Marian, Lehighton will battle
A young team trying to find its identity in the Marian Colts
A resurging team, getting better each and every week in the Lehighton Indians.
The Week 4 Times News Game of the Week features a faceoff between the Colts and Indians, teams that as of right now are in totally different situations.
The storylines coming into this one are simple. The Colts (1-2) are trying to get back to winning football games, after losing their last two, while the Tribe (3-0) look to keep rolling along after a very solid start to 2017.
Lehighton has been one of the most impressive teams in not only the Times News area, but also the Schuylkill league this season. The Tribe holds wins over Fleetwood, Schuylkill Haven, and Schuylkill Valley and did so quite handedly, with an average margin of victory of 28 points per game.
Lehighton has gone back to the formula that helped them to a 10-0 regular season in 2015 - better balance on the offensive and defensive side of the football. A year ago, the offense was there for the Tribe, but the defense was not, as they finished 4-7. This offseason, head coach Tom McCarroll made it a point to focus on the defensive side of the ball, which has been the strength of the Lehighton program since McCarroll took over six seasons ago.
The Indians' focus on shoring up their defense has certainly made an impact, as they're giving up just 13.7 points per game, 4.4 yards per carry, and just 59 yards passing per game on the season.
"I've said this many times to many people that I felt like we took a step back defensively last season. We just didn't play well on that side of the ball, so we went into the offseason really focused on getting better on defense, and the kids responded," said McCarroll. "Defense has always been kind of our bread and butter; even when we struggled in the MVC, we still played tough defense. I think it was important to get back to that mentality, and it's worked out well for us. A lot of credit has to go to our players too, because they've put the time in."
Marian began the season with a win and used its rushing attack to do so. In the Colts Week 1 win over Fairfield, they rushed for 245 yards, with starting running back Seth Paluck getting off to a good start, rushing for 173 yards and two scores.
Since then, the Colts have rushed for just 24 yards as a team in their last two games and Paluck has been held to 25 yards. The lack of a consistent running game has resulted in back-to-back scoreless games for the Colts.
"I know I kind of sound like a broken record, because I've been saying the same thing every week. But it's important for us to block better, and then on the defensive end, we need to tackle better," said Marian head coach Pat Morgans. "We need to get something going on offense, and that all starts up front. Establishing the run is key to what we do offensively, so we just need to do a better job."
There's no doubt that Marian's offensive line must be better this week, but it's true test will be on the defensive side of the ball.
It's safe to say that there might not be a more dynamic quarterback in the Times News area than Lehighton's Cody Scherer. Scherer has thrown for 321 yards and five touchdowns, while running for 221 yards and three scores. Pair Scherer's production and playmaking ability with Lehighton's talented running back in Tyquan Bradley-Chambers (362 yards, 8.2 yards per carry, 5 TDs) and the Indians pack a one-two punch that rivals any in the Schuylkill League.
"We know that a key for us, a big key for us, starts with stopping their run game. We really have to do a good job of bottling up both Scherer and Chambers. They can both run inside and out, so that's what's tough about their offense," said Morgans. "The other key will be to stop the big play. If we can make them earn it on every down in the running game and stop the big play, then our defense has done their job."
Two teams in two different situations, there's no doubting that with the Tribe currently riding high and the Colts certainly looking to improve. However, there is a saying in football, "any given Friday, you're either going to win or you're going to lose." That's a saying and a mentality that McCarroll is certainly aware of.
"We know we're going to get Marian's best shot, we always do, they're well-coached and they will be ready to go," said McCarroll. "They've been struggling, and you know their kids want to come out and make a point. We know they're going to play hard and we're focused and looking forward to the challenge."