been in charge of the Marian program.
47 – Schools in District 11 that field football teams. There are 15 schools in Class AAAA; 9 schools in AAA; 13 schools in AA; and 10 schools in A.
63 – Boys in grades 9-11 at Pius X, which is the smallest football school in the District. Pius X had an 8-4 record in 2010 and advanced to the District 11 Class A title game.
1,382 – Boys in grades 9-11 at William Allen, which is the largest football school in the District. Allen had a 1-9 record in 2010.