The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 7, 2013

Harold Raker's column on high school football: So nice, let's do it twice


Daily Item

---- — I know I have used this line before, but, although not as good as Jim Mora's "Playoffs!," it is still one of my favorites -- from the world of politics.

As the late President Ronald Reagan liked to say, "Well, there you go again."

Well, high school football fans, here they go again.

District playoff rematches are not uncommon. In fact, last season, Milton and Shikellamy played back to back, Milton winning big in the regular-season finale and winning a close one in the District 4 AAA semifinals in week 11.

But this year, there are five rematches in District 4 alone.

In Class AAA, which resembles a Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I tournament -- minus AA playoff participants Mifflinburg and Danville, of course -- Milton will make a return visit to Selinsgrove, where the Black Panthers rallied for a 33-28 win in week 7, and Shikellamy will entertain Jersey Shore for a second time, having won the first one 29-19, also in week 7.

In AA, Mifflinburg, which gave then-unbeaten Montoursville a scare on the road two weeks ago, treks back to Memorial Stadium for a rematch (Montoursville won 35-31), and Loyalsock hosts Towanda in a rematch of a Black Knights' 22-21 win in week 8.

In Class A, for the second time in four weeks, Bloomsburg goes around the block and plays at unbeaten Southern Columbia. The Tigers took a 50-13 win the first time.

So, how do coaches feel about playing a team they faced just a few weeks earlier?

Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth, he of the 21 District 4 Class A titles and six state championships, is not a fan, no matter the outcome of the previous matchup.

"I'd rather play someone different," he said this week. "Sometimes the team that loses (the first game) is more inclined to be happy with a rematch because they have an opportunity to change the outcome.

"If you win, and you win handily, the first concern is that the players won't prepare as well as they should, mentally, because of the fact that you did win handily the first time. You have to worry about them becoming a little complacent and overlooking (the opponent)," he said.

But, he added, the positive is that you don't have to spend much time preparing for that team. He said the Tigers may make a few changes, but not much in their overall schemes.

Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess, who took the Seals to a state Class AAA championship in 2009, said, "It doesn't really matter in terms of Xs and Os, but it does play a little part, whether you won or lost. Years ago when we would come in as the winner, we always felt it was real difficult to get back up for a team again."

This week, he said, "Our kids have gotta be on. I don't think it will have a lot of effect. We know that Milton will be hungry for a win, especially for the playoffs.".

His counterpart this week, Milton's George Goodwin, said, "I don't know that it makes a difference because, in playoff football, anything can happen."

He added, "In our situation, we thought we played decent against (Selinsgrove) the first time, but when you spot them 21 points, looking at us as a team, we have to correct some things to even advance in this tournament."

When Shikellamy coach Todd Tilford was asked about it this week, he said, "We (coaches) were kind of discussing that. It's almost like if you come up short (the first time), you are over-thinking it or trying to make too many changes and it can confuse the kids."

He said the coaches come up with lots of ideas they think might work and then trim them try to find a balance from trying to do too much and overwhelm the players.

"There is a fine line between making it fun or nerve-wracking," Tilford added.

Mifflinburg's Jason Dressler, whose team secured its playoff berth with a win over rival Lewisburg on the final night, is happy for the rematch because, he said, "We failed to meet or goal which was knocking them off; but we achieved a lot mentally in that game. We are talking right now about having unfinished business this week.

"We have got to go back up there and finish the job this time. Actually getting a second chance at Montoursville, a lot of the guys are excited by it."

MORE ON THE DEVILS: After last week's note from a former Trevorton Red Devil, Fred Klock, about their unbeaten season in 1963 with a win over Williamstown, I heard from Jim Klinger, a 1967 Williams Valley (and a Mansfield University) graduate, who, at age 13, was the manager for the Rams in that game.

He recalled the game was played in Trevorton in a snowstorm. After the game, the visitors unable to drive home, were treated to a meal by the Trevorton Football Boosters and fire company, which started a nice relationship between the two communities that carried on for many years.

For fans of that area, who love to recall the old days, Klinger mentioned that the game featured two legendary coaches, Frank Snyder, of Williamstown, and Harvey Boughner, of Trevorton.

Klinger coached with Snyder on two championship teams at Williams Valley in the mid 1980s.

He also said he had the wonderful opportunity to work with former Mahanoy Joint (forerunner of Line Mountain) and Halifax coach Clyde Miller. "He had a huge impact on me as a teacher and person. His players and students at Mahanoy Joint were blessed to have met him."

Thanks to Jim for more memories from a great era for high school football.

n Sports editor Harold Raker covers high school football for The Daily Item. Email comments to hraker@dailyitem.com.