By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
I don’t know about you, but to me fall is the greatest time of the year.
Sure, I know, it does not officially arrive until Sept. 22. But what is not to like as the days grow shorter? Well, OK — maybe that.
As a sports fan, you have the opening of football season on all levels, the baseball pennant races (unless, like me, you are a fan of the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies), the U.S. Open tennis tournament, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship and — need I mention — football.
This is another year in which the high school season opens in August, by one day, and the weather might be a bit unfootball-like. But get out and enjoy a game and try to remember that before the season is over, you will certainly be shivering while sitting in cold bleachers.
A new high school football season, like most politicians’ speeches, generally spawns more questions than answers. But unlike those speeches, we need only wait a few months, or less, for answers.
So, here are some of the questions to which many of you, I suspect, will seek answers before the snow flies:
n Will Line Mountain continue its decades of success with a 24-year-old head coach, Rodney Knock, replacing one of the best ever in Mike Carson?
n Will Jeremy Winn be able to continue (or build on) the recent success of Todd Tilford at Lewisburg, riding all-state caliber athlete Brandon Smith on both sides of the ball? And will Smith also drive the bus and sell tickets?
n Will Tilford make his Wing-T offense and odd-front defense work at Shikellamy, which won a District 4 Class AAA title two years ago using coach Sam Stroh’s veer option?
n Will a Mount Carmel team that comes off a District 4 Class AA championship, but lost all of its starting running backs to graduation, live up to its preseason hype and keep hometown boy Carmen DeFrancesco in the good graces of this football-crazy community?
n Will Southern Columbia’s Jim Roth do it again, plugging in tons of new faces on both sides of the ball and do what the Tigers have done for the past 30-plus years: win, win, and win some more?
n Will Mifflinburg, a relative newcomer to the realm of Valley success stories (at least in recent years), handle the pressure of being expected to win again?
n Will Milton and Shamokin be able to build on the momentum gained by their winning ways in the second half of the season, after rebounding from going a combined 1-9 in the first half?
If you are looking here for the answers, I’m sorry, but someone walked away with my crystal ball. That means I will have to make my weekly predictions on my own.
Shamokin at Pottsville
Don’t get down on the Indians if they start 0-1 with such a tough opener. Pottsville 28, Shamokin 19.
Lewisburg at Towanda
Could this be a preview of a game in November? Lewisburg 21, Towanda 20.
Selinsgrove at Mifflinburg
The Wildcats are a bit banged up, but should beat the Seals for the second year in a row. Mifflinburg 24, Selinsgrove 10.
Milton at Danville
Look out for both of these teams, who each bring back some of the players you will read about as the season goes on. Danville 20, Milton 14.
Shikellamy at Mount Carmel
The Braves were dealt a difficult hand, going to the Silver Bowl for their first game with a new coach and system. They need some time to grow. Mount Carmel 35, Shikellamy 14.
Warrior Run at Montoursville
The Warriors look like they could be back in the title hunt, both in the Heartland Athletic Conference Division II and District 4 AA. Montoursville 42, Warrior Run 13.
Bucktail at East Juniata
Speaking of needing to grow, the Tigers have a big challenge, but new coach Simon Cameron will do his best to bring a winning program to this merger of Midd-West and East Juniata. Bucktail 34, East Juniata 8.
Camp Hill at Upper Dauphin
The Trojans stay in District 3 Class AA for their one and only non-Twin Valley Conference game of the season, but may not be ready for the perennially successful Lions. Camp Hill 20, Upper Dauphin 13.
Line Mountain at Philipsburg-Osceola
Two teams with similar make-ups begin a two-year series, with the Eagles making the two-and-a-half-day (er, hour) trip this time. Line Mountain 35, Philipsburg-Osceola 28.
Southern Columbia at Pius X
It will be a bit of a surprise if these two teams combine for 79 points this time, as they did in last year’s state playoffs, as both squads are breaking in a ton of new starters. Southern 28, Pius X 14.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference:
Athens over Waverly (N.Y.); Bloomsburg over South Williamsport; Muncy over Canton; Central Columbia over Hughesville; Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech over Sayre; Montgomery over Cowanesque Valley; Jersey Shore over Troy; North Penn-Blossburg over Loyalsock; Wyalusing Valley over Wellsboro; Central Mountain over Williamsport; Halifax over Steelton-Highspire; Millersburg over Big Spring; Susquenita over Newport; Williams Valley over Nativity BVM; North Schuylkill over Shenandoah Valley; Pine Grove over Northern Lebanon; Wyomissing over Schuylkill Haven; Berwick over Crestwood.
n Assistant sports editor Harold Raker covers high school football for The Daily Item. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.