With only four weeks remaining in the regular season, the lead of this week's OVERTIME column will focus on the playoff outlook for some area football teams.
The bad news is that if the playoff started today, only one TIMES NEWS area team would be attending the District 11 dance.
Northern Lehigh, which is currently holding the fourth and final playoff slot in Class AA, would be the sole invitee. The Bulldogs will be in the playoffs if they can win out and have a shot even with one more loss.
The good news is that five other teams – Pleasant Valley, Lehighton, Palmerton, Northwestern and Marian – are still very much alive for playoff spots and most likely control their own destiny.
Although the vast possibilities with this many weeks left in the season are too numerous to calculate, it's a pretty good bet to say that if any of those five teams win all of their remaining games they will be in the district playoffs.
The one team in that group that is probably the furthest from a lock, even if it wins out, is Pleasant Valley. That's because the Bears, who are currently 230 rating points out of the final playoff slot, must climb over seven teams to claim a berth in the eight-team District 2, 4, 11 Class AAAA field.
That said, with the Bears having two games remaining with Mountain Valley Conferences teams ahead of them, and with plenty of head-to-head matchups remaining between the Lehigh Valley Conference playoff contenders as well as the District 2 playoff contenders, I think the odds are better that a 7-3 PV team qualifies for districts than they are of it missing districts.
In spite of its losing record, Lehighton (2-4) isn't in too bad of shape in the Class AAA race. That's because only two teams in the entire class currently have winning records.
The Indians are in seventh place, but just 150 points behind So. Lehigh for the fourth and final AAA playoff berth.
If Lehighton can run the table it should be in good shape to catch the Spartans, whose four remaining opponents are all Class AA teams and have combined for just three victories. The Indians will also benefit from the fact that a couple of the teams ahead of them Bethlehem Catholic and Blue Mountain have several tough games down the stretch. The Golden Hawks still play Freedom, Liberty and Easton while the Eagles play Berks Catholic and Wyomissing.
Meanwhile, Palmerton and Northwestern are currently tied for sixth place in Class AA field. They are 150 points behind Northern Lehigh for the fourth and final playoff spot.
It's been said that all a coach/team can hope for coming down the home stretch of the season is to be able to control its own destiny. That might be true, but Palmerton coach Chris Walkowiak and Northwestern coach Tom Linette would probably be the first to add that a manageable closing schedule would be nice as well.
That's because even though winning out would almost assuredly put either or both teams in the playoffs, the schedules that both teams face make that an extremely demanding proposition.
Both the Tigers and Bombers have the same four closing opponents – Bangor (6-0), Pen Argyl (6-0), Northern Lehigh (5-1) and Catasauqua (5-1). The combined record of the teams in that season-ending gauntlet is an intimidating 22-2.
If either Palmerton or Northwestern pulls off that feat, not only will they be in the D-11 playoffs, but they will have truly earned their spot.
The remaining playoff contender is Marian. The Colts are in seventh place in Class A with 390 points. They trail fourth-place Nativity for the final playoff spot by 130 points.
Marian is not guaranteed a District berth if it wins out, but with remaining games against Minersville and Shenandoah – teams currently sitting in second and third place in the Class A ratings – along with Class AA teams Tamaqua and Jim Thorpe, the Colts chances are very good.
Late season head-to-head matchups between contenders Williams Valley-Nativity and Shenandoah-Mahanoy Area, combined with the fact that Williams Valley (Pine Grove), Nativity (Bucktail) and Mahanoy Area (North Schuylkill) all still have games remaining in which they will be underdogs, helps the Colts' cause.
AN EVEN DOZEN … Among the highlights in week six of OVERTIME are a high scoring game by Marian and some impressive receiving numbers at Lehighton and Northwestern.
As impressive as the numbers in those games were they pale in comparison to the numbers put up in a high school football game played last week in Oregon.
In the contest, McKenzie High quarterback Will Totten threw for an incredible 11 touchdowns during his team's, 88-80, victory against Lowell High. Yes, you did read that final score correctly!
According to Cameron Smith, who does a prep sports blog for Yahoo!, the 11 TD passes is believed to be a national record. Totten threw for 553 yards in the game and also added 117 yards and a score on the ground. That gave Totten a hand in a dozen touchdowns.
One note about the McKenzie-Lowell game is that it was an 8-vs-8 football game instead of the standard 11-vs.-11 played throughout the majority of the country.
HALF A HUNDRED ... Marian rolled to a 50-13 win last Friday against rival Panther Valley.
The 50 points by the Colts are their most in one game since Sept. 6, 1997 (164 games ago), when they defeated Mahanoy Area by a 61-7 score. Incidentally, the 61 points are a single-game record at Marian.
DOUBLE SEVENS ... In last Friday's game against East Stroudsburg South, Lehighton's Anthony Farole and Jacen Nalesnik both caught seven passes.
That marked the first time since Oct. 29, 1999 that two players from the same team in the TIMES NEWS area had seven or more catches in the same game.
The last time it happened was Jim Thorpe's Don Evans (10 receptions) and Gabe Robinson (eight) against Pius X.
PAYTON'S PLACE ... Northwestern lost to Palmerton last Friday, but in that game the Tigers' Payton Bachman caught eight passes.
In the history of Northwestern football, which dates back to 1965, Bachman is only the third Tiger player to have eight or more receptions in a game.
Nick Eschbach holds the school record with 10 catches on Nov. 14, 2003 versus Northern Lehigh while Preston Nelson had eight catches on Sept. 16, 2005 against Notre Dame.
TEN IN A ROW ... Jim Thorpe lost a shootout to Minersville last Friday, falling by a 66-42 score.
In that game Olympian quarterback Pat Duvigneaud threw touchdown passes to PJ Johnson, Khaaliq Lynch and Mike Harleston.
Thorpe is the only TIMES NEWS area team to have thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game this season. In fact, dating back to last year, the Olympians have now had a TD pass in 10 straight games.