Tomorrow night's contest between Jim Thorpe and Panther Valley has all the makings of an old fashioned dog fight.
Panther Valley is coming into Olympian territory with a 2-1 record, their best record coming into that game since 2008 when they were 3-0. They are also coming into the game with TIMES NEWS area leading rusher Rich Smith (44-483-9TD), who will surely be looking to put up some significant rushing numbers on the Olympians.
Jim Thorpe is coming into their game with the Panthers winless for the second straight season. Getting off to a slow start is something the Olympians are not accustomed to. In Mark Rosenberger's 16 years as head coach of Jim Thorpe the Olympians have only come into their match-up with PV with a losing record three times.
Jim Thorpe also has an offensive weapon of their own in TIMES NEWS area passing leader Pat Duvigneaud. The senior quarterback leads all TIMES NEWS area signal callers going 39-85 for 676 yards and six touchdowns. Duvigneaud has big play potential, in lieu of his big arm and can also hurt opposing defenses with his legs, rushing for 162 yards and two scores on the season.
The match-up between the Olympians and Panthers is definitely a contrast of styles.
The Panthers, much like they have all season will look to pound the rock, while the Olympians will look to air it out. Panther Valley has rushed the ball for 710 yards on the season compared to Jim Thorpe's 323 yards. The Panthers average over seven yards per carry, while JT averages a little over three.
The Olympians have offered up 28 pass attempts per game for about 225 yards per game. Panther Valley has only attempted 11 passes per contest averaging 126 yards a game.
"We're going to put our hard hat on and try and go to work running the football," said Panther Valley coach Lon Hazlet. "We want to get a good push up front and open things up for Richie (Smith). He has been having a great year for us on both sides of the football and when our line has opened up holes, Rich has done a good job of taking advantage."
It's no secret that the Panthers will try to run the football on the Olympians. The JT run defense has struggled up to this point giving 991 yards on the ground in just three games.
Just like the Panthers figure to take advantage of the Thorpe run defense, the Olympians figure to use their passing attack to try and disassemble the PV secondary.
"We have a lot of good athletes at receiver with big play ability," said Jim Thorpe coach Mark Rosenberger. "Pat (Duvigneaud) has really been working hard and has caused problems for opposing defenses this season. We're always looking to get our passing game going, but we need to have a more successful running game in order to keep Panther Valley off-balance."
As mentioned, Jim Thorpe is coming into their bout with the Panthers at 0-3. Records, however could be deceiving. All three JT losses have come to Tamaqua, Blue Mountain, and North Schuylkill, who have a combined 8-1 record. Blue Mountain is the only one of those schools that has a loss, losing a first week match-up to Conrad Weiser. Jim Thorpe also saw themselves ahead in their games against Tamaqua and Blue Mountain. The reason for the Olympians 0-3 record is simple. It all comes down to giving up the big play with Jim Thorpe giving up 13 scores of over 35 yards or more this season.
"Were not the big play kind-of team in my opinion," said Hazlet. "We consider ourselves to be a consistent offensive unit and that's what we strive to be. We're not necessarily looking to make the big play, we just want to do our job and if the big play happens for us then it happens. We know Jim Thorpe is an excellent team that is very dangerous, so it's important for us to be focused and come ready to play Friday night."
The Jim Thorpe community and football family suffered a tragic blow on Sunday afternoon when TIMES NEWS area leading receiver Khaaliq Lynch was involved in a car accident where he was seriously injured. Lynch was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital where he underwent surgery to help stabilize his condition. Jim Thorpe coach Mark Rosenberger, his staff, and team released this statement on Lynch to the TIMES NEWS Sports Department.
"The Jim Thorpe football family continues to send all of our thoughts, prayers and healing energies to Khaaliq and his family. Khaaliq's surgery for his neck and spine fusion went extremely well on Monday. Amazingly, they are expecting to have Khaaliq up and walking later this week. Khaaliq will be truly missed on the football field but we are lucky and ecstatic that he is alive and with us. We look forward to having his infectious smile back in our school halls as soon as possible. As a team we hope to make No. 2 proud this Friday night."