Wild, wacky Anthracite Football League
As expected, Catasauqua and East Stroudsburg South are proving to be the class of the Colonial League and the Mountain Valley Conference respectively. Both teams were pre-season league favorites and are currently undefeated. OVERTIME would be remiss not to point out the great seasons one-loss teams Palisades and Southern Lehigh are having in the CL and that Pleasant Valley and Stroudsburg are enjoying in the MVC.
But since both Catty and South have already beaten their two nearest pursuers, there seems to be little doubt how those league races are going to finish.
While those two leagues have played out pretty much according to form, that hasn't been the case with the other league that features area teams.
So this week, OVERTIME is going to examine the crazy 2013 Anthracite Football League season.
We'll also look at a Pleasant Valley kicker, a high-scoring game from Marian, another big night from a Tamaqua running back, and some other interesting accomplishments you might have missed.
Teams projected to finish near the bottom of the league standings are battling for the championship.
With just two weeks left in the season, the top five teams are separated by just one game in the loss column.
Depending on what week of the season you asked, you might have received a half dozen different replies to "who is the best team in the league?"
Welcome to the wild, wacky Anthracite Football League where Jim Thorpe (6-1), North Schuylkill (5-2), Schuylkill Haven (5-2), Marian (4-2) and Mahanoy Area (4-2) are all still in contention.
While the Mountain Valley Conference and Colonial League have all gone pretty much according to form, the Anthracite Football League has had no form.
It started early in the season with surprisingly fast starts from Mahanoy Area and Jim Thorpe a pair of teams that combined for just three wins last season and were picked to finish fifth and seven respectively in the AFL Media Day coaches' poll.
It continued through the middle of the campaign with pre-season favorites Schuylkill Haven and North Schuylkill both suffering a pair of losses.
And it has shown no signs of a late-season let up as the combination of Marian's four-game league win streak and Haven's bounce-back victory over Jim Thorpe last Friday night has threatened to make the final weeks of the season just as interesting and unpredictable as the opening weeks.
"There is a lot of parity in the league this year," said Jim Thorpe coach Mark Rosenberger, whose Olympians are the only team that can win an outright league title. "I think the injuries that Schuylkill Haven suffered early helped open the doors for a few teams, including ourselves.
"It's definitely been very eventful and very tough. It's a great league and this year there is tremendous balance."
How hard has it been to predict the outcome of AFL games this season? Here's a little comparison of scores:
* Mahanoy Area beats Marian by 34 points; North Schuylkill beats Mahanoy by 24 points. So that makes North Schuylkill 58 points better than Marian, right? Marian beats North Schuylkill by a point.
* Jim Thorpe beats Tamaqua by 20 points; Tamaqua beats Schuylkill Haven by 18 points. So that makes Jim Thorpe 38 points better than Haven, right? Schuylkill Haven beats Jim Thorpe by 18 points.
* Schuylkill Haven beats Marian by 24 points; Marian beats North Schuylkill by 1 point. So that makes Schuylkill Haven 25 points better than North Schuylkill, right? North Schuylkill beats Haven by 19 points.
As any football expert will tell you, comparing scores of common opponents isn't always the best way to predict an outcome. Normally, however, it's at least a fairly accurate way to gauge the strengths of teams that have not played each other yet. But as the above information confirms, that simply hasn't been the case in the AFL this season.
"It's been a battle every week," said Marian's Stan Dakosty. "It seems like almost any team can beat any other team on a given night.
"As a veteran coach in this league, I can tell you that the Anthracite League has always played great football. But this year, there isn't one dominant team like you have seen in recent years with North Schuylkill. That has produced a lot of balance and a lot of excitement. I think that has been great for the fans."
With two weeks still remaining in the regular season, that excitement is still a long way from over.
Among the late-season matchups that could have a huge impact on the league race as well as the District 11 playoff picture are Jim Thorpe at Marian, Marian at Tamaqua and Mahanoy Area at Schuylkill Haven.
It should be an interesting finish.
Because if there is one thing this season has taught us, it's that you just never know what to expect when the top teams in the wild, wacky Anthracite Football League get together.
KRCIC THE KICKER ... On Saturday, Pleasant Valley's Dean Krcic kicked a 30-yard and a 40-yard field goal. Since 1990, he's just the seventh area player to kick two field goals of 30 or more yards in the same game.
The others are Pleasant Valley's Malik Krcic and Ryan Habick; Northwestern's Chris Horn and Jeremy Rex; Lehighton's Cory Whitehead and Jim Thorpe's Tyler O'Shura.
Krcic is also just the fifth area kicker to hit a field goal from 40 yards or more during that span. He joins Northwestern's Tom Camano; and Pleasant Valley's Justin Kashner, Ryan Habick and Trevor Micklos.
COLTS GET OFFENSIVE ... Marian piled up 52 points in cruising to an easy victory over Shenandoah on Friday night.
In the Saturday TIMES NEWS, it was reported that the last time the Colts had that many points in a game was Oct. 7, 2011. But Marian actually only had 50 points in that game.
The last time the Colts scored 52 or more points was really Sept. 6, 1997 187 games ago when they defeated Mahanoy Area, 61-6.
BACK-TO-BACK ...Tamaqua's Tyler Hope collected 197 yards rushing on Friday night against Panther Valley. That followed his record-breaking 350-yard effort the week before against Schuylkill Haven.
Hope's combined 547 yards rushing in back-to-back weeks is the second most in TIMES NEWS history (since individual stats started appearing with game stories in 1988).
The most yards in back-to-back games was 578 yards and it was accomplished by Lehighton's Robbie Frey on Oct. 13, 2006 (281 yards) and Oct. 20, 2006 (297 yards).
Hope is just the third player in TN history to total more than 500 yards in consecutive games. The other player besides Frey to achieve that was Joe Semanoff of Lehighton who had 315 yards on Sept. 15, 2000 and 206 yards on Sept. 23, 2000 for a total of 521 yards.
Prior to Hope's performance, the Tamaqua record for rushing yards in back-to-back games was held by Alex Zukas. Zukas rushed for 231 yards on Oct. 19, 2001 and followed that up with a 255 yard performance on Oct. 26, 2001 for a total of 486 yards.
START ME UP ...Harry Hall of Northwestern gave his team a good start last Friday against Pen Argyl when he took the opening kickoff and raced 83 yards for a touchdown.
The last time a Tiger player returned the game's opening kickoff for a touchdown was Sept. 6, 2002 128 games ago when Nick Friday went 92 yards to the house.