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Three teams alive

Published November 11. 2010 05:00PM

Just three TIMES NEWS area football teams will be taking part in postseason action this weekend.

Pleasant Valley qualified for the District 11 Class AAAA playoffs and will host East Stroudsburg South on Friday night.

Northern Lehigh and Jim Thorpe both qualified for the District 11 Class AA playoffs and will face each other on Saturday night in Slatington.

Only one time in the last 13 years has the area had less than three teams participate in the postseason. That happened in 2005 when Lehighton and Northern Lehigh were the lone playoff teams. The highest amount of local playoff teams during that time span was six, which occurred in 2006 and 2007. In both of those seasons, Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Marian, Northern Lehigh, Northwestern and Palmerton all qualified.

It looked like two other area teams would extend their seasons one more week although not in a playoff game. Lehighton and Palmerton were scheduled to face each other in a contingency game and had talked about playing it tonight. But over the weekend, Palmerton was forced to bow out of the game.

"We were excited about playing it because there is a lot of local interest in the rivalry and our kids were still working hard and staying positive about the season," said Palmerton coach Paul McArdle. "In fact, [Lehighton] Coach [George] Ebbert and I decided to change it to Thursday night so it would draw a better crowd by not competing with Friday night playoff games.

"Unfortunately, in a year when we had more injuries than in any other year I can remember, the last two weeks we were hit with even more that would have left us without 12 starters or key reserves. At a school our size, that is just too many players to be missing to safely field a team for a varsity game, especially an optional game."

Lehighton and Palmerton, who first met in 1927 and then played 62 consecutive years from 1935 until 1996, haven't played since 2004, a 14-0 Lehighton win. The two teams shared memberships in both the Lehigh Valley League and the Centennial League for decades. When the Centennial League broke up in 1993 and the Indians and Bombers joined the Mountain Valley Conference and the Colonial League respectively, they continued to meet in contingency games in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2004. Lehighton won all of the contingency games except the 1994 contest.

"It's disappointing because we really would have liked to play another game," said Ebbert. "We were playing well at the end of the season and the kids and the coaching staff were excited about the chance to play, especially against a local rival like Palmerton.

"After Palmerton informed us they couldn't play, I called around to a number of other schools, but nobody was able to play us."


PLAYOFF PARTICIPATION ... With the regular season now complete, OVERTIME went back over the prior 20 seasons (not including this year) to pull out some information dealing with playoff participation for our area teams.

Since 1990, Marian has qualified for the postseason more than any other team, reaching the playoffs in 13 of the previous 20 seasons. Northern Lehigh is next with 11. The Bulldogs are followed by Northwestern (9), Jim Thorpe (8), Lehighton (8), Panther Valley (7), Palmerton (6), Pleasant Valley (3) and Tamaqua (2).

In more recent times (since 2000), Northern Lehigh has been the most successful team in reaching the postseason with nine appearances. Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Marian and Northwestern have all made the postseason six times during that span.

The longest consecutive streak of postseason appearances since 1990 belongs to the Bulldogs as well as they qualified for the playoffs 10 straight years between 1998 and 2007. The next longest streak streak was by Marian. The Colts appeared in the playoffs five straight years from 1996 to 2000.

No other area school has had a run of playoff appearances longer than three years in the time frame.

Here are some other interesting items OVERTIME came up with for our regular season finale ...


DYNAMIC DUO ... Northern Lehigh's Cody Remaley and Jake Kern accomplished an extremely rare feat this season. The Bulldog backs have both scored at least 100 points as Remaley enters postseason play with 200 points and Kern with 115.

That makes them just the fourth set of teammates to reach the century mark in the same season in the last 40 years.

The only others to do that were:

* Jim Thorpe's Gary Storer (114) and Mike Gruber (100) in 1993

* Marian's Mike Tracy (184) and Pete Bumbulsky (108) in 1980

* Northern Lehigh's Steve Hluschak (118) and Brad Walters (118) in 1999.

In addition, Remaley is now just two points behind Brett Snyder (202 points in 1995) for the most points scored by an area player in a season since 1971.


WALLING'S WORLD ... Pleasant Valley quarterback Derrik Walling passed for over 200 yards in last week's loss to Stroudsburg. It was the fifth time this season that Walling has topped the 200-yard mark in a game.

Walling also had three games last season where he topped the 200-yard mark.

Prior to that, no Bear quarterback since at least 1988 had ever had more than one 200-yard game in a season.

Walling also threw for two touchdowns against the Mountaineers. It was the seventh straight game this season that he has thrown for multiple touchdown passes.


TOP OF THEIR CLASS ... The PIAA Class AA football playoff field looks like it is loaded with outstanding teams.

How tough is the field?

Let's start in District 11 where North Schuylkill is unbeaten, but didn't even earn a home field game. The Spartans were seeded third behind undefeated Northern Lehigh and once-beaten Pen Argyl.

But when it comes to unbeaten Class AA teams, District 11 is far from alone. There are currently 10 other unbeaten Class AA teams in the state, including three each in District 4 (Lewisburg, Danville and Towanda) and District 7 (Aliquippa, South Fayette and Ford City). The remaining unbeaten teams in the class are Lancaster Catholic and Littlestown of District 3; Tyrone Area of District 6 and Brockway of District 9.


BACK-TO-BACK ... Jim Thorpe ended the regular season with back-to-back shutouts of Marian (42-0) and Lehighton (18-0). The last time the Olympians posted shutouts in consecutive games was in 2007 when they blanked Schuylkill Haven (10-0) and Marian (28-0).

It has also been since 2007 since Jim Thorpe played a football game that didn't take place on a Friday night. The Olympians, who will travel to Northern Lehigh on Saturday for a District 11 Class AA semifinal round playoff game, have played 31 straight Friday night games. The last time they played on a different day? It was also against Northern Lehigh on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007 in a District 11 Class AA quarterfinal game.

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