It doesn't get any bigger than this week's TIMES NEWS Game of the week between Jim Thorpe and Marian.
A boat load is on the line in this one.
For the Olympians, the pressure is on. In order for JT to win the Anthracite League outright they need to beat the Colts. Not to mention, if they want any chance at sneaking into the District 11 AAA playoffs they must also take down Marian on Friday night. Fortunately, It looks like even if Thorpe loses to Marian and then Lehighton next week they would still qualify for Eastern Conference. Currently, the Olympians are in the sixth spot in the D-11 AAA rankings behind Blue Mountain and Pottsville.
For the Colts, it's getting pretty hot in the kitchen as well, and you know what they say, "if you can't take the heat then get out of the kitchen." We'll see if both of these teams can stand the heat this week.
Marian must also win out if they have any hope of getting into the District 11 A playoff picture. The Colts sit in the sixth spot in their respective district rankings behind Schuylkill Haven and Pius X. Also, if Marian beats Jim Thorpe and Tamaqua then they could have a share of the AFL title.
"This game is a tribute to how hard the players have worked this season and the coaching staffs as well," said Marian coach Stan Dakosty. "It's always a goal to be in this type of game at the end of the season, a very meaningful game with a lot of repercussions. Jim Thorpe and Marian has always been a great a rivalry game and we know that we're going to get their best shot on Friday night."
The Colts are coming into this game hotter than ever. After losing their first three games, they've reeled off five straight victories. It's evident that Marian's offensive line play has improved in that stint and is a huge reason for their recent success.
"They've become a strong team up front through the course of the season," said Jim Thorpe coach Mark Rosenberger. "They have some great athletes to depend on as well in Anthony Agosti and Lukas Damian. When Damian is healthy he's one of the best defensive players in the league. But, I really think this game is going to be won in the trenches. We need to win the battle on the offensive and defensive line and play with a lot more physicality than we did last week."
The Olympians lost a tough one to Schuylkill Haven last week, which is a team that was picked in the pre-season by the AFL coaches to win the league. The 'Canes were banged up all year, but were almost at full strength against JT last week.
The Thorpe offense struggled against Haven, which is something they haven't been used to as they've averaged 378.5 total yards of offense per game. The Olympians and TIMES NEWS leading rusher Ryan Saunders (1,200 yards, 13 TDs) will surely be looking to get back on track against the Colts this week.
"On offense Jim Thorpe is outstanding," said Dakosty. "They have a lot of weapons and they like to spread the football around. I don't know if anybody has really stopped them this year and I don't know if you really can. You just have to try and contain them and not give up the big play. We just have to play physical assignment football. When we're in position to make plays defensively we have to make them."
The Colts have been fighting the injury bug all season long. Their top defensive weapon and catalyst on offense Lukas Damian has been out the past two weeks and it would most likely take a F-5 tornado to keep him from playing on Friday night. The injury report is still unclear up to this point, but one would assume that Damian will be suiting up. Also, the Colts original starting quarterback KJ Snerr is said to be available for kicking this week. Don't be surprised if you see Snerr involved in more than just the kicking game against the Olympians.
This game has an added element of importance as if it needed it and that's because these two teams will not play against each other in 2014 and 2015. This is due to the expansion of the league that is allowing Lehighton and Blue Mountain to join, thus the scheduling will be a little different. So, whoever wins this one will have some extra bragging rights for the next two seasons.
Big games like this one create big moments for coaches and players alike. Hometown will surely be rocking on Friday night and it will definitely be interesting to see who can keep their playoff and league title hopes alive when all is said and done.