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N’western puts unbeaten record on the line

Northwestern will look to remain undefeated against Bangor Friday as the regular season reaches its halfway point.

Elsewhere, Tamaqua and Jim Thorpe will look to build on their victories from a week ago.

Bangor at Northwestern

Friday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Storyline of the Week

: Can Northwestern Lehigh slow the upstart Bangor Slaters to keep their undefeated season intact?

When last season’s abbreviated schedule was done, the Bangor Slaters had struggled to a 1-5 record, and had been outscored 165-69. To make matters worse, they lost several key starters, many of them at skill positions, so the odds of them being 3-1 at this point in the season weren’t very good. Meanwhile, Northwestern Lehigh downed Lehighton last week to climb to 4-0. In four games this season, Bangor has flipped its scoring numbers, putting 151 points on the board, while allowing just 56 points to their opponents. “I’ve coached against Paul [Bangor coach Reduzzi] a lot, going back to when he was at Pen Argyl, and I think that he is really turning things around for Bangor,” said Tigers coach Josh Snyder. “His teams are always well coached, and he always gets them to play hard.” The play of the offensive and defensive lines for Northwestern has been exceptional this season. With all five of last year’s starters graduating, the players who have taken their places haven’t missed a beat. Northwestern and Bangor had their game last season canceled by COVID issues, so they haven’t played since 2019. The Tigers have three straight wins against Bangor, with the last Slaters win coming at home back in October of 2016 in a 36-28 win over Northwestern Lehigh.

Players to Watch:

Eric Striba, Bangor

The junior quarterback has completed 62% of his passes for an average of 103 yards per game this season and spreads the ball around. None of his receivers have more than nine catches, but there are six with at least four catches. Striba can also take off with the ball, having rushed for an average of 92 yards per game.

Andrew Sabo, Northwestern Lehigh

Sabo led the Tigers defense in solo tackles last week with six, and added in five assists on tackles against Lehighton. Sabo also picked up a sack for Northwestern.

Eli Zimmerman, Northwestern Lehigh

The freshman running back stepped up to lead the team in carries and rushing yards last week with 83 yards on 11 carries for the Tigers. He had just five carries coming into the game, and it will be interesting to see if he continues to garner more playing time.

Marian at Shenandoah

When: Friday, Sept. 24, 7 p.m.

Storyline of the Week

: The Colts look to overcome injuries and win their first game.

“We’re not making excuses. We’re giving reasons.”

Those are the words of Marian head coach Stan Dakosty. As of this week, the Colts have lost nine starters to injuries, and have just one healthy senior who will suit up for Friday’s game against Shenandoah. “We have had to send kids onto the field who have never played a single high school football game,” he said. “Eighty percent of our team has been sidelined. “We’ve had to play our fullbacks on the line as guards, but that’s a logical move, because at both positions, the priority is blocking.” How difficult has it been for the Colts’ offense to move the ball down the field? Last week against Palmerton, they ended the game with negative five yards on offense due to several tackles behind the line of scrimmage. “Being as young as we are, our underclassmen know it will get better because they will have two or three more years here,” said Dakosty. “We have a great bunch of kids and good leadership, too. We’re looking forward to playing Shenandoah this week.” Speaking of the Blue Devils, their program has struggled in recent years, and are winless in their first three games this season. “They have similar roster numbers as us,” said Dakosty. “Their quarterback and wide receivers have been outstanding this season in spite of their record.” One of these teams will come away with their first win of the year and while Dakosty said, “We will play the cards we were dealt,” his team will certainly be prepared to give their best effort come Friday night.

Players to watch:

Joey Walko, Marian

Dakosty lauds the play of this junior, who has played tight end, fullback and guard thus far this season.

Matt Martin, Marian

Martin leads the Colts in total offense. He averaged four yards a carry last week, and has been a solid defensive player at the linebacker position.

Nick Ryan, Shenandoah Valley

Against Kutztown this season, the speedy sophomore caught three balls for 130 yards and a touchdown.

Nativity at Panther Valley

When: Friday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Storyline of the Week

: Will the Panthers’ passing game become an offensive threat?

Last week in Panther Valley’s 32-6 loss to Catasauqua, the Panthers (0-2) averaged five yards a carry and totaled 153 yards on the ground. In the air, PV completed two passes in the entire game for exactly 13 yards. “We dropped at least five passes,” said coach Rick Jones, “and the problem is that if you can’t spread out your offensive alignments, and your opponent doesn’t respect your passing game, they will crowd the box making it difficult to move the chains and sustain drives.” That being said, PV’s one-dimensional attack might have kept the teams one score apart last week if it weren’t for two quick big-play scores by the Rough Riders just before the end of the first half. Jones did see more physicality and aggressiveness in his team’s effort on the other side of the ball. “We were really flying around and making good hits and hard tackles,” he said. “This was only our second game, so it was good to see our kids getting the feel of how you need to play.” This week, the Panthers will host Nativity BVM (2-2), which defeated Mahanoy Area last Friday. Jones believes he’ll have a better idea during this game about his team’s chances to earn their first win of the season. “The two other teams we have played were quicker, and in some areas, more athletic than us.” Even though the Green Wave has very good veteran players at the skill positions, they’re big, but not particularly fast up front, so this is a team that we should be able to be at a similar level of competitiveness.” Jones is wary though of Nativity’s big-play tendencies that begin with its quarterback, Cody Miller. “They have several three-year starters, and that means an awful lot to the success they have had so far.” As far as his team is concerned, there still remains an element of uncertainty as it prepares for only its third game of the season. “We’re still experimenting with putting players at different positions,” said Jones. “Once we get them in the right places, we should be a better football team.”

Players to watch:

Michael Pascoe, Panther Valley

The Panthers’ quarterback is their leading ground gainer, averaging close to four yards a carry.

Aiden Kreimandahl, Panther Valley

The sophomore running back led PV with 55 yards gained on only four touches against Catasauqua last week.

Cody Miller, Nativity

The QB of the Green Wave has passed for over 1,000 yards last season and threw for a dozen touchdowns.

Tamaqua at Salisbury

When: Friday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Storyline of the Week

: Breakout performance for the Blue Raiders.

Tamaqua recorded its first win of the season this past Saturday against Palisades. When junior tailback Warren Stewart went down early, Blue Raider running backs Zander Coleman and Love Ortiz took over for the ailing Stewart, and the duo combined for 249 rushing yards in a 34-14 victory over the Green Knights. Coleman was the star of the game, carrying 16 times for 194 yards and two rushing touchdowns. The Blue Raider rushing game picked apart the Pen Argyl defense as Tamaqua rushed for 279 rushing yards on the afternoon. Quarterback Nate Gregoire also had two rushing touchdowns, to go with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Steven Kostecky to put Tamaqua up 14-0 with 7:13 left in the first half. Tamaqua scored 21 second-quarter points after both teams had failed to score in the opening frame. The Blue Raider rushing game accounted for four of the team’s five touchdowns. Although the passing game was used sparingly, Gregoire connected on some key passes when he went to the air. The Falcons lost 20-0 to Jim Thorpe Friday, and remain winless at 0-4. There were six fumbles in the game, four by the Falcons and two were recovered by Thorpe. ”They’re a hungry team,” said Tamaqua coach Sam Bonner. “They haven’t had a win, but they played Jim Thorpe very tough. It was scoreless at halftime, and they really seem to fly around on defense. We’re hoping that we can continue doing what we’re doing well. I thought we threw the ball better on Saturday, and that’s something that we’re hoping that we can continue with. I thought our defense started to get a little bit better, our secondary. Once they start improving as the year goes on, hopefully we can become even more competitive. But it all starts with Salisbury, which will be a big game for us.”

Players to Watch:

Nicholas Beck, Salisbury

Beck ran for 33 yards on 15 carries against the Olympians. He completed 7-of-13 passes for 99 yards. His top target was Jacob Bucchin, who had three catches for 63 yards.

Nate Gregoire, Tamaqua

Gregoire had two rushing touchdowns to go with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Steven Kostecky during Saturday’s win against Pen Argyl.

Zander Coleman, Tamaqua

Coleman was the star of Saturday’s win over the Green Knights, carrying 16 times for 194 yards and two rushing touchdowns.

No.Lehigh at Palisades

When: Friday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Storyline of the Week

: Bulldogs try to regroup and refocus.

A fourth-quarter score lifted undefeated Notre Dame Green Pond to a 34-27 win over Northern Lehigh in a game where momentum swung back-and-forth, and playmakers on both sides routinely rose to the occasion Friday. The Bulldogs (2-2) brought their own brand of physicality on both sides of the ball, outgaining Notre Dame 416-356. Trevor Amorim and Matt Frame combined for 274 yards rushing and a pair of long scores for Northern Lehigh. Amorim (12 carries, 150 yards) bolted 80 yards for a touchdown that put the Bulldogs up 13-7 in the first quarter. Frame delivered a punishing 52-yard score that pushed the advantage to 20-7 with 7:52 left in the first half. After a 58-yard interception return by Brett Misera on its first drive of the second half, Notre Dame was staring at a 27-14 deficit. Dylan Smoyer and Misera connected for a 15-yard score on the first drive of the game. Amorim converted a fourth-and-one at the NL 27 with a 10-yard carry to keep the series alive. “There were a lot of positives, a lot of really good stuff,” said Bulldogs’ head coach Joe Tout. “We have to be able to finish drives there. We’re hopefully building up our depth. It will be nice now playing Palisades, which is similar to us. We’re not going to see a team that is going to platoon a whole lot, so we’ll feel better about that matchup.” Northern Lehigh’s other loss this season was a 34-33 setback against Northwestern in Week 2. The Bulldogs have lost two games by a total of eight points to teams that are a combined 8-0. The Bulldogs have a shot at redemption next week against Palisades. The Pirates defeated Northern Lehigh twice last season, including 31-14 in the District 11 Class 2A title game. “After two losses to Palisades last year, I expect us (to be ready),” said Tout. “I told our kids I’ve been waiting to play these guys since last November. My expectation is that the kids that played in that (district championship) game, we didn’t have a great taste in our mouth, after that game. So that’s our expectation, that we’re ready to play Friday.” The Pirates are currently 1-3, and have been outscored 133-39 this season. “They have some similarities (to last season),” said Tout. “They have some kids back on their offensive and defensive lines. They’re definitely not as heavy of an I (formation) team that they were before, and that’s because their strength last year was fullback, tailback and they had a very good tight end. So they’re leaning on more spread formations, but they’re running things that they ran last year.” Defensively, Northern Lehigh matched up well defensively at the skill positions against Notre Dame. The Bulldogs expect to do the same against the Pirates. Aiden Parvel returned to the lineup for Northern Lehigh last week, and provided a boost in the secondary after missing the previous week against Tamaqua. The Bulldogs have seen some of the top QBs in the league this season in Northwestern’s Justin Holmes and Notre Dame’s Collin Quintano. That will continue this week against senior Jaden Newton, a three-year starter.

Players to Watch:

Matt Frame, Northern Lehigh

Frame delivered a punishing 52-yard score that pushed the advantage to 20-7 with 7:52 left in the first half last week against Notre Dame Green Pond. Frame finished with 124 yards on 19 carries.

Trevor Amorim, Northern Lehigh

Amorim (12 carries, 150 yards) bolted 80 yards for a touchdown that put the Bulldogs up 13-7 in the first quarter against the Crusaders. Amorim and Frame combined for 274 yards rushing and a pair of long scores for Northern Lehigh.

Kyle McGrath, Palisades

McGrath caught six passes for 111 yards in a loss at North Schuylkill last week. He also averaged 22 yards on six kick returns.

Pleasant Valley at Dieruff

When: Friday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Storyline of the Week

: Pleasant Valley looks to rebound.

After a tough loss to East Stroudsburg South last week, Pleasant Valley is on the rebound. South held the Bears to 213 yards of total offense, and PV was only able to put up two touchdowns in the game. “It took a day or two to get over that one,” Saeger said. “That was a tough loss. I think that game we didn’t play all particularly well. That was the game we thought we could at least be a lot more competitive. We weren’t real pleased with our performance Saturday, but that’s the thing of the game. You got to move on, you can’t dwell on it.” All attention now turns to Friday’s game against a winless Dieruff team. However, Dieruff had three tough opponents to start the season in Allentown Central Catholic, Nazareth and East Stroudsburg South. “They’ve had a very tough schedule,” Saeger said about Dieruff. “They are a very fast and athletic team whose record is not indicative of who they are there. It’s an opponent we have a lot of respect for, and we realize it’s going to be a four-quarter game.” Pleasant Valley’s two wins on the season came in blowouts of East Stroudsburg South and Allen. Another concern that popped up during the South game was the scenario set up when Ryan Blass intercepted a Bobby McClosky pass at the PV one-yard line. The only points PV gave up going into the game was a safety against Allen, and East Stroudsburg South capitalized on the same opportunity to trap quarterback Robert Papaleo in the end zone. With the South game behind them, Pleasant Valley needs a better performance Friday night to take down the Huskies. “We got to play much better than we did last weekend in order to beat them,” Saeger said. “A lot of speed and athleticism, and very large offensive linemen, and the team we’re going to have a tough time with. “

Players to Watch:

Jake Gethen, Pleasant Valley

Gethen caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Robert Papaleo in the second quarter of the East Stroudsburg South game. Passing was also limited in last week’s game as Pleasant Valley was held to 56 yards in the air.

Robert Papaleo, Pleasant Valley

Papaleo was the team’s leading rusher last Saturday with 66 yards in a 36-14 loss. The senior quarterback got a little banged up during the game, but showed no signs of stopping when he returned. Saeger says his team will be back at 100% for Dieruff.

Ryan Blass, Pleasant Valley

Blass had an interception and a touchdown catch in the South game. Blass normally makes big catches when Papaleo throws the ball.

Lehighton at Pottsville

When: Friday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Storyline of the Week

: Tribe prepare for another explosive offense.

After falling to undefeated Northwestern 49-7 last week, Lehighton (1-3) will now face a Pottsville team that is 3-1 and coming off a 47-14 win over Blue Mountain. “When you look at the beginning of the season, we know that Northwestern and Pottsville are probably in my opinion the top-two teams on our schedule,” said Lehighton head coach Tom McCarroll. “So, to get them back-to-back, it’s certainly a challenge. And of course, you throw all the injuries that we have out there, it doesn’t help us. We need to be full-strength to beat teams like that. But, at the same time, we look at the remainder of our schedule, and there are some winnable games. So, our message to the kids is to keep fighting through the tough games, and try and build some team chemistry and camaraderie and really rally around each other and see how we can finish out the last stretch of the season.” The Tide put up 468 yards of total offense against the Eagles. Quarterback Jazce Carabello-Snowell has completed 30-of-58 pass attempts for 534 yards with six touchdowns and two picks this season. He has also carried the ball 34 times for 239 yards and one score. “The Snowbell-Carabello kid at quarterback is really dangerous,” said McCarroll. “He’s very similar in a lot of ways to the (Justin) Holmes kid, who we just faced. Big physical kid. I think Holmes probably slightly a better passer, but at the end of the day, he’s (Snowell-Carabello) still very efficient with how and when he passes the ball. Last week, he had three or four TD passes. So, we know they have weapons all over the place. We know they’re physical up front. So, there’s no secret to what they do. It’s kind of a nice luxury to have to have those pieces. Ending their two-game slide won’t be easy, but McCarroll and his staff will do everything to get the squad prepared for this week, and the rest of the season. “We’ve got some challenges. We got some different things. But, it’s what a season brings,” McCarroll said. “We’re certainly not the only ones dealing with this kind of adversity at this point. We’re at the mid-point of the season pretty much. Everybody’s got injuries. Everybody’s got different kinds of personal issues going on. Our message is try to put the last few games behind us and kind of just focus on … we have a six-game season ahead of us, so to speak. We want to try to put together the best six-game stretch we can possibly put together.”

Players to Watch:

AJ Light, Lehighton

The kicker has 12 extra points this season, and only missed one, with one blocked. His younger brother, John, is the placeholder for his extra-point attempts.

Gage Hartney, Lehighton

A two-way lineman, he has played at left guard, left tackle and right guard positions on the offensive line this season, and has also played nose guard, defensive tackles and defensive end this season. He is also a team captain.

Travontai Davis, Pottsville

The running back leads the team with 401 yards rushing on 51 carries (101.5 yards per game) to go along with six touchdowns this season.

Jim Thorpe at NDGP

When: Friday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

Storyline of the Week

: The Olympians have been the bounce-back-boys this season.

After a loss to Blue Mountain in their opening game of the season, the Olympians got a big win over a good Palmerton team, 17-14. Then last week, Thorpe was able to bounce back after a loss to North Schuylkill, with a 20-0 victory over Salisbury. The key, however, will be to keep the momentum going, and they will need a locomotive-size momentous effort against an explosive and undefeated Notre Dame Green Pond squad. Thorpe’s “Red Swarm” defense will certainly have their hands full with Crusaders’ quarterback Collin Quintano and his No. 1 target in Tarif Muhammad. Quintano has already thrown for 1,127 yards and 14 touchdowns this season (282 passing yards per game), and Muhammad has caught 21 balls for 408 yards (19.4 yards per catch) and five scores. The Crusaders’ offense is averaging just under 40 points per game. JT has been solid against the pass, giving up just 130 yards passing per game. “Quarterback is a terrific player and tremendous athlete, so it goes without saying we need to try and get pressure on him with our front and not let him break contain. Eliminating the big play will be crucial for us,” said Jim Thorpe head coach Mark Rosenberger. “Offensively, we also need to do a good job of moving the sticks and chewing up clock. We need to keep our defense rested, and their offense off the field. So, controlling the tempo and the line of scrimmage are going to be key factors as well.” Keeping the clock moving on offense will be vital for Thorpe this week as the NDGP can score in bunches, meaning it’s run game will need to be improved. The Olympians’ rushing attack has struggled at times this season, averaging just over 120 yards per game on the ground.

Players to Watch:

Salvatore Capria, Jim Thorpe

Capria has amassed 289 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.

Derryl Fisher, Jim Thorpe

Fisher will need to be big for JT in the passing game. He has caught 13 balls for 139 yards and three scores.

Collin Quintano, NDGP

Quintano has already thrown for 1,127 yards and 14 touchdowns this season (282 passing yards per game).

Tarif Muhammad, NDGP

Muhammad has caught 21 balls for 408 yards (19.4 yards per catch) and five scores.

Capsules compiled by Rich Strack, Brad Hurley, Chuck Hixson, TJ Engle, Kyle Magda and Patrick Matsinko.

Northwestern's Justin Holmes runs through Lehighton defenders during last week's victory. RICH SMITH/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS