It seems like just yesterday area high school teams were sweating it out in the August heat, hitting the sled, and running 100-yard sprints to prepare themselves for the upcoming football season.
Well, in a blink of an eye the season has passed and now it's do or die time, it's time for the District 11 playoffs.
TIMES NEWS area squad the Marian Colts have put together a nice body of work in 2012, compiling an 8-2 record, finishing second in the Anthracite Football League to Tamaqua (10-0). The Colts dropped a tough one to the Raiders last week 12-0, but now their sights are set on upcoming D-11 playoff opponent Tri-Valley. The Colts are coming into their match-up with the 'Dawgs ranked third in the District 11 playoff rankings while Tri-Valley is ranked second. The game will be played on Saturday night at 7 p.m. and will be hosted by the 'Dawgs.
Marian's defense has been their strong hold this season, putting up some pretty impressive numbers. The Colts allow just 9.4 points per game and 170 total yards of offense. An important defensive statistic to pay attention to in this one is rushing yards. Marian gives up on average 100 rushing yards per contest which could play a key role in Saturday's match-up with Tri-Valley because they boast quite the rushing attack. This game will mark the second week in a row the Colts will have to try and thwart a powerful rush offense.
The Colts week 10 opponent Tamaqua averages 235 yards per game on the ground while Tri-Valley averages a ridiculous 311 rushing yards per game. Marian has the challenge of stopping 'Dawgs talented tailback Blake Bowman, who has rushed for 1,958 yards this season. Bowman has been terrific, scoring 31 touchdowns to go along with his 196 rushing yards per game. Tri-Valley quarterback Dalton Miller has had a nice year running the football as well treading the gridiron for 992 yards and 12 touchdowns. It will certainly be another test for the vaunted Marian "D."
"There's no doubt they're led by their running back and quarterback whom are both great players," said Marian coach Stan Dakosty. "They present a real challenge for our defense. I'm confident in our kids though. Our players have stood the test all season long and if we play football the way we can there's no reason why our defense shouldn't play well."
The Colts have another issue to deal with besides the potent Tri-Valley running game and that's injuries.
Marian lost starting running back Dylan Quirk and back-up running back Anthony Agosti to injury last week against the Raiders and they weren't able to play in the second half of that game. If Quirk and Agosti can't go that means the Colts' coaching staff will have to find a way to replace a combined 1,046 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, which comes to about 60 percent of Marian's total rushing yards this season.
"Right now we're practicing as if we're not going to have either of those guys for Saturday night," said Dakosty. "We hope those guys can play, but if they can't we have confidence in the guys we're going to put in those spots. It's a little different this week because we can prepare in practice and gameplan around not having those guys compared to doing it on the fly like last week. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised of how good the practices have been early in the week. The kids haven't let the emotions of our loss to Tamaqua get them down and they've been extremely focused."
Without Quirk and Agosti the Colts will probably turn to quarterback Corey Quick and that's not a bad option at all.
Quick (54-127-1092-10TD) has shown this season that he can throw the deep ball with the best of them and he has a ton of targets to throw to. Marian has formidable skill guys all over the place with Eric Swankoski (13-268-2TD), Mike Cataldo (12-265-2TD), and John Julian (10-296-6TD) all possessing big play ability. The Colts also have a big target at tight end in Lukas Damian that can make some plays. Marian's switch to a passing offense could be the x-factor in this one, considering Tri-Valley hasn't faced many if any teams this season that run a pass effective spread offense.
"Offensively we know they're banged up, but their passing game is a concern for us," said Tri-Valley Coach Mike Kogut. "Quick has one of the strongest arms I've seen in the area in awhile and he can thrown on the move. They have a very multi-dimensional offense so our goal is to try and keep their offense off the field as much we can."
Marian's match-up with Tri-Valley is a perfect example of what postseason football is all about. Two well-coached, not very big, but fast football teams squaring off to see who can stay alive for a championship. That's something Coach Dakosty is well aware of.
"Like I always say when you get to playoff there are no average teams," said Dakosty. "Tri-Valley is a good football team and we know they're going to play tough and they're going to play smart. We just need to not play out of character and play the way we've played all season. If we can do that I expect to have a good shot at coming out on top."