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Written by: Joe Ruby on Monday, September 15th, 2014
I got to see a little bit of everything this week. I saw some high octane offense and I saw some hard-hitting defense. I saw a winner with a roster size of nearly 80 and a winner with a roster size of 30. I saw a venerable football shrine featuring that increasingly unfamiliar holdover of days past – real grass – and I saw a 15,000 seat football amphitheater set into the side of an Allentown mountain. I saw a gritty, hard-fought comeback and I saw a dominant, coasting victory.
I saw pizza. And I saw funnel cakes.
GAME ONE: OLD FORGE 16, HANOVER AREA 13
There was nothing pretty about this one, and that’s exactly how Old Forge likes it. In fact, the story of this one can be told in just two statements:
– Hanover’s first six plays: 132 yards, 13 points.
– Hanover’s final thirty-five plays: 42 yards, 0 points.
One of those first six plays was a 53-yard touchdown pass from Junior QB Jake Peters to Sophomore WR Brandon Chafin, and another was a 55-yard touchdown run by Senior RB Isaiah Taylor. Peters didn’t complete another pass the rest of the night, and Taylor left just before halftime with an injury. In fact, Peters and Old Forge QB Joey Gutowski combined to go 2 for 19 (although about half of the incompletions were drops).
Like most of the Old Forge starters, almost all of whom played both ways, Gutowski was better on defense. It seemed like every time Old Forge’s offense made a mental error – there were quite a few such times, in fact – the same players would go back out on defense and bail themselves out. When Old Forge was denied a game-tying score with a fourth down stop in the red zone, the Devils went right to work and got a safety to make the score 13-9. When Old Forge started the second half by fumbling and gave Hanover the ball at the Devils’ 24 yard line, Gutowski ended that threat with an interception. And when Hanover got the ball back, down three, with 100 seconds left on the clock, Junior Jaret Horn made a diving pick to seal the deal for the home Devils.
Do Yourself a Favor: Get to One of the Two Remaining Old Forge Home Games
Seriously, Do It
Despite the sloppy play, this was one of the most enjoyable football games I’d been to in a long time. Old Forge’s stadium was small, it was old, and it… was… rocking. The student section – which, given the school’s single-A classification, must have been made up of the entire student body – was full of energy. Old Forge is a town that is fiercely proud of its football tradition, and you could tell that this highly regarded match-up was a truly meaningful event. The fans knew football, and they wanted to win.
It’s a real shame that Old Forge started its season with three straight home games, because that means there are only two chances to get there for a regular season match-up. They have Mid-Valley at home on October 3rd and Carbondale Area on October 17th.
Another reason to go to Old Forge is the food. These guys are a clear early-season leader in the Best Concessions category of the inaugural Ruby Review Rewards. Listen. I’ve only lived in five different towns in my life, in two states, in just one country. I don’t know if Old Forge is the Pizza Capital of the World. But I do know that I’m strongly considering hiring someone to drive to their stadium, buy four slices of white pizza, and bring it to whatever high school football game I’m at on October 3rd.
Senior Bobby Rinaldi was a force for Old Forge on both sides of the ball. He had multiple big hits on defense, and accounted for 104 yards (44% of the Blue Devils’ offense) on just six carries from the fullback position… Old Forge didn’t have a band, sadly, although the fire twirlers were impressive. Hanover’s band consisted of a small group of orchestra instruments, multiple keyboards, and singers; they quite obviously put a lot of time into a very enjoyable set featuring “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Paint It Black,” and “Sweet Caroline”… Hanover’s defensive line was a big factor in Old Forge’s offensive struggles, as the Hawks’ size gave them an advantage that the Devils weren’t able to neutralize for most of the game… Old Forge was the first stadium I’ve been to this season that offered sausage and peppers, so they get points for that in my book. I also recommend the Devil Fries (fries, cheese and a flavorful hot sauce)… Old Forge is now 3-0 with wins by 7, 7, and 3 points. There are at least twelve teams in District 2 with better point differentials but worse records….
GAME TWO: PARKLAND 35, ALLENTOWN CENTRAL CATHOLIC
When I started the Ruby Report, I knew that, based on location, I’d be primarily attending District 2 games, but I definitely wanted to make it to D11 (and D4!) when I had the chance. That chance presented itself in the form of a Saturday night game between the vaunted Parkland Trojans (PFN AAAA #5) and the Allentown Central Catholic Vikings. Parkland hadn’t really been tested, and Central Catholic was coming off a draining 42-41 OT defeat at the hands of AAAA Honorable Mention Whitehall.
So, you can understand why I say this one pretty much went according to plan.
Parkland RB Unique Divine was… wait for it… uniquely divine (ba-dum tish), and the Trojans’ DLine wrought havoc on the ACC offense all night long. Parkland utilized their superior size throughout the game, and activated the 35-point mercy rule midway through the fourth quarter before the Vikings got on the board. Parkland QB Devante Cross is a legitimate dual-threat, and although the offense never looked truly dominant, it was clear that the big boys were better on both sides of the ball.
Allentown Central Catholic might be one of the best 1-2 teams in the state, and I think it’s safe to say that, given their veritable Murderer’s Row of a schedule, whatever record they finish with won’t come close to reflecting their true talent. QB Mason Kholi can also run and throw quite well, although Parkland’s pressure up the middle hardly gave him a chance to set his feet before having to scramble or take a hit. Linebacker Jack Nosovitch provided some great athleticism on the edges.
I’d never been to J. Birney Crum Stadium, but it was the antithesis of Old Forge in its hugeness. That’s not a knock, by any means, as the stadium itself was very nice (and the setting sun’s rays finally bursting through the clouds onto the distant hills was gorgeous)… The player of the game might have been Parkland Defensive Lineman Amir Wallace. He seemed to be in the backfield on every other play… Jarey Elder put Parkland up 21-0 with a 48-yard punt return early in the third quarter… I’ve never had a bad funnel cake in my life, and this game provided no exception. You can also get a family-sized bucket of chicken tenders and fries… Parkland’s band is enormous. Even bigger than the Selinsgrove band back in the day when I played the valve trombone. A 250-member ensemble is going to give you some rich sound, and I’m sure Billy Joel would not have been disappointed with their medley of his greatest hits… As I mentioned, the road doesn’t get much easier for Central Catholic; their next two games are against AAAA Easton (3-0) and AAAA Bethlehem Freedom (3-0). In fact, ACC’s only game against AAA competition comes in Week 10 against a talented Bethlehem Catholic squad….
DISTRICT 2 NOTES
Berwick almost took the “most talented 1-2 team” title from ACC, but the Bulldogs edged Dallas 26-23 in OT… So much for my prognostication that Coughlin would give Crestwood more trouble than people anticipated. I suppose it’s no small task to put up 27 points on the Comets, but Crestwood’s 63 made it look a little less glamorous. Frank Aigeldinger is a monster… After next week, either Berwick or Wyoming Valley West will be 2-2. They play next week in Kingston… Speaking of D2 rushing monsters, Jake McCarthy of Scranton has been living up to the hype. He has 733 rushing yards (that puts him on pace for 2,440, folks) and 10 TDs through his first three games….
DISTRICT 4 NOTES
I’m not forgetting about you, D4, I promise! I’ll come visit you next week… It’s hard to tell how good a team is when they haven’t been tested. Wellsboro is 3-0 and has outscored its opponents 150 to 6. Troy is 3-0 and has outscored its opponents 157-14. There’s a good chance both teams will be 5-0 when they meet on October 3rd. If they are, I’ll book my ticket… My Selinsgrove Seals keep rolling, beating their cross-river rival Shikellamy 28-7… South Williamsport and Loyalsock won by 39 and 35, respectively, ahead of their important Week 4 matchup… Mount Carmel bounced back from their drubbing at the hands of a certain aquatic mammalian team, beating Lewisburg 32-14….
DISTRICT 11 NOTES
The three schools whose names start with Bethlehem are 8-1: Catholic is 3-0, Freedom is 3-0, and Liberty is 2-1, their only loss coming to Catholic… Jim Thorpe finally allowed points in a 7-6 win over Tamaqua. They pitched consecutive shutouts to start their season… Whitehall’s put up at least 41 in each of their three games. They have Liberty next, followed by Parkland… Saucon Valley is 3-0 after defeating both Northern and Southern Lehigh consecutively….
I’m going to double-dip again next week, although my slate will feature the rare Thursday night game instead of a Saturday contest. On Thursday, I’ll scoot on up to the Electric City for Scranton (2-1) @ Scranton Prep (3-0). Then, on Friday night, I’ll make my way to Loyalsock (2-1) @ South Williamsport (2-1).
As always, hit me up with comments right here or on Twitter (@JoeRuby1009)!
And don’t forget to listen to the Helmet Head Show, 9 to 11 on Saturday Mornings, for statewide football coverage. It’s 100.7 fm in Wilkes-Barre, 1400 am in Scranton, and worldwide at northeastpafootball.com. I was on there last week, and boy, was I nervous! Nervous and impressed, as host Eddie Walker spouts off football information like water flowing over Niagara Falls. I have to sit here in front of a computer and think about it for a few hours before I can figure out what to say!
Past Ruby Reviews:
Week 2: Del Val 43, Valley West 35
Week 1: Crestwood 28, Berwick 20
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