The Ruby Review: 2015 Week 3

Selinsgrove 45, Shikellamy 9

It’s always special when you get to return to your old stomping grounds and watch your alma mater play a football game. There’s just something about being in that stadium, with that track you ran laps on in gym class, with those bleachers you sat in as the team made your week or broke your heart, that gets the blood pumping and brings a smile to your face. My smile was ear-to-ear this past Friday, as I returned to my hometown of Selinsgrove to watch the Seals take on cross-river rival Shikellamy and the Braves.

A little over six miles from each other, the Seals and Braves look forward to this matchup each year, and bring out fans in droves. Both the home and away bleachers were packed, and the atmosphere harkened back to the glory days of the mid-to-late 2000’s in Harold L. Bolig Memorial Stadium. Selinsgrove’s fans, knowing that this team may be the best they’ve had since the 2009 PIAA Championship squad, were hoping that things would be easier than they were in Week 2’s 14-7 win over Mount Carmel, and Shikellamy’s fans were hoping that their squad, which had suffered two tough losses to start the season, could throw out the records and generate some excitement.

And the excitement came early, although it was the Seals that struck first. You know how sometimes you just get a feeling that something special is going to happen, that poetic justice would be served and a storyline would write itself? Well, the Seals Senior RB Juvon Batts, on PFN’s First-Team Preseason AAA All-State squad as an Athlete, hadn’t played in the first two games of the season as he got some things straightened out off the field, but you could see something in the way he walked out to take the opening kick-off. An opening whistle, a catch, and a blur later, Batts had sped down the field to give his team a 91-yard kickoff-return touchdown on the opening play of the game.

Shikellamy, though, would not roll over quietly. The Braves responded with a methodical drive down the field, and, aided by a few Selinsgrove penalties, punched the ball in on a 1-yard Gabe Tilford run. Although they missed the extra point, they had closed the gap to 7-6.

After that strong drive, though, the Braves were stymied by a Seals team that really began firing on all cylinders at the end of the first quarter. Three different players rushed for Selinsgrove TDs in the first half – Batts, Ethan Trautman, and Angelo Martin – and Sophomore Tony Dressler capped off a dominating defensive first half with a 56-yard interception return. Indeed, the margin could’ve even been greater; as time expired, Selinsgrove’s Sophomore QB, Logan Leiby, completed a rocket to Batts at the 2-yard line, but the Braves tackled him there to keep the margin at 35-9.

Leiby capped off the TDs for the Seals with a 3-yard keeper in the 3rd quarter. The young QB’s play was one bright spot among many for the home team; having split time last year, Leiby looks poised to develop into an extremely effective passer. Indeed, he may already be there: his 11 completions for 128 yards (on just 14 attempts) put him at 35-for-51 on the year with 444 yards and 4 scores. Just as promising was the feel he developed as the game wore on; the deeper into the game he got, the more comfortable he was behind his powerful offensive line, and he started taking his time to find the second or third guy in his progression. If you haven’t been following along up to this point, the Seals have some special players at their skill positions.

Unsung Heroes

For the home team, I was extremely impressed with Senior Kicker Joey Radel. Radel capped off Selinsgrove’s scoring with a 23-yard field goal, his second of the year, and would have a very solid shot from between 35 and 40 if called upon. His kickoff duties were no less impressive, as he consistently pinned the ball in the corners near the goal line and set his squad up for plus-plus field position all night.

On the Shikellamy side, Senior RB Shawn Turber was solid all night, and was involved in most of the Braves’ chances. Despite a very effective Seals’ D-Line leaving the offense very little space, Turber managed 24 yards on 8 carries and caught a pass for 16 more.

Game Notes

The Seals seem to change uniforms every year! This campaign, they’re rocking a shiny blue at home… I may be biased, but the Hot Sausages at Bolig are up there with the best anywhere. If you’ve been following the Ruby Review for a while, you know how much I like hot sausage, so that’s no light praise… At half-time, I joined Pat O’Brien of Eagle 107 to talk Selinsgrove, the Ruby Review, and the upcoming matchup with the Berwick Bulldogs in Week 5. Pat’s a really fantastic guy, and any chance you have to listen to him should not be wasted… I was really impressed with the enthusiasm of Shikellamy’s fans, even as the game got away. It’s pretty common to see stands become still and clear out when things aren’t going their team’s way, so the Braves’ fans’ commitment was refreshing….

Week 3 Undefeated Watch

The following District 2 teams are still undefeated three weeks into the season, and are already dreaming of the District Playoffs and beyond! I’ll give you a District 4 undefeated watch next week, and a District 11 undefeated watch in Week 5 (I swear I haven’t forgotten about you, Allentown)!

District 2

Berwick – The Bulldogs are coming off a 7-0 nail-biter against Dallas, and head right back into the fire with home games against Wyoming Valley West and Selinsgrove in the next two weeks. If Berwick can win both of those, they may enter the playoffs undefeated and ranked highly in the state.

Lake-Lehman – Led by OL Connor McGovern and RB Joey Vigil, the Black Knights are the District’s best bet to take out Dunmore in the AA playoffs. They’ll face perennial power Old Forge this week.

Meyers – Perhaps the most unheralded of the three Wilkes-Barre schools coming into the season, the Mohawks are the only ones that find themselves undefeated, having edged Riverside 7-6 last week. They’ll face Lake-Lehman in Week 5, and that may be the only game left on their schedule in which they won’t be favored. It’s a real possibility that both they and G.A.R. will have 8+ wins when they meet on the final evening of the regular season.

North Pocono – Some might say the Trojans have had an easy schedule to this point, but it’s clear that this team has greatly improved. Things get tough now, with West Scranton, Scranton Prep, Delaware Valley, and Scranton next up.

Old Forge – The Blue Devils have had some tricky early matchups, but they always seem to find a way to win; indeed, it has now been more than 2 years since Old Forge lost a regular season matchup. The contest against Lake Lehman this week should be phenomenal.

Scranton Prep – The rumor on the street is that this team, always competitive, is as good as they’ve been in a long, long time. The Ruby Review will let you know if that’s true, as I will be in the Electric City for the rivalry game between Prep and Scranton this Friday!

Valley View – Though just 4-6 last year, the Cougars won their last two in 2014, meaning that they’ve quietly emerged victorious in their last 5 contests. They’ve outscored their opponents 73-7 this year, including an impressive 12-0 victory over Lakeland last week. Wallenpaupack and Abington Heights are next, and if Valley View can get through them at 4-1, they need to receive serious consideration as a dark horse to emerge from an incredibly packed AAA field.

Wyoming Valley West – As covered in The Ruby Review: Week 2, the Spartans have immense depth and talent at their skill positions; on pure talent alone, they’re likely the strongest squad in District 2 (being AAAA and dressing 70 doesn’t hurt in that regard). They still haven’t quite put their complete game together, though, and this week’s game at Berwick will be a good test.

Thanks for reading, everyone! This upcoming week, I’ll be in Scranton Memorial Stadium to watch Scranton Prep battle cross-town rival Scranton!

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