Tribe hit by injuries
All coaches will tell you that injuries are part of the game in football.
Most will go out of their way to avoid mentioning injuries after a loss.
That's because they know that over time, things have a way evening out. One year your team might not suffer a key injury the entire season, the next you might lose several starters for a lengthy period of time. Most years, it lies somewhere in between.
But a few area teams have suffered so many key injuries this season, especially at the quarterback position, that OVERTIME has decided to look at it.
In addition, we'll check out a huge offensive night by an area quarterback, an incredible trio of returns by a Northern Lehigh player, and other interesting facts and figures from week six of the high school football season.
No position is more crucial to the success of a football team than quarterback.
Overcoming the loss of a starting signalcaller, especially at smaller high schools, is extremely difficult. So far this year, Marian, Pleasant Valley and Lehighton have all lost quarterbacks to injury.
The Colts lost senior Pat Leitzel in the Pius X game and had to replace him with freshman Corey Quick the past two games. Quick is believed to be one of just two freshmen to ever start at quarterback for the Colts in coach Stan Dakosty's 33 years at the helm. The other being Brent "Chuck" Andrew during the 1994 season. Leitzel hasn't been the only key injury for Marian, however. During the second half of the PIus X game, the Colts' entire starting secondary was out of the game with injuries.
Pleasant Valley not only lost starting quarterback Derrick Walling to an injury, but appears the Bears might also be without backup QB and top receiver Anthony Bumbulsky as well. Walling was injured two weeks ago in the Bears' loss to Wyoming Valley West. Last week against Pocono Mountain West, Bumbulsky started at quarterback, but injured his shoulder in the second half. Moose Frinzi finished up the game at quarterback and will be the starter this week if Walling and Bumbulsky are both unable to go.
But no area team has been decimated by injuries more than Lehighton.
"You never want to use injuries as an excuse and we aren't going to do that," said Lehighton coach George Ebbert. "I told our kids that no opponent is going to feel sorry for us because we have some kids out of the lineup. It's our job to get someone else ready to step in and replace them."
That's easier said than done, however. Especially at a Class AA school like Lehighton, where losing one player to an injury sometimes means losing an offensive starter, a defensive starter and a special teams performer.
In six games this season, injuries have forced the Indians to start three different quarterbacks. Kyle Hunter, who was named TIMES NEWS Player of the Week for his performance in the win over Marian, has missed three entire games with a foot injury and parts of two others. Top receiver JT Keer started several games at QB for the Tribe before backup Josh Agosto returned from an injury of his own to start last week against East Stroudsburg South. In addition, Lehighton has had four different running backs (Guiseppe Caruso, Tim Sulzer, Nate Black and Billy Angst) miss games with injuries.
"Our backfield situation got so bad that at one point last week we had to move our left tackle A.J. Guzenski to running back," said Ebbert. "The inuries have kind of had a domino effect because we've had to shift guys around to fill in for people who are out.
"So you not only end up with the injured player out of the lineup, but with a number of other people playing out of position."
The Indians started the season with a victory over Marian, but have lost five straight games since them. That string of losses started with close games against Tamaqua (5-1) and Panther Valley (5-1). In both contests, Lehighton was without several key performers in games where one big play could have made the difference between a win or a loss.
"I'm really proud of how our kids have handled the situation," said Ebbert. "They've changed positions without complaining to help out the team and they've continued to stay positive and work hard.
"Jimmy Wentz, one of our assistants who has coached football for close to 50 years, told me he has never seen a team in all his time coaching that has had to face as much adversity because of injuries. But we're not going to hang our heads. We going to keep on working and get the players we have available ready to play."
DUAL THREAT QUARTERBACK .... Jim Thorpe's Corey Cinicola has had plenty of big passing games in his three years as the Olympians' starting quarterback. But Cinicola never put up the kind of multi-dimensional numbers like he did in last week's 28-20 win over Minersville. As a matter of fact, no other area quarterback in the last 21 years has done what Cinicola accomplished against the Miners.
In the contest, Cinicola not only passed for 222 yards and a touchdown, but he ran for 118 yards and two TDs. Highlighting the performance were a 61-yard scoring pass to P.J. Johnson and a 74-yard touchdown run.
Since 1988 (when the TIMES NEWS began using individual statistics as part of its football boxscores), no area quarterback has ever thrown for at least 200 yards and rushed for at least 100 yards in the same game.
During that period, an area quarterback has thrown for 200 or more yards in a game 85 times. In those games, the quarterbacks averaged just 7.5 yards per game rushing and finished with negative yards rushing 33 times.
The quarterback that came the closest to reaching the mark was Pleasant Valley's Jeff Regina. In a game against Boyertown during the 1996 season, Regina passed for 227 yards and rushed for 92.
RETURN TO SENDER ... Area football players have had their share of kickoff, punt and interception returns for touchdowns this season.
Through six weeks, there have been eight kicks taken back for scores, thee punts returned for touchdowns, and six interceptions taken to the house.
But when it comes to returns, nothing and no one can match Northern Lehigh's Jake Kern.
Kern returned a kickoff, a punt and an interception for a touchdown all in the same game. Kern's incredible performance happened on Saturday at Pen Argyl.
Kern started his big day by taking the opening kickoff 87 yards for a TD. He followed that with a 61-yard punt return for a score in the second quarter and capped his big day with an 81-yard "pick six."
It should come as no surprise that it was a Northern Lehigh player who accomplished the return 'hat trick.' Thats because since 1998, the Bulldogs have more kickoff (14) and punt (16) returns for TDs than any other area team and are tied with Tamaqua for the most interceptions run back for scores (13).
ONCE IS ENOUGH ... Marian's 47-14 loss to Panther Valley on Friday night produced very few bright spots for the Colts.
There was one Marian performance to note, however. Running back Paul Martin rushed for a 120-yards and two second half touchdowns in the game.
Martin also figured in an extremely unusual statistical quark in the game. The Colt sophomore, who carried the ball 20 times to amass his totals, was one of 12 different Marian players to carry the ball in the mercy-rule shortened contest. The oddity is that all 11 of the other Marian runners received just one carry.