Panthers, Olympians renew their rivalry
Panther Valley at Jim Thorpe
Friday, 7 p.m.
Records: Panther Valley 0-3 overall (0-2 Anthracite Football League); Jim Thorpe 2-1 overall (1-1 Anthracite Football League)
Panther Valley's offense needs to ... find some way to score points. Over the last three games, the Panthers have been outscored 77-26, which included being blanked by Mahanoy Area 18-0 to open the season. Coach Frank Damian said they're in the process of looking for what they can keep in the game plan and what they need to stay away from. He says they have shown spurts of looking good and then they look like they don't know what they're doing at times and he doesn't want to see that at all against Jim Thorpe.
Panther Valley's defense needs to ... come up with stops on third downs. The Panthers have forced opponents into third and long several times but then they'll give up a big play to spoil the effort. The inability to come up with stops, besides keeping the defense on the field longer, usually changes the battle of field position.
Jim Thorpe's offense needs to ... re-establish its hard-nose running game and make sure to take care of the football when doing so. The Olympians weren't very disciplined on running the ball last week in a 54-0 loss to North Schuylkill. It didn't help matters the Olympians fumbled the pigskin seven times. The Olympians need to realize they can't afford to turn the ball over at any cost.
Jim Thorpe's defense needs to ... be more physical up front in order to take away the big plays four of six Spartan touchdown runs were more than 37 yards last Friday night. Rosenberger needs his players to man their positions and not allow these big plays to happen again.
Fast facts ... Since 1992, Panther Valley holds a 10-8 edge in the series. PV has won the last two games. Before that, Jim Thorpe rattled off seven straight from 2001-07 and the Panthers claimed six straight from 1995-2000.
Quotables ... "It's been a great game the last couple of years. I know they (Jim Thorpe) have got a very experienced team this year with 20-some seniors. The quarterback, Terry Moll, he really scares me. He has really become a great leader and a great quarterback for them. But, they do have a lot weapons. One thing that sticks out is their size. I think if we're able to score points and hang with them a little bit it gives us a better opportunity." Panther Valley head coach Frank Damian
"First of all, we were embarrassed last Friday night by a great team. That, number one, is enough of a reason to come out and redeem ourselves. But, number two, it's a rivalry game. If you can't get yourself pumped up for PV, there's something the matter. So having a rivalry game after a big loss is definitely a good thing." Jim Thorpe head coach Mark Rosenberger
Pius X at Marian
Friday, 7 p.m.
Records: Pius X 0-3 overall (0-0 All-American Conference); Marian 1-2 overall (0-2 Anthracite Football League)
Marian's offense needs to ... develop consistency and be physical up front. Pius X is very susceptible on defense, as the Royals have given up an average of 495 yards of total offense (and an average of 463 yards rushing) in their first three games. Last week against Schuylkill Valley, the Panthers rushed for 594 yards against the Royals and featured two 200-yard rushers. However, if Marian wants to run on Pius X, they'll need to overcome the factor of missing some of its top players, as Paul Martin, Dylan Quirk and Cy Shickora are all out. Toting the pigskin will be fourth-string tailback Mike Cataldo.
Marian's defense needs to ... defend the Pius X passing attack. With freshman quarterback A.J. Long under center, the Royals have attempted over 30 passes the previous two games, including 41 attempts (23 completions for 263 yards) in last week's loss to Schuylkill Valley. The Colts' secondary needs to be on the top of their game, as Pius X has several quick and athletic wideouts that are spread out all over the field.
Fast facts ... Pius X first-year head coach Phil Stambaugh has quite the football pedigree. Stambaugh, who quarterbacked Lehigh University from 1996-1999, was named the Patriot League Player of the Year in 1998. Stambaugh also played briefly for six NFL teams including the Steelers, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars, Saints and Bills. In addition, Stambaugh quartbacked two franchises in NFL Europe (the Rhein Fire in 2001 and the Berlin Thunder in 2003).
Quotable ... "We just need to take one game at a time and continue to improve on a week-by-week basis. Injuries have certainly taken a toll on us this year, but the one positive to take out of it is that a lot of young kids are getting an opportunity to play and compete and we're anxious to see how they're going to do on Friday night." Marian head coach Stan Dakosty
Palmerton at Saucon Valley
Friday, 7 p.m.
Records: Palmerton 1-2 overall (1-2 Colonial League); Saucon Valley 0-3 overall (0-3 Colonial League)
Palmerton's offense needs to ... finish off its drives when it gets in the red zone. Last week in the first half, the Bombers had three drives stall out without getting any points. They also need to make sure Ian Gimbar is blocked on just about every play. He is among the top three LB's in the league and can be a difference maker if they don't get a body on him.
Palmerton's defense needs to ... play fast again to the ball. Last week, the Blue Bombers knew their assignments, read their keys, and had four or five people swarming to the ball for just about every tackle. They were also much better on third down than they were in the first two games and must continue that.
Fast facts ... The Blue Bombers' only win last year was at home against Saucon Valley, 18-17. It was the first game that Travis Labyak was moved to flanker and Christian Marcin played tailback. Joe Weber threw two touchdown passes to Marcin in the fourth quarter for the come-from-behind win. The last time Palmerton lost to Saucon was back in 2004 by a 40-7 score when the Panthers went 10-0 to win the Colonial League title.
Quotable ... "You hate to say must-win for the second time this early in the season, but if we want to be in a good position to be able to reach the goals we set, that is what it is. After two tough losses against good teams, we needed a confidence builder and that is what we got last week. The atmosphere is so much better after a win, but we can't rest on it. We know Saucon is going to be a tougher opponent." Palmerton head coach Paul McArdle
Northern Lehigh at Palisades
Friday, 7 p.m.
Records: Northern Lehigh 3-0 overall (3-0 Colonial League); Palisades 0-3 overall (0-3 Colonial League)
Northern Lehigh's offense needs to ... focus on itself. The coaching staff is happy with the progression of the players so far, but the performance against Saucon Valley was far from perfect. Up front the Bulldogs have a couple of chinks in the armor. Palisades will probably blitz 70 to 80 percent of the time so if the offensive line picks it up most of the time, the Bulldogs should be able to move the football. Look for Northern Lehigh to spread the ball around more like it did last week.
Northern Lehigh's defense needs to ... get better. Saucon Valley put together a nice drive for one TD and despite its first team defense giving up just 14 points, the coaching staff felt the Bulldogs gave up too much yardage. This is the third week in a row where the Bulldog defense is going to see the same thing, the opposing offense running out of the shotgun formation. The majority of the time the Pirates will go four wide or trip sets. Palisades begins and ends with Josh Parris, who is the Pirates best athlete, and moved him from wide receiver to quarterback. He's big, fast and hard to tackle so the Bulldogs goal is to shut down the passing game and still key on Parris.
Fast facts ... Pirates have only scored three times in their first three games (a field goal in a 35-3 loss to Pen Argyl, a touchdown in a 41-7 loss to Bangor and a touchdown in a 35-7 loss to Catasauqua). Last year, the Bulldogs defeated the Pirates 26-24 when Cody Remaley gained 173 yards on 24 carries and scored two touchdowns, the last a five-yard TD run with 1:41 remaining to put his team ahead. With 16 seconds remaining, the Pirates set up to attempt a 35-yard field goal but it was no good.
Quotable ... "We've got to get a little nastier in a legal sense. There were times last week when Matt Gill was just dragging guys. So we were telling our linemen they have to get in there and push. We're happy with where we are, but we're not content. We just want to make sure we're looking at the little things we can improve upon. That's our goal this week." Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout
Mahanoy Area at Tamaqua
Friday, 7 p.m.
Records: Mahanoy Area 2-0 overall (2-0 Anthracite Football League), Tamaqua 0-3 overall (0-2 Anthracite Football League)
Tamaqua's offense needs to ... stretch the field. While the Blue Raiders hit some big pass plays against Shenandoah Valley, they only completed 4 of 11 attempts. Getting the ball up field against Mahanoy Area's 5-2 monster defensive alignment will create more running room for Raider backs Grif Griffiths, Garth Lakitsky and Jarred Muffley and prevent the Golden Bears from stuffing the box.
Tamaqua's defense needs to ... focus on its assignments. Mahanoy Area runs a triple option attack led by QB Mike Gavel, a dangerous runner who leads the Bears with 331 yards rushing and 5 TDs. Nathan Fegley and Nick Forte are other threats in the ground game for Mahanoy. Raiders gave up 153 yards rushing to Shenandoah Valley's Eric Whalen last week and cannot afford to allow that kind of yardage here.
Fast Facts ... Tamaqua leads the all-time series vs. Mahanoy City/Area 45-30-4 and has won the last two meetings, including 55-0 last year. The Bears' last win vs. the Raiders was in 2007 (14-6) ... Griffiths has surpassed the 2,000 yard rushing mark for his career and currently stands at 2,190 yards... Raiders won their first three games last year by a combined score of 63-45. This year, they have been outscored 79-58 by those same three teams (Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Shenandoah Vy.) ... TAHS Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place prior to kickoff at approximately 6:40 p.m.
Quotable ... "Obviously, Mahanoy Area is excited about what is going on (being 2-0), so we will have our hands full this week. We just have to keep playing football, keep our heads up and make good things happen." Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner
Southern Lehigh at Northwestern
Friday, 7 p.m.
Records: Northwesten 2-1 overall (2-1 Colonial League); Southern Lehigh 3-0 overall (3-0 Colonial League)
Northwestern's offense needs to ... put up some points against a defense that has allowed just 7 points per game this season. The Spartans have a swarming defense led by senior middle linebacker Ray Durkin's 18 tackles. Durkin will need to be blocked for the Tigers to have success in the running game.
Northwestern's defense needs to ... Find the ball and tackle it. Southern Lehigh, which runs a version of a Wing-T offense, has six different players with touchdowns this season. Their top running backs are Luke Gotzon (38 carries, 272 yards), Nick Kirsch (25 carries, 225 yards) and Matt Gotzon (23 carries, 123 yards).
Fast fact ... Southern Lehigh wide receiver Jeff Smillie broke school records for receptions and receiving yards this season. The senior has 79 catches and 1,042 yards in his career, which eclipses the marks set by Chris Hallman (66 catches from 1999-2001) and Dave Wood (969 yards from '73-'74). Smillie has 17 catches for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns this season.
Quotable ... "It's not a vanilla Wing-T. They all run well. They have all kinds of people scoring. We're not just defending one person." Northwestern head coach Tom Linette