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Around District 11 We Go: The Travels of Guy & Pam Quest: D11 (Epilogue)

Written by: on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021

 

Around District 11 We Go: The Travels of Guy & Pam

Guy and Pam Smith are PA high school football fans. We are not affiliated with any team, nor do we have any relative that plays. Our goal is to see as many D11 teams as we can!

Quest: D11 (Epilogue)

 

On Week 1 of the season, Pam and I set out to see as many District 11 schools play a varsity or JV home game, plus any additional playing at postseason neutral sites.  We ended up seeing 41 of the 47 schools in the district.  However, we’re changing the rules of the game for next season, and four of the 41 will be back on the HitList.  More on that later.  First, a few additional observations.

TOP FIVE GAMES OF THE YEAR.

  1. NATIVITY BVM @ MARIAN CATHOLIC IN WEEK 8. Since Nativity entered the game with a winning record and Marian was 0-7, this one had the potential for a blowout.  Instead, it became our 5th best game of the year and first overtime game.  Marian scored in OT, and then stopped the Green Wave to win their first of the season.  And it began an incredible turnaround for Marian, who after losing their first seven finished the season with four straight wins.

 

  1. NORTHWESTERN LEHIGH @ NORTHERN LEHIGH IN WEEK 2. Two great teams who would each end up winning 11 games slugging it out on a Thursday night.  A couple things made this game a top five for the year.  First, the two teams traded the lead back and forth all night long.  Second, Northern Lehigh scored with less than three minutes left to cut their deficit to one point.  They made the gutsy call to go for two and were shut down inches from pay dirt.

 

  1. NAZARETH @ BETHLEHEM CATHOLIC IN WEEK 4. An afternoon game at BASD, the favored Nazareth Blue Eagles fell behind Becahi by 27 points, 41-14.  In the third quarter, the Blue Eagles caught fire and scored TDs on four of their last five possessions, made all of their PATs, and pulled off an amazing second half comeback winning 42-41.  You never think a missed extra point will come back to bite you where you’re up by 27, but ya never know.

 

  1. PHILLIPSBURG VS. EASTON ON THANKSGIVING MORNING AT LAFAYETTE COLLEGE. This was our first-ever trip to see one of the greatest high school rivalries in the nation.  The game certainly lived up to the hype.  Easton had a five game winning streak, but the Stateliners had a shot this year.  In a classic defense-dominated full contact chess match, P-Burg hung onto a 3-0 and when they got the ball back with less than two to go, many Rover fans headed to the exit.  But the ball takes strange bounces in this sport, and while running out the clock, Phillipsburg fumbled it away with 1:10 remaining.  In storybook fashion, Easton scored in the last minute and made it six straight, 7-3.

GAME OF THE YEAR.  PENN TRAFFORD VS. IMHOTEP CHARTER FOR 5A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP AT HERSHEY PARK.  We never thought any game would top the Easton win on Thanksgiving morning in front of a packed house at Lafayette.  But this game was one for the ages.  Imhotep trailed by one for a large portion of the game, but took a 14-7 lead in the fourth quarter.  Penn Trafford, with huge community support, never gave up, scoring a TD and PAT late to send the game into overtime.  With first ups, Penn Trafford was held to a FG setting up the mighty Imhotep to only need ten yards in four plays to snap their three straight championship-game losing streak.  Instead of ten forward, they went backwards and the improbable underdog comeback victory was complete.

DISTRICT 11 TEAMS IN STATE RANKINGS.

6A  Freedom Patriots—4th

2A  Northern Lehigh Bulldogs–4th

3A  North Schuylkill Spartans—7th

4A  Northwestern Lehigh Tigers—8th

4A  Allentown Central Catholic Vikings—10th

1A  Tri-Valley Bulldogs—HM

1A  Williams Valley Vikings—HM

DISTRICT 11 TEAM OF THE YEAR.  Going to call this a tie between the 2A Northern Lehigh Bulldogs and the 6A Freedom Patriots.  Both teams won district championships and 11 games.  Both teams were eliminated from the playoffs by teams that made it to the state final.  Both teams finished the season ranked fourth in the state by PA Football News.  Northern Lehigh had one more loss, but they were the only team from D11 still playing in Week 15.  Freedom was eliminated by just three points, while Northern Lehigh gave up 42 straight and were Mercy Ruled by the eventual state champs.  Hard to separate the accomplishments of both teams, so in our minds they are co-teams of the year.

OUR THREE WORST WEATHER GAMES

  1. NORTHERN LEHIGH @ TAMAQUA IN WEEK 3. A Monday night game.  We saw a lot of lightning in the distance during the first half, and were surprised the game continued.  During halftime, we enjoyed the band show and it was then announced the game was under a weather delay.  In no rush, we ambled our way up the hill to our car.  Literally not ten seconds after we got to the car, a deluge of epic proportions hit.  Trees were down.  Power lines were down.  Half of Tamaqua was dark.  Needless to say the game was called complete.  Driving home was like picking our way through a war zone with so many trees and branches in the roads.

 

  1. PALMERTON VS. NORTHERN LEHIGH 2A DISTRICT CHAMPIONSHIP @ LEHIGHTON. A very cold and steady rain through the first three quarters made this one tough to enjoy.  This was the game where our Lehighton snack bar Thanksgiving dinner was consumed with rain splashing in the gravy.  After the game, we were so soaked and cold that we drove home, sat in the hot tub for a half hour to warm our chilled bones, and then returned to Lehighton for the 3A title game there that evening.

 

  1. EAST STROUDSBURG SOUTH @ EAST STROUDSBURG NOTRH IN WEEK 10. With the playoffs beginning the following week, teams needed to finish the regular season.  A cold, hard, rain was predicted for Friday evening.  A couple teams moved their games up a day to Thursday (giving Guy a bonus game at Stroudsburg).  A couple others moved their games back a day to Saturday.  But we needed a Friday game.  With the storm coming from the south/west to the north/east, we used geographic strategy and picked the game as far to the north and as far to the east as possible to still be in District 11.  That was East Stroudsburg North.  It was brutally cold with very high winds, and the stands were quite empty for a rivalry game.   We have a rule that we never leave early unless a team is down by at least three scores in the fourth quarter and does not have possession.  This was the one time we broke the rule.  With a pelting, stinging, cold rain starting near the end of the second quarter (it was raining sideways due to the wind), and this one already a blowout, we headed out at halftime (but I still felt guilty).

 

DAYS OF THE WEEK SWEEP.  This was the first season I ever saw a game on all seven days of the week.  In addition to the Monday JV games, we saw Tamaqua and Notre Dame play varsity games on Monday.  Saw a pair of JV games on back-to-back Tuesdays: East Stroudsburg South due to Labor Day being on Monday, and Bangor due to a COVID postponement.  The lone Wednesday game we saw was the Schuylkill County Senior All Star Game at Schuylkill Haven the evening before Thanksgiving.  What was so cool about that one was that we didn’t even know about the game until 12 hours before kickoff.  We saw a couple Thursday varsity games, including Northern Lehigh, Blue Mountain, Stroudsburg, Bangor, and the two state finals.  Of course there were a lot of choices on Friday and Saturday.  This was also the first year I ever went to high school football on all 16 Friday nights during the season.  Finally, Shenandoah Valley rescheduled a Friday game to Sunday, our only game on that day this season.

 

GUY IS GOING FOR 60.  As of now, I’ve been to 59 games this fall (38 D11 varsity, 12 D11 JV, 6 state championship games, 3 college).  That still pales in comparison to 71 races and plethora of soccer and baseball this summer, but it is by far the most football games in any one season for me.  As I probably will never see that many in one year again, it seemed like going for an even 60 should be a no brainer.  Having been to the Pinstripe Bowl, I suggested the Fenway Bowl for a new experience, as we had previously only been to Fenway Park for Red Sox baseball.  Unfortunately, Pam gave the thumbs down on that one.  So we settled for the Military Bowl, where we had been twice before, once at RFK Stadium in DC, once at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.  That should give me 60 games for the year.  Interesting side note: Of the four college football games, one was DIII (NCAA National Playoffs at Delaware Valley), on was DII (NCAA National Playoffs at Kutztown), one was D1AA-FCS (Yale @ Lehigh), and the Military Bowl will be D1A—FBS (East Carolina vs. Boston College).  For Pam it will be game 55, as she had to miss five games for various work related reasons.  It’s great to be retired.

 

PLAN FOR NEXT YEAR.  We are tweaking our plan for next year to include every visiting any possible District 11 school/field permutation between this season and next, plus a few related extras.  Right now the “Hitlist” is 20, but that will change based on a couple unknowns.  Below are the current targets.

 

  1. Tri-Valley Bulldogs.  After seeing 16 new stadiums this season, Tri-Valley is the ONLY one left we have never been to.  We skipped a chance to go there on the Saturday night of Week 1 to return to Salisbury to see the second half of the Catty game suspended the night before, then since Tri-Valley were so good we were saving them for the playoffs but they were eliminated the week before we had them penciled in.

 

  1. Pottsville Crimson Tide. We have been to a playoff game at the stadium, and seen Pottsville play on the road, including the JV team this season, but we have never been to a home game for this school.

 

  1. Schuylkill Haven Hurricanes. We saw the Hurricanes play at Catasauqua this season, but had never seen their stadium.  That was, until we discovered the very cool SCFCA Senior All-Star game the night before Thanksgiving and added that game to our schedule at the last minute.  Still need to see the home team play there.

 

  1. North Schuylkill Spartans. This is one of the four carryovers from this year’s list.  Like Pottsville, we have been there for a playoff game in past seasons (Williams Valley) and we saw the team play home this year at a neutral site in the playoffs.  But we still have not seen the team play at their home school.

 

  1. Easton Red Rovers. Carryover game two.  We went to the annual Thanksgiving game at Lafayette College Fisher Field, but we did not make it to a game at the renovated Cottingham Stadium.  The parking situation there always seems to dissuade us from heading to what is a great place to see high school football, but we have been there a number of times in past seasons.

 

  1. Pocono Mountain East Cardinals. We have seen them play at home, but not in 2021.  We were all set to go to see the PME vs. PMW rivalry game for JV, but it was announced as cancelled hours before kickoff.

 

  1. Palisades Pirates. The worst drive for us when factoring in the combo of distance and traffic, we’ve been there several times in the past to see Catty play, but honestly, because of the above, it was always going to be our last different school option this year.

 

  1. William Allen Canaries. I played for the Canaries, and have gone to dozens of their games both before and after my time as a student there.  We actually saw them play on their home field this year against Dieruff, but since they were the visiting team we didn’t count it, a silly decision in retrospect but following the rules of the game we set up at the start of the season.  I was all set to go to see the JV version of the Allen vs. Dieruff game as well, when Allen would be the home team, but that game was cancelled as the football program in the Allentown public high schools is in disarray.

 

  1. East Stroudsburg South Cavaliers. The third of four carryover teams.  This is the only team that Pam missed this year for work.  The other three high school games Guy went to without her were for teams we had also seen together.  Although we have been there a number of times in the past, if the goal is to see them all between this season and next, we need a visit for Pam next year.

 

  1. Jim Thorpe Olympians. The last of our four carryovers.  Although we saw a game there this year, it was a Saturday morning JV game and of the dozen JV games we went to this year, this was the only one where we had never seen a varsity game for the team.  Must experience the Friday Night Lights varsity game at each.

 

  1. Allentown Central Catholic Vikings JV. There were six District 11 teams that played JV games at alternative locations. Three of them are Catholic schools that rent a stadium for their varsity games, and are forced to find a less expensive alternative for JV.  The Allentown Central Catholic Vikings play their home JV games at Percy Ruhe Park.  I haven’t been to a game there since playing for the LCYA Bulldogs when I was in 6th grade in 1971.

 

  1. Bethlehem Catholic Golden Hawks JV. Becahi is in the same situation as ACC.  There is no reason to book the huge BASD stadium for the JV games, so they play them on a practice field at their high school.

 

  1. Nativity BVM Green Wave JV. The school is located in Pottsville but for their varsity games they rent a field in Saint Clair.  For the JV games, like the two schools above, they play at the high school on the practice field.

 

  1. Freedom Patriots JV. Freedom has a nice turf field at their school complex, located between the high school and East Hills Middle School.  However, there is only limited seating so they couldn’t play varsity football games there.  I taught there for decades, but can only remember ever being there for field hockey, although in my defense, the turf field is a fairly recent addition to the campus.

 

  1. Lehighton Indians JV. At least sometimes, the Lehighton JV games were played at the “old stadium” as opposed to the newer “multi purpose” stadium.  If that option continues next season, that will become a JV priority for us.

 

  1. Nazareth Blue Eagles JV. The least likely to repeat next season, the Nazareth Blue Eagles played a JV game at their middle school field on a day when both the boys and girls varsity soccer teams had games at the high school stadium.  My feeling is that was a fluke, borne of necessity by coincidence, and not something likely to happen next year.  But if it does, we’re on it.

 

  1. New Hope-Solebury Lions. Looking to exhaust all possibilities, there were three teams that joined D11 in “subregionals” for playoffs.  This could and almost certainly will change for next year.  The PIAA was supposed to have their classification levels for the next two years announced by now, but couldn’t get it done by their own deadline.  So for now we will go by the three teams from the current season.  In 3A, the New Hope-Solebury Lions from District 1 caucused with our D11 teams.

 

  1. Abington Heights Comets. In 5A, it was District 2 that joined with us for district playoffs.  One team was Abington Heights.

 

  1. Wyoming Valley West Spartans. This was the other D2, 5A team that played in the playoffs with D11, giving us a glut of Spartans.  This is the one of the three that we have actually attended a few years back, a semi final game where they defeated Tamaqua to advance to Hershey.

 

  1. Phillipsburg Stateliners. Why are they on the list?  To round up to an even twenty, we added the Stateliners as a former EPC team, the current annual Thanksgiving foe of Easton, and a team that plays in New Jersey.  We’ve seen high school football in Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, Ohio, and Texas, but never a game in New Jersey.

 

If we have even half as much fun going to high school football next season as we did this season, it’s going to be another fun-filled fantastic fall.  Pam and I appreciate everyone that has read our blog this season, and of course Billy Splain who offered us the chance to write it for PA Football News after I contacted him to ask if any schools still had fan attendance restrictions and told him of our plan to see how many different D11 schools we could see play at home in one season.  Only 35 weeks until kickoff.

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