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Written by: Joe Ruby on Monday, September 1st, 2014
By now, you know what happened in Mountain Top, PA this past Friday night, when the Crestwood Comets and Berwick Bulldogs faced off to begin their seasons. You may have read about it in your local paper, or some other paper, or here on PFN, or on some other site. At the very least, you read about it in this article’s headline. By now you know that Crestwood, in front of thousands of fans dressed in black and red and lined up three-deep around the field, jumped out to a 20-0 lead on Berwick and held on for a 28-20 victory. Since November 2012, Crestwood had been undefeated against every team not named Berwick, and winless against everyone else.
That’s a complicated way of saying that, on Friday night, the Comets got some sweet, sweet revenge.
Because you’ve read the articles and seen the numbers, I’m not going to recite a play-by-play account of the contest, or a player-by-player list of stats; here at the Ruby Review, we’re all about the big picture. And the big picture is that, for the next four months, stadium lights will dot the valley, the state, and the country, and fans, carrying memories of crushing defeats and heartbreaking shortfalls as vivid as the minute the final whistle blew, will scream, jump, and pour onto fields to celebrate with teams that are – for a week, at least – on top.
This week, the Crestwood Comets are on top.
Why Crestwood Should be Thrilled:
Because they won the game, obviously. Because they were the better team for the better part of the game. Because they beat the Berwick Bulldogs, the perennial power, the anchor of District 2, the squad that started Crestwood’s last two seasons off with losses by 20 and 34 points, the squad that broke the Comets’ hearts and ended their season with a bitterly-contested 14-13 battle in last year’s District 2 AAA Semifinals. Even more than that, Crestwood can look at their team and see talent all over. Frank Aigeldinger, who rushed for 164 yards on 16 carries (yep, that’s an average gain of 10.25 yards), is a true beast on both sides of the ball. A team that just had him would be in a very good position, but the deceptive running of QB Jay Popson and the bruising bulldozing of Matt Bobeck set this team up to have one of the best rushing attacks in the state. Crestwood will never air it out, but Popson looked just sharp enough on his five pass attempts (3 completions, 1 INT, 27 yards) that the unit should be able to keep defenses honest.
A real bright spot for the Comets – and a kid I hadn’t heard of before this game – was Sophomore WR/FS Lance Blass, who played a big role in this one. After starting 10 of 11 games on defense last year, Blass showed that he will be a major threat on both sides of the ball, grabbing an interception, a 2-point conversion, and a 13 yard third down reception in the game’s first 20 minutes. Throughout the second half, he did what he could to slow down Berwick’s standout WR Andrew Force, who had 4 catches for 93 yards but was targeted quite a bit more. To cap it off, on the last drive of the game, a 55-yard Crestwood drive that ran off the final 4:07, Blass filled in at QB for Popson who, like Aigeldinger and seemingly half of the players for both teams, was troubled by cramps for most of the evening.
Why Crestwood Might be Worried (or Why Berwick Shouldn’t Be):
Because Berwick, replacing their entire offensive backfield and 8 of 11 defensive starters, seemed to gain experience with every play. Because, if there had been another quarter, the result might have been different (Berwick outscored Crestwood 20-8 in the last 15 minutes of the game). Because these teams will very likely meet again in Week 11 or 12, and by that point this young, inexperienced Bulldogs squad will have an entire season of football under its belt. The new players will be more experienced, sharper, quicker. A lot of them will literally be taller.
If these two teams meet again, I’ll have a difficult time calling Crestwood the favorite. As good as the Comets were, as much as they were the better team most of the night, Berwick showed that they have a ton of room to grow and improve. Senior QB Dallas Arner displayed a very strong arm. His timing was off for much of the night, and he never really got on the same page with Andrew Force. The fact that “not on the same page” equals “four catches for 93 yards” should tell you just how good I think this Berwick passing game has a chance to be (Senior WR Paul Jay Weigand also caught 3 passes for 67 yards, and generally had a lot of space underneath the secondary). Berwick’s offensive line, especially the right side, was a strength throughout this game, and most of the sacks allowed were the result of poor timing and good over-the-top coverage rather than poor blocking. Ultimately, Berwick’s passing attack was 7 for 20, netting them 160 yards. If experience and practice can get that to, say 11 of 20 for 200 yards, the running game should open up even more for workhorse Senior RB Nick Talanca (who had 2 TDs and 82 yards on 17 carries), and this offense should be unleashed.
Other Notes on the Game:
Crestwood’s stadium was nice, but was definitely overcrowded (which is a pretty good problem to have). I arrived at 6:10 and had to pass hundreds of parking spots before finding one about 200 yards from the stadium… It was very obviously the first game of the year: the sun shone directly into the home fans’ eyes until settling under the distant mountains at 7:40… The concession stand didn’t seem to be selling hot sausage, much to my chagrin, but had very good (and buttery!) pierogi, as well as buffalo chicken tenders, which seemed to be a fan favorite… On the last drive of the game, as Crestwood was running out the clock, the scorekeeper was directed to reset the game clock to 1:13. Mishearing, the time was initially set to 1:14, prompting a Crestwood coach to loudly shout “1:13! Don’t give ‘em an extra second!”… The fifty-fifty drawing was worth $591. I wouldn’t normally comment this, but the winner, who was sitting directly in front of me, had accidentally thrown his ticket away and had to retrieve it from a nearby garbage can. For almost 600 dollars, I’d root around a garbage can too…
The Rest of District 2
Wilkes-Barre Coughlin looked very good in their scrimmage against Scranton, and began their season by punishing Hazleton 40-7. Unfortunately, the Cougars might be lucky to win 2 games this year… Speaking of the Scranton Knights, they were stunned by the Dallas Mountaineers, who outscored Scranton 23-6 in the second half to claim a 32-24 home win. AAA Dallas’s roster size – 37 – is one less than half of AAAA Scranton’s 75… The biggest scoreline of the week went to the Meyers Mohawks, who smacked the Montrose Meteors 58-0…
Districts 4 and 11
Two of the four District 4 squads that began their season on PFN’s State Rankings were defeated, as the Montoursville Warriors edged the South Williamsport Mounties 38-36 and tradition power Mount Carmel did the same to the Loyalsock Lancers, 25-22… My alma mater, the Selinsgrove Seals, snagged a convincing 43-7 victory over the Central Columbia Blue Jays. Selinsgrove plays Berwick in Week 5… Unlike District 4’s top teams, the six District 11 squads on PFN’s pre-season rankings, including Honorable Mentions, collectively cruised, outscoring their opponents by a combined 198 points (meaning they won, on average, by 33 points)…
WEEK 2 RUBY REVIEW:
Next week, I’ll be hitting up two games – Wyoming Valley West (1-0, AAA Honorable Mention) at Delaware Valley (0-1) on Friday, and Pleasant Valley (0-1) at Bethlehem Catholic (1-0, AAA #6) on Saturday. The Spartans started their 2014 campaign with a 42-7 victory over Wyoming Area, while the Warriors will be returning from their trip to Florida, where they lost to University High School 28-27. As for Saturday’s match-up, the Bears were roughed up by Easton, 49-14, while the Golden Hawks got their offense working in a 56-27 victory over Bethlehem Liberty. As always, I’m looking for input as to any games you think I should be going to instead of what’s listed on my schedule.
Because I’m going to 15 regular season games this year, I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to recognize those who do what they do a little better than the rest. So, at the end of the regular season, I’ll give out the following awards, solely taking into account the games I’ve been to:
Most Outstanding Player
Most Outstanding Team
Thanks for reading, everyone! Come back next week for more of the same. Next week’s post should be up sometime Sunday afternoon. As always, hit me up on the comments here or on Twitter (@JoeRuby1009) for any questions, any input, or any other reason you can think of!
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