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Northwestern ready to take on Palmerton

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    Northern Lehigh’s Zach Moyer looks for room to run around Saucon Valley’s Evan Deily. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published September 26. 2019 12:20PM

The lone matchup of area teams this week features Palmerton traveling to Northwestern on Friday night.

Elsewhere, Tamaqua will look to stay undefeated when it hosts Pottsville.

Palmerton at

Northwestern

Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.

Here’s what you need to know:

MILITARY GRADE WEAPONS... The Northwestern offense is one of the more balanced and explosive units in District 11. Quarterback Deven Bollinger, running back Nick Henry and receivers Justin Rodda and Justin Holmes have all taken turns in the spotlight for the 4-1 Tigers this season. Palmerton coach Chris Walkowiak is well aware of just how good the Tigers offense is and how much damage it can do.

“It begins with Bollinger, who is a four-year starter and has gotten better and better. Then you add Henry running the ball, and Holmes and Rodda, and they can hurt you in so many ways. I think they have more weapons than the military,” said Walkowiak.

PLAY YOUR GAME... For Walkowiak, the concerns this week aren’t about stopping the Tigers offense or looking to find the few small defensive holes that Northwestern has shown in some games this season. It’s more about just doing what the Blue Bombers (1-4) are capable of and looking to eliminate mistakes, which have cost them at some points during the season.

“They’re going to do what they’re going to do, but we need to do a better job of controlling what we do. We need to have good first downs, convert third downs and not turn the ball over. Like in any game, teams are going to do what they’re going to do, but it’s more about what we do, and we need to do some things better,” he said.

GAME OF THRONES... Friday night will be homecoming for Northwestern, and three of its players will be among the contenders to be crowned Homecoming King. On the field though, Northwestern coach Josh Snyder is thinking about what that means for Palmerton and how much the Bombers would love to spoil the night for the Tigers.

“They’re not a bad team,” said Snyder. “They were down 28-0 last week, and they battled back and made it 28-21. They’ve been in some games, but for whatever reason, they haven’t been able to win them. I know it would make their early season if they were able to come in here and knock us off at our homecoming.”

AS LONG AS YOU’VE GOT YOUR HEALTH... Northwestern was hit by injuries both in camp and early in the season. The good news is that they will have senior linemen Ryan Masters and Mike Marrazzo back this week to solidify their line, which is already a key part of the Tigers success this season. Receiver Dom Harding, who missed last week, was also given the go-ahead to practice at full speed this week, and will be back in the lineup for Northwestern.

JUST HAVING FUN... Last week, Snyder decided to have some fun in practice and put in a flea-flicker, with backup quarterback Justin Holmes doing the flicking. He wound up putting the play into the playbook against Bangor and it worked perfectly, with Holmes hitting Rodda for a 35-yard connection deep into Slaters territory to set up a touchdown run by Henry. So, will there be more fun in store this week? Snyder was noncommittal. “We’ll see. You never know.”

Pottsville at Tamaqua

Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.

Here’s what you need to know:

TURNING THE TIDE ... Pottsville didn’t prevail in last year’s meeting against Tamaqua. But the Tide did end the Raiders’ shutout streak with a third-quarter touchdown before falling 35-6.

ROLLING ... While Tamaqua won’t enter this season’s game unscored upon, the Raiders have been just as dominant, outscoring opponents 226-37 during their 5-0 start.

TIDAL WAVE ... Pottsville has responded well since a 21-20 loss to Wyomissing in double overtime in Week 2. The Tide have won three straight and outscored opponents 149-33 during that stretch. Pottsville quarterback Damon Yost is 50-75 this season for 865 yards, 14 touchdowns and just one pick. Kevin Dicello (29 carries, 232 yards, two touchdowns) and Bobby Walchak (44, 267, four) have provided ground support. Yost has added three touchdowns and 92 yards rushing. Kevin Schenk has become a go-to threat at wide receiver with 16 catches for 313 yards and six touchdowns. Mason Barnes (15, 178, three), Addison Mullins (10, 189, three) and Daulton Mates (seven, 138, two) have also made big plays in the passing game. Joe Ferraro leads the team with 40 total tackles. Schenk has a team-leading four sacks.

“I thought going into last week that Blue Mountain was a pretty balanced team. We knew that they liked to throw the ball, they did a lot of play-action, they obviously had a big receiver that they threw the ball to downfield. That being said, you get a lot of the same from Pottsville. I think they may be a little more physical up front, but they have a big receiver, they have a quick running back that could break a big one on you, and they have a quarterback that if he breaks the pocket, could take off. There are a lot of similarities between Blue Mountain and Pottsville in that way. Last week, we thought we had to contain their quarterback and keep him in the pocket; this kid I think is a little quicker than the kid from Blue Mountain, so obviously I think we have to keep the same kind of game plan, and we can’t let him break that pocket on us or give him time and have the chance to throw it up for a big play, or buy time and throw it across the field,” said Tamaqua head coach Sam Bonner.

CLAMPDOWN ... Tamaqua held Blue Mountain to one of its lowest outputs of the season last Friday, surrendering just 170 yards and 14 points. The Eagles had been averaging 30 points per game entering the contest. The Raiders rank second in the area, allowing just 7.4 points and 175.6 yards per game in 2019.

“Defensively, I feel like our front four are starting to play really well. I feel like Bronson Strouse, Lucas Shickram, Braxton Whitaker and Jared Reed, I think those four guys are starting to gel. Our first few games, we were trying to get a feel for different combinations on the line; I think the guys that we have been mixing and matching are really starting to come together, and starting to make some plays. They’re really playing as a unit up front,” said Bonner.

Lehighton at

Blue Mountain

Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.

Here’s what you need to know:

STRONGER SECOND HALF... The Indians, who have been outscored 61-48 in the second half this season, have been great in the second half over the last two weeks. After putting up zero points against Central Columbia in the second half in Week 3, the Tribe have outscored their last two opponents 36-6 in the second half.

“I think for the most part we’ve done a good job of getting out to solid starts, and over the past few weeks, we’ve done a really good job of cleaning up some things at the half,” said Lehighton head coach Tom McCarroll. “The key for us is to be better at not shooting ourselves in the foot. We’ve had some costly penalties that have negated big plays for us, and some untimely turnovers that have swung momentum. Those are the type of things we need to focus on.”

THREE-HEADED... Blue Mountain has a true three-headed rushing attack in Eman Parker, Carter Thompson and Jason Dean. Parker leads the way with 277 yards rushing, Thompson has rushed for 267 yards and Dean has rushed for 199 yards from the quarterback position. The Eagles, who have been known as a run-heavy program, are more-balanced this season than in year’s past with Dean throwing for 712 yards, with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. As a team, Blue Mountain has rushed for 914 yards.

“Blue Mountain is always going to look to establish the run, but the goal for us defensively is to keep them off-schedule,” added McCarroll. “They have become a more diverse team for sure, but we need to make them one-dimensional and try and force them to pass rather than have them pass when they choose or want to.”

BIG TARGETS... The Indians have a three-headed monster of their own, except their three players are on the receiving side of the ball. The Tribe sport one of the most physically impressive receiving units in the Schuylkill League, with receivers Zack Hunsicker (6-1, 180) and Hunter Crum (6-1, 190) and tight end Ben Schatz (6-2, 215). Hunsicker leads the way with 287 yards receiving, with Schatz being the big-play target on the year, with 198 yards to average 19.80 yards per catch. Crum has also done a nice job with 12 catches for 125 yards. Elusive senior quarterback Lucas Sangiuliano has also done a nice job leading the Indians offense with 293 yards rushing and six scores, to go along with 604 yards passing and seven touchdowns.

“Our receiving group is a definite strength for us; our height, speed and strength there makes it hard for teams to match up with. I think that group is tough to defend for any of the teams we play,” said McCarroll.

Minersville at Marian

Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.

Here’s what you need to know:

RECORD BREAKER ... Minersville senior quarterback Scott Schwalm completed 33-of-45 passes for a school-record 469 yards and five touchdowns in a 70-49 loss to Schuylkill Valley last Friday. Schwalm also ran for another score. On the season, Schwalm is 68-of-121 for 1,130 yards (226.0 ypg.) with 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Schwalm’s favorite target has been Gabe Davis, who has 27 receptions for 526 yards and eight touchdowns. Davis had 13 catches for 261 yards and three scores last week against Schuylkill Valley. Carter Melochick (six catches, 168 yards, two touchdowns) and Jared Graeff (20, 303, three) have also been vital parts of the passing attack.

“Minersville has a nice quarterback who really throws a great ball, and makes great decisions. He can also extend plays with his feet. He’s very dangerous, and they’ve got some really nice skill kids. (Gabe) Davis had a phenomenal game last week, and he made some really great catches. He can go up and get the ball, but he’s not a one-man show. They put four, five receivers out there, and any one of them can catch the ball at any time. They’re a scrappy team, they’re an aggressive team, and they’re going to fight you every play,” said Marian head coach Pat Morgans.

D-FENCE ... Senior Jayden Eubanks leads Minersville with 33 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.

BACK ON TRACK? ... Despite coming up short in a shootout loss to Schuylkill Valley, Minersville seemed to regain its rhythm after a 41-7 loss to Hamburg in Week 4. The Miners are averaging 25.4 points per game this season and have scored over 40 points in two contests.

CLOSE CALLS ... The last three meetings between Marian and Minersville have been decided by a total of 15 points. The Colts won last year’s meeting 17-14 in overtime, while the Miners prevailed in 2017 (26-20) and 2016 (13-7).

A LOT LEFT .. Despite an 0-5 record, and coming off a 67-0 loss to Schuylkill Haven last Friday, Marian has a chance to finish the season strong and make a push for the postseason. The Colts were 0-5 a year ago, before closing out the regular season 4-1 and punching their ticket to the district playoffs. “We’re just trying to play it week-by-week. We’re trying to improve and get healthy, and get some consistency in our lineup, and that’s what we’re working toward. You can’t really compare years ... we just need to gain some consistency in our lineups, and continue to get better. That’s what we’re looking forward to doing; we’re just looking forward to taking care of ourselves and trying to get better each week,” said Morgans.

STATLINE ... Offensively, Xavier Ocasio leads the team with 209 yards rushing on 61 carries. Quarterback Mason Miller has completed 11-of-33 pass attempts for 107 yards, three interceptions and no touchdowns. Luis Teron has been the big-play threat on the outside, with 14 catches for 184 yards and two scores. Jared Wimmer has eight catches for 66 yards, while Nick Goff has five grabs for 55 yards. “Nick Goff had some really nice catches last week. He’s been a steady performer for us,. He’s been pretty consistent. Jared Spalti and Hunter Shimko up front, they’re the guys that we kind of have to hang our hats on up there. They’re in there, going both ways every play, so I commend them for the effort and leadership they’re giving us,” said Morgans.

Southern Lehigh at Northern Lehigh

Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.

Here’s what you need to know:

HIGH POWERED OFFENSE ... Southern Lehigh has put up some big numbers this season. The Spartans’ abilities are evident not only by their unblemished 5-0 record, but the fact that the lowest point production came in Week 2 against Palmerton (a 27-12 win). In their other four games, the Spartans have averaged 47.8 points.

OPPONENT AWARE ... Northern Lehigh’s coaching staff has scouted the Spartans and is aware of the challenges that lie ahead in Week 6. “Southern Lehigh will be the biggest offensive and defensive front we will face this year,” Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout said. “Offensively, our linemen must run their feet and use good angles, or else we won’t move their front. Also, they have big, physical backs, so we must tackle low this week.”

GAME PLAN ... They are solid defensively - backs, up front, and secondary, so we are focusing on ourselves,” Tout said. “We need to limit turnovers this week, and we need to control the time of possession.” In Week 4, the Bulldogs committed three crucial turnovers that stymied their chances late in the contest. “We will be ready to play on Friday,” Tout added. “If we clean up the mistakes, we will have an opportunity to win this game.”

LEAD DOGS ... Last week, the Bulldogs’ offense put up 248 yards and saw Matt Frame (13 carries for 95 yards, TD), and Mike Repsher (six carries for 76 yards) lead the ground attack. Joe Abidelli also added a touchdown against Saucon Valley.

STOPPING THE SPARTANS ... With the Spartans’ threat looming ahead for the ‘Dawgs, the coaching staff is ready to go. “They run wing-T concepts, and are a much heavier run team than they have been in the past,” Tout said. “They also aren’t afraid to look for the big play early in games by throwing the ball, so we need to read our keys defensively. We have to read and key the guards, too, so that is another area of focus.”

Panther Valley at Shenandoah Valley

Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.

Here’s what you need to know:

LOOKING OUT FOR NO. 1 ... Both Panther Valley and Shenandoah are seeking their first victories of the season. Each team was close to opening the season 1-0, with the Panthers falling 14-12 against Columbia Montour Vo-Tech, and the Devils dropping their opener to Morrisville 36-34.

CHANGE OF PACE ... Starting with Shenandoah, Panther Valley’s remaining opponents are a combined 6-19. The Panthers’ first five opponents are currently 18-7. Just one team (Mahanoy, 3-2) is currently above .500. “I think that we’re capable of being very competitive with everybody left on our schedule, and playing hard. Our focus has always been on us, to play hard, to play better. One of the positive things is that we’re relatively healthy. Our JVs had a big win over Lehighton on Monday, and that was big. But I expect us to come out and play well on Friday,” said Panther Valley head coach Rick Jones.

SCUFFLING ... Since that narrow miss in the season-opener, Shenandoah has been outscored 189-14. The Devils are coming off a 47-0 loss to Nativity. “Shenandoah has size, (but) they’re not real deep. They’re struggling as we are. But, I think there are teams on our schedule that we can go out and match up with, and at least compete. I think that everybody that we play has weaknesses, and everybody that we play has some strengths, and it’s a matter of which team can take advantage of the strengths or the weaknesses,” said Jones.

MAKING STRIDES ... While the Panthers have yet to earn their first win of the season, they have been making progress on the field. In last week’s 43-14 loss to Lehighton, Panther Valley trailed 8-0 after the first quarter and 21-8 at halftime. The deficit was their smallest since trailing 22-7 against Hamburg in Week 2. Tremaine Ervine is the Panthers’ leading rusher with 184 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Quarterback Ethan Reis has completed 23-of-40 pass attempts for 237 yards, to go along with two touchdowns and two picks. Blake White has 13 catches for 155 yards and two scores, while Shawn Hoben has made eight grabs for 107 yards. “I expect us to come out and play hard and play well, and that’s all I can expect ... we’re coming off a nice effort. But we’ll see. They have to show up and play every week,” said Jones.

Pleasant Valley at

PM East

Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.

Here’s what you need to know:

BOUNCING BACK ... Pleasant Valley dropped a difficult 27-26 decision at the hands of Dieruff last week, and have the Cardinals waiting in the wings. Despite not nabbing a win yet, the Bears are having no problems getting ready for their rivals.

‘OLE OAKEN BUCKET ... One of the oldest and richest rivalries in local sports, Pocono Mountain East and Pleasant Valley continue the tradition of playing for the storied bucket. “This game means everything to the kids, and they realize their chance to play a team like Pocono Mountain, and they’re ready for the challenge,” Pleasant Valley head coach Blaec Saeger said.

KNOW YOUR OPPONENT ... Saeger and crew are schooled in the Cardinals’ strategies, and have the scouting reports ready to take on their Week 6 opponents. “Coach Melosky has been there and done that, so we know he’ll have his kids ready,” Saeger said. “They run an old school offense, so we’re going to have to be ready because they’ll be sure to give us matchup problems.”

KNOW THYSELF ... After a five-game losing skid, the Bears remain steadfast in their abilities and seem ready to go. “They realize they are improving, and that is motivating to them, and they’re hurt after that heart-breaking loss last week, so they’re ready to go. We have a game plan and we studied their films; all that’s left to do is go out and execute,” Saeger said.

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