It seems like only yesterday that the high school football season was kicking off. Nine area teams entered the season with high hopes and playoff dreams.
But the warm Friday night's of early September have given way to the brisk autumn evenings as the calendar prepares to turn to November.
Six area teams still have their playoff dreams intact as we brace for the final weekend of the regular season. This week, OVERTIME will examine how the year-old District 11 power rating system is impacting one area team's bid for a district playoff berth.
OVERTIME will also bring you what has become a weekly Tyler Hope update, take a look at a Pleasant Valley kicker, and talk about a Northwestern running back that achieved a school first.
Last August, District 11 unveiled a new power rating system that is currently being used for all team sports.
When the system was implemented it came with a release that said it was "weighted toward strength of schedule rather than enrollment in an attempt to stimulate local rivalries while reducing transportation costs."
The thought process being that if schools were rewarded for playing smaller, better teams, they wouldn't have to worry as much about scheduling big school from outside the area to help their district rating points.
In a perfect world, the Jim Thorpe High School football program would have been one of the major beneficiaries of the new system. The Olympians are the only Class AAA team in a league comprised of Class A and AA teams including some very successful small school teams.
But this isn't a perfect world and the current system at least in Jim Thorpe eyes isn't perfect.
"Initially, that is how the system was presented to us," said Jim Thorpe Athletic Director Dustin McAndrew about the fact that playing a lot of smaller schools wouldn't hurt a team as much as it did in the old system. "But obviously that hasn't been the case for us this season. We're a little confused and also a little upset at how this is working out."
Jim Thorpe's worry is that although it has a 7-2 record, it still sits in fifth place in the District 11 Class AAA rankings heading into the final week of the season. Despite having a significantly better won-loss record then Bethlehem Catholic (5-4), Lehighton (5-4) and Pottsville (4-5), the Olympians trail all three of those teams.
To make matters even more frustrating for Jim Thorpe, using the old point system that is still being implemented in Class AAAA and also in all classes of the Eastern Conference, it would currently have 750 points and be tied for second place with Bethlehem Catholic. Lehighton would be fourth with 680 points and Pottsville would be all the way down in seventh place with just 530 points.
Jim Thorpe's problems aside, District 11 chairman Bob Hartman of Whitehall said the district is happy with current system.
"We are going to be continuously looking at the system and if it needs to be tweaked, we can do that," said Hartman. "Based on input from all of our leagues, we actually did tweak our formula a little prior to this season to put more emphasis on a team's record and less on their opponents' size and record.
"There probably isn't any system that everyone is going to love. But we think we have a very fair system in place. Like anything else, the schools that are having issues with it are the ones on the bubble."
District 11 football chairman Jason Zimmerman of Northwestern agrees with Hartman's opinion of the point system.
"The committee unanimously voted to go with this new power ranking system last year and I do believe it is working," said Zimmerman. "The system was implemented to reduce the amount of emphasis on the size of your opponent and place more emphasis on the strength of your opponent, however the formula still takes into consideration the size of the school.
"I truly believe this system is doing the job it was set out to do. The only criticism I have of the system is that it is hard for individuals to make any type of predictions because the math is so intense and because there are so many variables."
Both the former system and current system award points based on size and strength of opponents. As both Hartman and Zimmerman pointed out, the new system actually does put more priority on strength than the previous point system did.
So if that's the case, why would Jim Thorpe be better off with the old system in place?
It's because of the one huge difference between the two systems. In the new point system, teams benefit from just playing bigger schools or stronger opponents. In the old system, a team would have to beat that opponent to get the points.
"In looking at Jim Thorpe's situation, I believe they are a product of playing in a predominantly A and AA league," said Zimmerman. "The system does reduce the amount of emphasis placed on playing lower classification schools, but you will still see a disparity when a school plays opponents two classifications lower than their class.
"The Class A and AA schools they are playing and the wins those opponents have accumulated, don't outpoint a team like Pottsville who is playing AAA and AAAA schools with similar, if not slightly better, records."
In other words, it's been almost a perfect storm that is creating a potential disaster for the Olympians' playoff hopes.
Jim Thorpe is a Class AAA team that plays almost exclusively against smaller schools while Pottsville and Lehighton are AAA teams who primarily play AAAA opponents. That's why if Jim Thorpe would beat Lehighton on Friday night and finish with an 8-2 record, it could potentially finish behind Pottsville and Lehighton teams that finish 5-5.
How probable is that?
With the new power system, it's impossible to predict each team's potential rating since there are 100 games (10 teams on your schedule and 10 teams on each of your opponents schedules) that need to be calculated to get the rating for each team. However, the TIMES NEWS has gone over the numbers and it appears there is a good chance Lehighton will qualify even if it loses to Jim Thorpe. With Pottsville playing winless Twin Valley this week, there is a good chance the Tide wins and finishes 5-5. If Jim Thorpe beats Lehighton to finish 8-2, the battle for the final district berth will be between the Olympians and Tide and should be extremely close.
The Olympians must win to have any chance at districts. If they do, they must hope that the "perfect storm" turns out to be nothing more than a bad forecast.
CENTURY MARK ... Tamaqua's Tyler Hope had four touchdowns last week, allowing him to pass the 100-point mark for the season.
The Raiders have now had three different players reach 100 points in each of the last three seasons. Hope follows in the footsteps of Dalton Nunemacher, who had 146 points in 2012, and Jarred Muffley, who had 144 points in 2011.
The last time that happened in the TIMES NEWS area was 1997-99 when Northern Lehigh's trio of Keith Blose (100 in 1997), Brad Walters (130 in 1998) and Steve Hluschak (118 in 1999) accomplished the feat.
KICKING KRCIC ... Pleasant Valley's Dean Krcic had a field goal and four extra points in last Friday's game against East Stroudsburg North.
That upped Krcic's season totals to four field goals and 38 extra points or 50 points.
In the last 20 years, Krcic is just the seventh area player to record 50 or more 'kicking' points in a season.
The others are:
Jordan Caffrey, Pleasant Valley (2012) with 52 points; Alex Landon, Jim Thorpe (2006) with 50 points; Chris Horn, Northwestern (2006) with 65 points; Jordan Grube, Northwestern (2003) with 54 points; Aaron Mill, Northern Lehigh (2003) with 75 points; Aaron Mill, Northern Lehigh (2002) with 50 points; Jordan Grube, Northwestern (2002) with 53 points; and Justin Kashner, Pleasant Valley (2000) with 56 points.
MORE HOPE ... Tamaqua's Tyler Hope had 227 yards rushing and 103 yards receiving in last week's win over Minersville.
In the last 25 years, Hope is just the second area player to have 200+ rushing yards and 100+ receiving yards in the same game.
The only other player to accomplish that was Pleasant Valley's Rob Getz who had 211 rushing yards and 140 receiving yards on Sept. 9, 2011 against Honesdale.
FIRST TIGER ... Northwestern's Harry Hall rushed for 113 yards on Friday against Bangor.
Hall's big night gave him 1,065 yard this season according to TIMES NEWS statistics and made him the first sophomore in Northwestern history to top the 1,000-yard mark in the season.