Playoff picture starting to take shape
To use the words made famous by Indianapolis Colts' head coach Jim Mora in a memorable 2001 press conference .... "Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs?"
Mora's high-pitched reply to a question about his team's postseason chances has been replayed over and over again through the years. It was even featured in a Coors Light commercial several years later.
But with all due apologies to Mora, this week's OVERTIME column will talk "playoffs."
With four weeks still remaining in the regular season, the timing of this playoff piece might not be much better than the timing of the question that provoked Mora's memorable tirade. So even though coaches might not want to talk about playoff possibilities and definitely don't want their players thinking about them, OVERTIME will take a look at area teams that are in contention.
In addition to the playoff sneak peak, OVERTIME will also check out some big numbers posted by a Northwestern running back, a kickoff return by Lehighton, and several other interesting facts and figures from last week's action that you might not have noticed.
Heading into week seven of the season, two area teams (Lehighton and Pleasant Valley) are currently in the District 11 playoff field; two more teams (Northwestern and Jim Thorpe) are knocking on the door; and two others (Marian and Tamaqua) are still in contention but will need some help.
Here's a quick review of the playoff setup for District 11 football:
Class A, AA and AAA are enclosed four-team playoffs with qualifying teams selected through the district's new power rating system. Class AAAA is an eight-team bracket that also includes Districts 2 and 4. District 11 will get six of the spots. Rankings will be done through the district's traditional power point system.
Let's take a look at each of the four classes and our local teams that are in contention.
In Class A, Marian is ranked seventh with a 3-3 record and a power rating of .424830. The top three teams in Class A (Tri-Valley, Mahanoy Area and Williams Valley) have just one loss between them and are a good bet to qualify. That means the battle is for the fourth and final spot. With Pius X (.526026), Schuylkill Haven and Nativity all above the Marian, the Colts' margin for error is very slim. Marian will more than likely have to win out. If that happens it should pass Nativity but it would still need at least one loss from Haven and possibly two from Pius.
In Class AA, Northwestern is fifth with a 4-2 record and a .549175 rating. Unbeatens Pine Grove and Catasauqua top the field. But it's wide open after that with Colonial League teams Palisades, Pen Argyl and Northwestern in the next three spots, and Anthracite League power North Schuylkill sitting sixth. If the Tigers can beat rival Northern Lehigh this week and avoid a stumble against Bangor in week nine, then their game against Pen Argyl in week eight could decide the final spot in AA. Tamaqua is currently eighth in the AA ratings. The Raiders will almost definitely have to win out and then get plenty of help with the teams in front of them.
In Class AAA, Lehighton (ranked third) and Jim Thorpe (ranked fifth) both appear to control their own destiny. If either wins out, it's nearly impossible to see a way they aren't in the field. Top-ranked Bethlehem Catholic and second-ranked Southern Lehigh should be in unless they stumble badly down the stretch. The Indians have a .616368 rating while the Olympians are at .589571. They will more than likely be battling with fourth-ranked Pottsville and sixth-ranked Saucon Valley for the final two spots. There is a chance that the Jim Thorpe at Lehighton season finale could decide who is in and who is out.
In Class AAAA, Pleasant Valley is in sixth place overall and is fifth among District 11 teams in the rankings. The Bears are 5-1 with 580 points. Emmaus is currently holding the sixth and final District 11 spot in the rankings with Stroudsburg sitting one spot behind them among district teams. Pleasant Valley will more than likely get in even if it losses one of its remaining four games. If the Bears do lose one more time, the season finale between Pleasant Valley and Stroudsburg could have huge playoff implications.
"HALL" OF FAME ... After gaining 198 yards on Friday night in a win over Palmerton, Northwestern's Harry Hall has now rushed for at least 185 yards in back-to-back games.
The Last Tiger to accomplish that feat was Brett Snyder in 1995. Snyder actually had an incredible stretch of eight straight games where he gained 185 or more yards rushing during that season.
TAKING IT TO THE HOUSE ... Tyler Crum's 98-yard kickoff return for Lehighton during last week's game against East Stroudsburg North was the Indians' first kickoff return for a touchdown since Josh Agosto did it against Pocono Mountain West on Oct. 23, 2009. Since that time, Lehighton had received approximately 175 kickoffs without taking one to the house.
Crum's return was on the opening kickoff of the game. The last time an Indian player returned the opening kickoff for a score was Sept. 30, 2005 when Robbie Frey started a game against Pocono Mountain East with a 90-yard TD return.
DISTANCE WORK ... Jim Thorpe not only scored a lot of points in Friday's 47-0 victory over Minersville, but it scored a number of its points from long distance.
In the game, the Olympians got touchdown runs of 43 and 50 yards from Ryan Saunders and 44 yards from Antonio Madera.
The last time Jim Thorpe had three or more rushing touchdowns of at least 40 yards in the same game was Oct. 22, 2004 93 games ago when Jason Figura had TD runs of 52 and 62 yards and Justin Young had a 41-yarder during a 42-7 win over Schuylkill Haven.
SCORING STREAK ... In its win over Minersville on Friday, Jim Thorpe extended its consecutive-game scoring streak.
The Olympians have now gone 34 straight games without being shutout. The last time the Olympians failed to score in a game was Sept. 17, 2010 when they lost to North Schuylkill, 54-0. Since that game, Jim Thorpe has avoided another goose egg and averaged an impressive 25.1 ppg. over that span.
The 34 games ties the second longest streak in Jim Thorpe school history, but is still a long way from the top mark of 68 game straight games without being shut out. That mark was set between 2001-2007.
COMEBACK KIDS ... Pleasant Valley is doing its best to dispell the fact that halftime deficits in high school football are rarely overcome.
The Bears trailed Pocono Mountain East, 10-7, on Friday night before rallying in the second half for a 28-22 victory. It was the second time this season that the Bears had rallied from a halftime deficit to win a game.
Since 2009 when Jim Terwilliger took over as head coach, Pleasant Valley is a very respectable 7-12 (a .368 winning percentage) in games that it has trailed at halftime.
So how good is that?
During that same time span, the other eight TIMES NEWS area teams were just a combined 18-180 when trailing at halftime an .091 winning percentage
In the eight years preceeding Terwilliger's arrival (2001-08), Pleasant Valley teams were just 3-46 when trailing at halftime an .061 winning percentage