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Written by: Guy Smith on Tuesday, December 7th, 2021
Quest: D11 (Week 15)
Only one game this weekend, as we attended the 2A semi-final game at Lehighton High School pitting the Northern Lehigh Bulldogs against the Southern Columbia Tigers. With the Bulldog loss, the last standing D11 was eliminated from state playoff contention
We would have gone to Kutztown on Saturday to see the NCAA D2 Quarterfinal between the Kutztown University Golden Bears and the Shepherd University Rams, but were committed to an indoor auto race at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. By seeing a race in December, it gave me (Guy) 35 consecutive years of seeing a race in every month, or 420 straight months. It’s not only football where I obsess with both seasonal and lifetime quirky goals. I do it with racing, baseball, ice hockey, and now soccer as well. Keeps me young.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3. 2A SEMI FINAL. NORTHERN LEHIGH BULLDOGS VS. SOUTHERN COLUMBIA TIGERS @ LEHIGHTON HIGH SCHOOL. Although Northern Lehigh had roared through the playoffs thus far, they had not seen anything like the Southern Columbia Tigers, with four consecutive state titles, and more state championships and state final appearances than any school in any classification. Because Southern Columbia lost one regular season game and their starting QB suffered a season ending injury midway through the regular season, some from D11 thought they might be vulnerable this year. That was not the case.
While a very suspect passing game would make most teams one dimensional and thus defendable and defeatable, Southern ran through the Northern Lehigh defense without much difficulty. To be honest, they could have scored a TD on every possession without ever throwing a pass. All three of the starting backs rushed for over 100 yards, and that was in just the first three quarters as they were pulled soon after the Mercy Rule clock started running early in the second half. Northern Lehigh had one nice drive for a TD on their second possession, their second score against the backups with just a couple minutes left. No doubt who was the better team in this one.
However, major kudos to the Northern Lehigh Bulldogs. They lost a heartbreaker against powerful Northwestern Lehigh by one point on an early season Thursday game when they went for two and the win and were stopped inches short. Two additional early season had them 3-3, but then they flew under the state rankings radar most of the time while together an eight-game win streak.
During the second half of the season, D11 teams like Parkland, Freedom, Emmaus, Northampton, Central Catholic, North Schuylkill, Tri-Valley, and Williams Valley all spent at least one week in the state top ten rankings, but Northern Lehigh was the only D11 team playing December football. So congrats to them for being our last team standing and the only team from the district still playing football in week 15.
2021 DISTRICT 11 ALL-SNACK BAR TEAM
Pam and I are pleased to announce our All-Snack Bar Team for 2021. First, a few disclaimers: 1) We were not at every District 11 school to see a game this year. That was not humanly possible. 2) Ten of the schools were for JV games, and they almost always offer a much smaller menu consistent with the smaller attendance. 3) Pam and I average out to 60 years old, so we don’t eat as much as we once did. Thus, we obviously didn’t try every food item at every stadium. Joey Chestnuts we are not. 4) Our favorites are obviously going to be based on our favorite foods, which are not necessarily your favorites. 5) It’s all in fun, for fun. Here we go.
**Note: Pam is a big mac and cheese fan, and that was available at more schools than we had anticipated. However, she never bought it at any of the games this year. She vows not to make that mistake next season. Stay tuned in 2022.**
The staff at the Lehighton Concession Stand poses during a summer 7 on 7 tourney
Best Specialty Item—Lehighton hosted a lot of playoff games this year and stole the title for best specialty item with a late season post-season offering of a full turkey dinner with gravy for $6. Honorable Mention goes to the pork chop on a stick at Shenandoah Valley, the item that held the top spot throughout the regular season.
Best Burger—The burger on the visitor side at Panther Valley is the winner. Cooked on the grill to well-done perfection, the patty came straight from the fire on to the roll and into our hungry little hands. The above ekes out the win in overtime over the Screamin’ Eagle burger at Blue Mountain. Honorable mention goes to the burger “in sauce” at Minersville.
Best Cylindrical (Hot Dog Shape) Sandwich. The shockingly large Monster Kielbasa at Marian Catholic is the top choice. It’s a foot long feast, with grilled onions and peppers. Honorable mention goes to the kielbasa sold at Lafayette College during the Thanksgiving Day game between Easton and Phillipsburg. That hot dog sized kielbasa was heavenly, but twice the cost of Marian’s and only half the size.
Best BBQ. OK, I admit it. This is a homer call. The turkey barbeque at the Bethlehem Area School District is pretty good, and since they no longer have a fry truck, it’s about the only hot food worth eating there. Choices are very limited: The hot dogs are roller-grilled and never cooked long enough, the delivered pizza cold.
Best Fresh Cut Fries (Truck). A Mercy Rule win for Williams Fries, enjoyed at both Williams Valley and at Pine Grove. And that Mercy Rule win was over a stellar field of fry trucks. Give honorable mention to Northern Lehigh.
Best Fresh Cut Fries (Stand). Shenandoah Valley fries were the best of those made in a permanent refreshment stand and not in a portable fry truck. Honorable mention goes to Mahanoy Area.
Best Fries (Non Fresh Cut). Allentown School District’s J. Birney Crum Stadium is at the very bottom of the list when it comes to food choices. We’ll give them this one, but you have to get them early as the line is always long since they are the only hot food worth buying there.
Best Non-Fry Potato Product. There were some great pierogies at many of the games, but the filling and gravy at Panther Valley is the winner in this category. A couple places actually had baked potatoes, but we never tried any of those this season.
Best Soup. And the winner is…. The bean soup at Nativity BVM. And if chili were a separate category, Nativity would win that one as well. Stick to the ribs goodness on chilly fall evenings.
Best Pizza. None of the pizza we tried was outstanding, as they were all delivered, not baked on site, and thus were no longer optimum temperature. The pizza at Jim Thorpe tasted the best, but I think it was just good fortune that we got it right as it was delivered so it was still hot.
Best International Food. The term itself is obviously quite subjective, but something like pierogies, which certainly has eastern European origins, have been Americanized, found at many games, and thus not included. Walking tacos are not international and do not count. On the other hand, the only place we saw empanadas on the menu was at Stroudsburg.
Best Popcorn. Both of us are popcorn aficionados, and will try that at every location it is available. There were pretty many good popcorn offerings, but Parkland had the best. Runner up goes to Minersville. Pen Argyl was probably just as good tasting, but their refreshment stand setup results in long waits in line at almost all times, and that has to be factored in.
Best Dessert. This was another Mercy Rule victory, and that was the apple dumpling a la mode at the band stand at Pine Grove. Not only was this the best dessert at any D11 stadium by far, it was the best apple dumpling we have ever had, anywhere. Sorry, Bissinger’s. Runner up goes to the waffles and ice cream at Pleasant Valley, and the fried Oreos at Schuylkill Haven.
Best Breakfast Item. We didn’t see many morning games so there were few entries in this category. The winner would have been the breakfast casserole at Lehighton, but they were disqualified because we went there for JV football and the game was cancelled, so the casserole was for varsity soccer. Soccer casserole doesn’t count. That gives the title to the toasted bagels with cream cheese or butter at the Jim Thorpe JV game. Not only did they offer multiple bagel choices, but also multiple self serve toppings.
Best Delivered Item. Chick-Fil-A is on to something, with their sandwiches available at least a half-dozen games we attended. Those included Wilson, Southern Lehigh, Whitehall, Emmaus, and Mahanoy. The best was actually at the Delaware Valley College game, where they offered the choice of regular, spicy, or nuggets. Note: East Stroudsburg North also had a tasty spicy chicken sandwich of their own, not Chick-Fil-A.
Best Junior Varsity Snack Bar. Most JV games offer very limited menus, but at Nazareth, they basically had the entire varsity snack bar offerings available. Nicely done, Nazareth.
Best Design for Fast Service. Very impressive is the setup at Notre Dame-Green Pond where they have many workers and serve from three sides. The initial throng of people gets served very efficiently! Honorable mentions go to places like Minersville and Tamaqua where they have three separate food stands located in different parts of the facility.
Oddest Setup. Without question that’s Pocono Mountain West, where the only refreshment stand is located under a tent outside the stadium with one line and thus slow service, and if you go to get any food you need a hand stamp to get back into the game.
And finally, for the GRAND CHAMPION OVERALL BEST SNACK BAR in District 11, the winner is…..SHENANDOAH VALLEY with multiple stands, the most variety, and everything we tried was delicious. Congrats to the Blue Devils!
Thus we now move on to the state finals at Hershey. Guy has been going to all six games since retiring in June 2015 (obviously last year we watched on PCN). This will be the first year that Pam, who is in the midst of a “Phased Retirement” program, will be able to attend the Thursday games and thus all six games as well.
FINAL TALLY FOR QUEST D11
–41 Different schools for Home Games (29 Varsity Home, 2 Varsity Post-Season Neutral, 10 JV Home)
–6 Schools we didn’t make it to for Home Games: Palisades, Pocono Mountain East, Pottsville, Schuylkill Haven, Tri-Valley, William Allen
–2 Missed opportunities, both in Week 1 before we really got serious about The Quest.
–Out of 47 District 11 teams with football.
SEASON SUMMARY (41 DIFFERENT D11 SCHOOLS/TEAMS)
1a) Friday—Salisbury Township Falcons (3A). Note: First half—game suspended due to lightning
2) Saturday (Noon)–Allentown Central Catholic Vikings (4A). Note: Conclusion of final three quarters of game suspended by lightning
–) Saturday (Noon)—Dieruff Huskies (6A). On their home field but the away team)
3) Saturday (Afternoon)—Wilson Area Warriors (4A)
1b) Saturday (Evening)—Salisbury Township Falcons (3A). Note: Returned for second half of game suspended by lightning
4) Monday—Northwestern Lehigh Tigers JV (4A)
5) Thursday—Northern Lehigh Bulldogs (2A)
6) Friday—Emmaus Hornets (6A)
7) Saturday (Morning)—Northampton Area Konkrete Kids JV (6A)
8) Saturday (Afternoon)—Pen Argyl Green Knights. (2A)
9) Saturday (Evening)—Pleasant Valley Bears (6A)
10) Tuesday—East Stroudsburg South Cavaliers JV (5A).
11) Friday—Nativity BVM Green Wave (1A)
12) Saturday—Saucon Valley Panthers JV (4A)
13) Sunday—Shenandoah Valley Blue Devils (2A)
14) Monday—Tamaqua Blue Raiders (3A). Note: Game suspended at halftime but called complete
15) Tuesday—Bangor Slaters JV (4A)
16) Friday—Panther Valley Panthers (2A)
17) Saturday (Afternoon)—Bethlehem Catholic Golden Hawks (4A)
18) Saturday (Evening)—Pine Grove Cardinals (3A)
19) Monday—Stroudsburg Mountaineers JV (6A)
20) Friday—Mahanoy Area Golden Bears (A)
21) Monday—Notre Dame-Green Pond Crusaders (3A)
22) Thursday—Blue Mountain Eagles (4A)
23) Friday—Pocono Mountain West Panthers (5A)
24) Saturday—Bethlehem Liberty Hurricanes (6A)
25) Monday—Nazareth Blue Eagles JV (6A)
26) Friday—Minersville Battlin Miners (2A)
27) Saturday (Morning)—Jim Thorpe Olympians JV (3A)
28) Saturday (Evening)—Executive Education Raptors (2A)
29) Monday—Southern Lehigh Spartans JV (5A)
30) Friday—Marian Catholic Colts (1A)
31) Monday—Whitehall Zephyrs JV (5A)
32) Friday—Catasauqua Rough Riders (2A)
–) Saturday—Freedom Patriots (6A) (on home field but away team)
33) Monday—Lehighton Indians (4A)
34) Friday—East Stroudsburg North Timberwolves (4A)
35) Saturday (Afternoon)—Dieruff Huskies (6A)
–) Saturday (Evening)—Notre Dame Green Pond Crusaders (3A)
36) Monday—Freedom Patriots JV (6A)
37) Friday—Williams Valley Vikings (1A Semi-Final)
38) Saturday—Palmerton Blue Bombers (2A Semi-Final)
39) Friday—Parkland Trojans (6A Semi-Final)
–) Saturday (Afternoon)—Palmerton vs. Northern Lehigh (2A Championship)
40) Saturday (Evening)—North Schulykill Spartans (3A Championship)
–) Friday—Freedom vs. Emmaus (6A Championship)
–) Wednesday—SCFCA Senior All Star Game
41) Thursday—Easton Red Rovers vs. Phillipsburg (114th Meeting)
–) Friday—Northern Lehigh vs. West Catholic (2A Quarterfinal)
COULDAS & WOULDAS
COULDA. Week 1—Tri Valley. A Friday team that played Saturday evening due to rain. We returned to Salisbury to see the second half of the Catty game instead.
COULDA. Week 1—Marian Catholic. Played Sunday due to rain, but we had already committed to the sprint car races at Bloomsburg Fair Raceway. Update: Went to see Marian in Week 8. However, we are still down a potential team for the season as by picking Marian we bypassed other teams we had not seen.
WOULDA. Week 5—Lehighton. Saturday morning/afternoon JV game cancelled but Big Teams calendar not updated and we made the trip. There was no other D11 replacement for us as the Jim Thorpe game was cancelled due to COVID. Update: Saw Lehighton in Week 9. However, we are still down one potential team for the season as by picking Lehighton we bypassed other teams we had not seen.
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