Kicking off another season of Grid Picks
As the August sun sets upon the waning days of summer, we turn our minds to visions of Friday night’s bright lights and Saturday afternoon’s white stripes.
We love the smell of burgers sizzling at the concession stand, and the bang of the drum in the high school marching band. No other time of year excites fans more than the kick off of a new season of high school football.
It’s that time again for the Times News prognosticators to dust off their crystal balls. It’s that time again for us to analyze offensive and defensive schemes and statistics as we get ready to make a run at winning the coveted Grid Picks Cup.
Reigning champion, Bad Brad Hurley, who started last and finished first in 2018, holds the golden trophy for now, but he wears a target on his back and we will be aiming for the bullseye to knock him off his throne.
Hot Rod Heckman, who battled Hurley right through the final week, is a perennial favorite to win it all. Bob “Photo” Ford, the 2017 King of the Picks, is another early season favorite to drink from the Golden Cup. Don’t’ count our Pat “the Mat” Matsinko who always seems to stay in striking range of first place.
Bossman Emmett McCall has promised to rebound from his disappointment of a year ago. He sits across the sports department from Ford and recently made the statement, “I can’t lose again to a photographer!”
The rest of us are going off at 15-1 to 50-1 to win it all. Handy Andy Steinmetz, who held the lead for a few weeks last season, has to prove that last year was no fluke. Sam “The Man” Matta and Justin “The Voice” Carlucci are in mid-range odds to pull off the upset. Chuck “Good Luck” Hixson is the dark horse, but he has proven that his habit of going against the grain kept him out of Pundit Pit last year.
Yours Truly floundered around from good weeks to bad weeks for most of last season until I finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. I used to try not to finish last, but I have now added to my already overflowing bucket list the wish to defeat my colleagues and stand atop of Bossman’s office desk with the Golden Cup held over my head. If my football acumen fails me again, I might reach a state of desperation and let my daughter make my picks based upon her favorite team colors and mascots.
So here we go for another exciting year of high school football grid picks!
Who knows what goes?
Week 1 is perhaps the toughest to pick winners. Every team is unbeaten and obviously hopeful for a good start. Trying to gauge which teams will be affected most by graduation usually takes a couple of weeks; and for that matter, head coaches aren’t even sure how their newer players will perform. So we have no other choice but to go on instinct and factor in last year’s records.
Three area teams had nine win seasons in 2018 and all are favored by a strong majority of the staff to start this campaign off with victories.
Jim Thorpe, despite key losses to graduation, return a solid offense with breakaway backs CJ Selby and Dom Madera. The current edition of the Red Swarm defense will be tested by Schuylkill Haven’s stellar running back, Kobe Brish. Only Hixson went with the Hurricanes in this one.
Tamaqua returns a load of talented seniors, and coach Sam Bonner has his team poised to have a very special season. The Blue and White are a unanimous choice of the staff to get a win on the road against Line Mountain.
Northwestern also sports a loaded roster led by University of Delaware commit at quarterback, Deven Bollinger. The Tigers open with Notre Dame, which edged Tamaqua in the district playoffs last season. Perhaps this is the toughest matchup in Week 1, with both teams predicted for stellar seasons. Surprisingly, I was the only one who likes ND to win at home.
Local flavor and favor
There’s a quiet confidence building in Lehighton, where the Maroon and White are excited to exceed their four wins in 2018. We all believe the Tribe starts on that track tonight against Fleetwood.
Coach Joe Tout is touting Northern Lehigh’s team speed, which he feels will keep his Bulldogs in every game – and so do we, starting with a win over Wilson. Marian travels to Midd-West on opening night, and six of our 10 pickers like the Colts on the road to get the win.
Panther Valley, Pleasant Valley and Palmerton aim to reverse losing records. The majority of the staff likes new coach Rick Jones to come away from his Panther’s debut with a victory. That’s not the case for the Bombers, who have a tough start against Palisades, and the Bears with new coach Blaec Saeger who open against perennial power Liberty.
The dreaded ‘eight’
In the picks race, we dread the number eight. An 8-7 week makes it hard to catch up to staffers who finish with 10 or more wins. A 7-8 week spells a quick doom and gloom. Yet Hurley proved last season that a bad beginning isn’t fatal, as long as you then can string several 10-plus win weeks in a row.
So lets kick off another great football season tonight and let the chase to capture the Grid Picks Cup begin!