The high school football season is in its stretch run. With just two weeks left in the regular season, three teams have already clinched berths in the District 11 playoffs.
Northern Lehigh, Panther Valley and Tamaqua will all be part of this year's expanded Class AA field.
Probably the most amazing thing about the last two weeks of the season is the fact that although just one other team in the coverage area has a winning record - Northwestern - five teams are still alive for District 11 playoff berths.
Of the nine schools in the TIMES NEWS coverage area that field football teams, only Pleasant Valley has been mathematically eliminated from D-11 contention.
OVERTIME will take a look at the crazy playoff picture that still includes a couple of one win teams.
In addition, OVERTIME will check out a Bulldog player who was a scoring machine last week, a big rushing game in a losing effort, and a not so common number on the scoreboard.
Since six of the nine TIMES NEWS area football teams are in the AA class, there is no better place to start when checking out postseason possibilities.
This season, eight teams in Class AA qualify for the playoffs. That's because every year, District 11 and District 2 alternate which district gets four playoffs berths and which district gets eight.
A year ago, the situation caused plenty of controversy when District 2 decided to only use six of their eight allotted berths and give byes to the two top-seeded teams in its district.
That decision, which wasn't relayed to District 11 and Eastern Conference statistician John Smith, caused a ripple effect in the EC playoffs when some teams that appeared to be headed to the District 2 playoffs instead had to settle for Eastern Conference spots. The bumping down eventually knocked Panther Valley out of the playoffs despite the fact that it had been told it had clinched a postseason berth after winning its regular season finale.
At the time, District 2 was widely ridiculed for not using all eight of its playoff spots. But if you look at what's happening in District 11 this year, it's hard not think D-2 might have had the right idea.
Currently, the top of the District 11 Class AA field looks like an outstanding mixture of some of the best teams from the Anthracite Football League and the Colonial League. Three Anthracite schools (North Schuylkill, Tamaqua and Panther Valley) and three Colonial schools (No. Lehigh, Catasauqua and Palisades) occupy the top six spots. All of the teams own impressive records.
But once you get down to the seventh seed, the field drops off considerably. As a matter of fact, area teams Jim Thorpe (2-6), Palmerton (1-7) and Lehighton (1-7) could all still sneak into the field with wins in their final two games. All three teams would need help, probably needing a pair of losses from two of the following three teams - Pine Grove, Salisbury and Pen Argyl.
The question is whether the expanded field is good because it gives numerous teams something more than pride to play for down the stretch or if it's bad because a 3-7 team has no business in a District 11 playoff game. I'm sure there are plenty of fans and coaches on both sides of the issue. But one thing is for sure, two years from now, if D-11 once again has eight Class AA playoff spots and just 12 Class AA schools competing for them, it will have to give some serious consideration to cutting down its field and awarding byes to the top teams.
Northwestern is the lone area team in Class AAA. Although the Tigers own a 5-3 record, they are more than likely looking at Eastern Conference playoff berth even if they win their final two games. The Tigers only make Districts if either Southern Lehigh or Pottsville losses their final two games and Bethlehem Catholic losses at least once.
In Class A, Marian has won two straight games but with a 3-5 record, the Colts will still need some help to qualify for Districts. Marian would have to win its final two games and then have either Schuylkill Haven, Williams Valley or Tri Valley lose their final two games. Even if one of those teams does lose their final two, the Colts would still need help in a number of games involving previously defeated opponents.
SCORING MACHINE … Northern Lehigh's Cody Remaley has been the subject of OVERTIME columns this season because of his carries in a single game (40) and his 200-yard rushing games (3).
This week, Remaley is getting singled out for his ability to reach the end zone.
In last week's 49-7 victory over Bangor, Remaley scored four touchdowns and also accounted for three two-point conversions. That gave Remaley a total of 30 points scored in the game.
Since 1996, he is just the eighth area player to score at least that many points in a game.
Lehighton's Joe Semanoff, No. Lehigh's Ryan Hluschak and Palmerton's Chris Siracuse all accomplished the feat twice while Panther Valley's Chas Field, Marian's Justin Barrasso, Jim Thorpe's Craig Zurn and Marian's Chris Perhonitch all reached the 30-point plateau once.
BIG NUMBERS DON'T EQUAL WIN …. Tamaqua's Grif Griffiths rushed for 181 yards last Friday against Panther Valley but the Raiders lost the game, 20-2.
Since 1988 (when TN football boxes included individual statistics), this was the 127th time a TN player gained 181 yards or more rushing in a game.
In those 127 games, the team with that player has won 117 times.
The 10 games where the team lost but still had a back with 181 yards or more include:
Grif Griffiths, Tamaqua (10/23/09, 181 yards, lost 20-2 to Panther Valley)
Craig Zurn, Jim Thorpe (1/06, 197 yards, lost 27-20 to Lehighton)
Robbie Frey, Lehighton (10/27/06, 232 yards, lost 31-28 to ES North)
Robbie Frey, Lehighton (10/28/05, 273 yards, lost 25-24 to ES Noth)
Al Donadi, Marian (12/1/00, 224 yards, lost 38-7 to Mt. Carmel)
Shawn Hodge, Tamaqua (11/5/99, 229 yards, lost 23-20 to Bishop O'Reilly)
Ngoyi Mukusa, Jim Thorpe (10/31/98, 189 yards, lost 59-32 to Pius X)
Jason Hernandez, Palmerton (10/4/96, 206 yards, lost 42-29 to So. Lehigh)
Brett Snyder, Northwestern (9/1/95, 219 yards, lost 21-19 to Bangor)
Dwayne Fisher, Lehighton (11/10/89, 196 yards, lost 20-19 to Notre Dame)
TWO ON THE BOARD … Tamaqua ended with 2 points in its loss to Panther Valley.
Since 1979, that was the ninth time a TN area team finished a game with exactly 2 points.
The last time it happened was Sept. 2, 2005 when Pleasant Valley lost to Liberty, 35-2.
The last time a Blue Raider team only scored 2 points in a game was Sept. 12, 1986. Tamaqua actually won that game, 2-0, against Lehighton.