JT, MA in AFL contest
Over the last 10 years, Jim Thorpe and Mahanoy Area have met in week two of the football season and the Olympians have won every time.
This year, a schedule change has pushed the matchup between the two Anthracite Football League teams back to week seven.
According to Olympian head coach Mark Rosenberger, it's going to set-up "a different feeling" in Mahanoy City on Friday night, especially with the game being played so late in the season.
"They have had six games under their belt instead of having one game under their belt," Rosenberger said. "So, they have a lot more experience running that (veer) offense because that type of offense needs repetition. We're in week seven and they're still getting better offensively that's scary. They are a very good offensive football team."
Over the last decade, JT has outscored Mahanoy Area 381-67. In the last five years, Thorpe has won every game by at least 25 points.
But this year's Mahanoy Area team appears to be significantly more talented than in years past.
"We've always had a lot of respect for Mahanoy Area," said Rosenberger. "Even when they had some down years, they always had some great athletes.
"A lot of the kids playing key roles for them this year got a lot of experience the last couple of years."
The Golden Bears and Olympians both come into the game with 5-1 overall records. The Olympians (4-1) have one more AFL win than the Golden Bears (3-1).
"The bottom line is we've got to be disciplined," Rosenberger said. "We've got to make sure we play assignment football. We can't freelance. We can't afford to have one player not doing their assignment because when you don't do your assignment and try to do something else that's when the big play occurs.
"We need to avoid the big plays and play assignment football, be disciplined and when we get the chance to make tackles we need to make them."
There are several Bears that the Olympians will have to key on defensively.
Nick Forte, a 5-8, 210-pound fullback, Nathan Fegely, a 5-10, 150-pound halfback, and Michael Gaval, a 5-11, 160-pound quarterback, all have the capability of making big plays offensively.
Rosenberger was quick to praise Gaval, who leads the Bears with 680 yards rushing and nine TDs.
"Their quarterback (Gaval) runs an outstanding offense for them," Rosenberger said. "In order to be successful with the veer offense, you need the right quarterback and they have him."
Gaval and Forte are two-way players. Gaval plays on the corner and Forte lines up at noseguard.
"They get after people," said Rosenberger. "We've got to make sure we can match that physicality with them and continue to be the more physical team on the field. It's a big game for us. It's a big challenge for us going up to their place."