The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 22, 2011

Harold Raker's column on high school football: Playoffs come early for some

Perhaps because of the flood and the postponements, which caused games to be played anywhere from Friday to Monday, it seems like the season has been going on for a while. In truth, we are only in week 4, but, to some coaches, it might as well be week nine or 10.

We have all heard coaches talk about how their next game or games amount to their playoffs. But that kind of talk usually comes late in the season.

First-year Warrior Run coach Mark Burrows had already told his guys that the playoffs have begun for the Defenders.

And Burrows is right. Since it lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Hughesville in the opener, this talented bunch of Defenders, arguably a playoff-worthy squad, needs to win often to have a shot. And Warrior Run's schedule includes a tough Class AAA Shikellamy tonight and a murderer's row of a slate to finish the regular season: Lewisburg, Bloomsburg, Central Columbia and Danville.

The downside to the schedule is that it could leave the Defenders with a losing record. The upside is that, if they can find a way to win most of those games, their point total might be enough to get them into the post-season tournament.

Although the early-season district standings can be taken with a grain of salt, a look at those points shows that it is important for Shikellamy to win tonight, not knowing what some of other AAA (in name only) teams will do the rest of the way. The Braves are No. 2 behind Shamokin while the Defenders are ninth (eight qualify) in AA, 10 points behind Bloomsburg.

GAME OF THE WEEK: It doesn't get any better than this for week four, and perhaps it doesn't get any stranger. Danville will host Mifflinburg in a battle of unbeatens at Danville Ironmen Stadium. The young Ironmen, many of whom saw considerable practice and playing time on last year's 12-1 squad, will try to prove that the program did not skip a beat, despite graduating 19 seniors. Meanwhile, the Wildcats, who are unbeaten despite having to replace their quarterback after starter Alex Vidunas left with a fractured collarbone in week three, are trying to prove they deserve all the early-season hype.

Having seen Mifflinburg last week, I can attest to the poise and talent of Vidunas' replacement, junior Kyle Failor. No disrespect to Vidunas (it's a real shame for a senior to face the loss of his final season), but Failor ran the Wildcats' spread offense like he had done it all his life.

He will have to play that well or better against the Ironmen, who will test the stingy Mifflinburg defense with senior quarterback Andrew Andreychik, wingback Ross Litz and the fine young running backs, Sam Dressler and Isiah Croll.

And that offense could have its hands full with Mifflinburg's big, veteran line, led by sophomore sensation Nazar Mironenko.

Fans headed to Danville tonight should leave early, as parking places, especially those in the same county, will be at a premium.

KEEPING IT LIGHT: A member of Mifflinburg's press box crew brought some levity to the booth Friday night after a string of seemingly unending officials' time outs (several because of problems with the chains). "That is the officials' last time out of the half," he said.

— Assistant sports editor Harold Raker covers high school football for The Daily Item. Email comments to

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