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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picks of the week
Mifflinburg at Danville — It’s good to see this kind of excitement for the Wildcats and Ironmen. Give a slight edge to Danville at home with a veteran quarterback in Andrew Andreychik. Danville 21, Mifflinburg 19.
Shikellamy at Warrior Run — The young Braves grew up a bit last week and now face a team that very well could be 3-0 and desperately needs to keep winning. Shikellamy 28, Warrior Run 21.
Loyalsock at Mount Carmel — The Lancers were up against it with a full lineup. Without all-everything Mike Kinney, it will be a long night and longer trip back to the Williamsport area. Mount Carmel 49, Loyalsock 14.
Selinsgrove at Shamokin — Two struggling offenses and two stout defenses portends a low-scoring affair at the Kemp. Shamokin 13, Selinsgrove 10.
Central Columbia at Southern Columbia — Coach Jay Hippenstiel and Co. are bringing the Blue Jays back to respectability. But it will take time, not to mention fewer games against teams like this one, for most people to notice just how far they have come. Southern 45, Central 14.
Lewisburg at Muncy — It’s been a strange year for former Southern running back Jay Drumheller, in his first year as the Indians’ head coach. A flood made it tough for his team to practice, and then resulted in the cancellation of its game with Bloomsburg. It won’t get any better with the Green Dragons headed to town. Lewisburg 42, Muncy 13.
Line Mountain at Newport — Take away last year’s 55-8 Eagles’ win (Newport would love to), and this has usually been a competitive game. But the Eagles are getting better every week (as if they could get a whole lot better on offense) and it will take a monumental effort by the Buffaloes to pull off the upset. Line Mountain 45, Newport 20.
Bloomsburg at Milton — In a battle of Panthers, the visitors should be able to pull away from the improving Black Panthers. Bloomsburg 28, Milton 14.
East Juniata at Halifax — First-year coach Yaacov Yisrael, a one-time starting defensive back for Penn State, gets the Wildcats back to .500. Halifax 20, East Juniata 8.
Nativity BVM at Upper Dauphin — The former Twin Valley Conference Green Wave (for one year) returns to take on the 2009 TVC champion. Nativity 20, Upper Dauphin 14.
Elsewhere in the EC: Athens over Wellsboro, Bucktail over Vo-Tech, Canton over Cowanesque Valley, Hughesville over Montgomery, Jersey Shore over Montoursville, North Penn over Towanda, Sayre over South Williamsport, Troy over Wyalusing, Coughlin over Williamsport, Hancock (Md.) over Carson Long, Williams Valley over Millersburg, Jim Thorpe over Panther Valley, Pius X over Marian Catholic, Shenandoah Valley over Minersville, North Schuylkill over Schuylkill Haven, Pine Grove over Tri-ValleyWyoming Valley West over Berwick.
Last week: 19-7; season: 56-19, .747.