By The Daily Item
Four Valley football teams are still alive as we head to the holiday weekend with three in action on Friday night and Selinsgrove getting a nice road trip on Saturday.
Unbeaten Southern Columbia, fresh off its 21st District 4 Class A title in 22 seasons, heads to the Scranton area on Friday night to on District 2 champion Dunmore in the first round of the PIAA Class A playoffs. The game is set for 7 p.m. at Valley View.
The Southern-Dunmore game pits two of the state's all-time winningest coaches against one another. The Tigers' Jim Roth, who has six state titles at Southern, enters Friday's game with 341 career victories -- against just 59 losses. On the other sideline will be Dunmore Jack Henzes, Jr., who has 367 career wins, second only to Berwick's George Curry (423) in state history. Henzes led the Bucks to the 1989 Class A title and to the Class AA title game in 2007 against the Terrelle Pryor-led Jeannette squad.
In the District 4 Class AA final, surging Mount Carmel (8-4) visits Danville (10-2) on Friday night. The Red Tornadoes have won five of six games since a three-game losing streak and are back to defend the title they won a year ago.
It is the teams' first meeting since the 2010 district semifinals, won by the Ironmen. Mount Carmel is looking for its third district title in five years and seventh overall. The Red Tornadoes also won the District 11 title in 1994, the first season they won a PIAA title.
Danville is hosting the final for the second time in three seasons and is looking for its first crown since winning back-to-back Class AAA titles in 1998 and 1999 when current Mount Carmel coach Carm DeFrancesco was the head coach at Danville.
In Class AAA, Selinsgrove is back in the state playoffs for the first time since winning the PIAA title in 2009. The Seals have three shutouts in their last five games, including two on its way the district title. Selinsgrove (9-3) will meet University Prep (7-3) on Saturday at Altoona's Mansion Park. The Panthers beat previously unbeaten Clearfield on Saturday night.
CLOSING IN ON A MILESTONE: It took a little bit of time for Selinsgrove freshman tailback Juvan Batts to find his way into a regular spot in the backfield for Selinsgrove, but now he has established himself as the feature back for the Seals and is closing in on a milestone.
After rushing for 217 yards in Friday's District 4 Class AAA title game against Milton, Batts now has 861 yards rushing season. He needs 139 yards against University Prep on Saturday to become the first Seal to hit the 1,000-yard mark since Kyle Reinard had his third consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2010. Batts has rushed for 560 yards -- an average of 140 yards per game -- over his last four outings.
In case you are wondering, since Batts is just a ninth-grader, the Seals' program record for rushing is 3,940, set by Justin Lauver from 1999-2001.
MAKING AMENDS: Southern Columbia's outstanding senior wide receiver, Bryce Parry, took a touchdown pass away from classmate Taylor Young on the first series against South Williamsport.
Young, on third-and-18, threw a perfect bomb, hitting Parry in stride behind the secondary, but the pass was dropped, and the Tigers had to punt.
But Young did not give up on Parry and the latter paid him back with catches of 15, 15 and 14 yards, all setting up Tiger scores.
NO WORRIES: Both Young and junior fullback Adam Feudale said the Tigers never worried when, after having to rally from 21-7 down in the fourth quarter to beat Line Mountain in the semifinals, fell behind the Mounties 6-0.
"We knew this week we had to come out here and play like we're capable of and just take it to him," said Feudale, who scored twice to raise his season TD total to 19.
"I always have confidence in our offense and our defense. I thought we'd get things going eventually."
Young said, "Once we went up (14-6) and our offense was driving I definitely felt comfortable in there and Matt Lupold, Adam and Blake (Marks) were running the ball well."
Added Southern coach Jim Roth, "We didn't panic at all. We just stayed calm and the kids responded pretty quick. So it wasn't a lengthy period of time that we had issues."
He said, "I thought last week was a character win and the way we played in the second half (versus Line Mountain), we were hoping would carry over to this week, and after seeing this game, I think it did."
SAME AS BEFORE: The Tigers and their coaches were calm in the halftime locker room when trailing Line Mountain. This week, they took a 35-6 lead into the locker room.
But Young said the halftime atmosphere was no different. "This game we were told not to let up and we came out on our first drive and scored."
He added, "Once our offense starts moving, I don't think anybody can stop us."
ANOTHER WEAPON: Twenty-five years after Jerry Marks finished his career as a Southern tailback with a then state-record rushing total, his son, Blake, a freshman halfback, is starting to make a name for himself.
"It was nice to see. Some of the plays he made, and the way he's blocking and the physical nature of the way he's running the ball now, with his size (5-foot-9, 155 pounds), for him to have stepped up at this point, that's a nice plus for us offensively, just the way he's playing," coach Jim Roth said.
A GREAT SEASON: Second-year South Williamsport coach Chris Eiswerth was all smiles as he hung the District 4 Class A silver medals around his players' necks. Those players helped get the program back to where it once was.
"We were just really excited to be playing for a district championship. It didn't come out the way we had hoped it would, but we have to be very proud of what these boys accomplished," the former Warrior Run coach said. "They did a lot of great things and it was a super year.
"Defensively we had trouble stopping (the Tigers), but, they have a heck of a team," he said. "But we're ready to build on this and take all the positives out of it."