By Harold Raker
For The Daily Item
SUNBURY — As has often been the case in this near 50-year-old rivalry, Shikellamy and visiting Selinsgrove are going in opposite directions as they prepare for their annual battle Friday night in a Heartland Athletic Conference Division I game.
While Selinsgrove has had things going for it in a 2-0 (1-0 HAC-I) start, its cross-river rival has seen the dreaded yellow flags, along with some inopportune turnovers, wipe out big play after big play. As a result, Shikellamy is 0-2, 0-1 HAC-I, and looking for answers, or at least some better fortunes.
For Shikellamy coach Todd Tilford and his Braves, there is nowhere to go but up.
“We need to sustain some drives offensively and cannot have the penalties we did in the first two weeks to keep our defense off the field,” he said.
“We were in both games and certainly had our chances, but just did not make the one-on-one plays we need to do to win in the Heartland Conference,” Tilford said.
Such a rough start could adversely affect the players, with most of the season left to play. Tilford has not seen that.
“Our kids are still practicing hard and feel we have a good team,” he said.
Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess, who, like Tilford, has both played and coached in this rivalry game, knows not to put too much stock in the Braves’ record.
“They have had some unfortunate things happen, but obviously they are better than 0-2. They are very good,” he said.
“I’m impressed with their offensive line. They always seem to have an offensive line that comes off the ball and moves people and that worries me, because that is always a centerpiece of a good offensive team.”
Despite his unbeaten mark, Hess said his team needs to improve on defense, especially against the pass.
He said last week’s game, a win over a high-octane Trinity squad out of Camp Hill, was good for his defense.
“It showed the things we need to work on. We have to stop making some of the mental mistakes we’ve been making, which cost us. We are looking for a lot of improvement defensively this week,” he added.
Both coaches say their players are always excited to play this particular game.
“They are friends. In the days of social media there isn’t much of a division between the communities. Their kids know our kids, they grew up with them, they’ve been on traveling teams, played AYSO soccer and played against them in the midget (football) league. “When I was a kid, we didn’t know anything about Shikellamy,” Hess said.
Tilford said, “We expect our kids to be ready and excited to compete with a good Selinsgrove team.”
Tilford added, “They have an outstanding offensive line and speedy backs. We must find a way to stop the run and force them to hit something in the passing game.”
Hess said the key for the Seals is to control the line of scrimmage. “Offensively, Shikellamy does a variety of things. They go from wing-T to spread from play to play and we have to be able to adjust to that.
Offensively, we’ve got to consistently move the football and we’ve got to limit the number of mistakes we make.”