The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Harold Raker

September 6, 2012

Harold Raker's First and Ten: More questions than answers

ALLENWOOD — Last week, I posed several questions about the 2012 season. Instead of answers, it seems like we got more questions out of week one.

Not to mention some stunning outcomes.

As the late pitcher/broadcaster Dizzy Dean liked to say, ”Who woulda thunk it?”

Would could have predicted that in its rematch of last year’s PIAA Class A Eastern semifinal with Pius X on the road, a Southern team that replaced nine starters on each side of the ball, including its entire backfield, would have put a 61-0 whipping on the Royals?

The Tigers led just 6-0 after one period, the result of some Tigers’ miscues and a Royals’ defense that had not yet begun to wear out. After putting up another 21 points in the second quarter, Southern scored 34 more points without really trying and with the clock running via the mercy rule.

And how about Line Mountain, missing its high-octane offensive duo of quarterback Marty Beninsky and tailback Kyle Troutman, riding two and a half hours in a bus and routing Philipsburg-Osceola, a team that finished 9-3 last season, and competed in the District 6 Class AA playoffs? Has anyone asked P-O coach Jeff Vrooman how he thinks keeping his starting lineup a secret until game time worked out for the Mounties?

And East Juniata, and its first-year coach, former Tigers’ player Simon Cameron, rallied for a late touchdown pass by Austin Bennett to beat defending All America Conference champion Bucktail.

Then there was the granddaddy of opening-week upsets, the one that drew oohs and ahs in pressboxes throughout the Valley: Selinsgrove, which suffered through a 1-9 season last year, just two years removed from a Class AAA state championship, got a late field goal to knock off the defending champion and preseason favorite for the Heartland Athletic Conference Division I title. Incredibly, the field goal came from a soccer player, Kaelan Sullivan, who joined the football team just two days earlier.

The only chance that anyone would have picked that to happen was that some people figured the Wildcats would not generate enough offense without the services of injured starting running backs Michael Wiand and Tanner Bingaman. Those people would have been right on the money.

Of course all of these strange developments just led to more questions:

Are the Seals really that much better than a year ago? Certainly, the defense is solid, but it was last year.

Is Mifflinburg good enough offensively to weather the storm with its defense until or if it gets healthier? That could better be answered if we knew the status of Wiand and Bingaman. Coach Jason Dressler said this week that Wiand could be out for a while. Bingaman may return sooner.

Are the Southern Tigers going to once again just rebuild and run roughshod over Valley opponents and end their season in their home away from home, HersheyPark Stadium? With the program’s history and its top-notch coaching staff, not to mention an unmatched dedication to the sport by its players, who would bet against them?

How about East Juniata? We don’t know enough about Bucktail to take a guess at whether these Tigers could actually win a few games in the rugged Tri-Valley League, despite their longtime lack of success against those teams.

Topping the list of games on tonight’s slate is another of many battles between Mount Carmel, ranked No. 3 in the state in Class AA by Pennsylvania Football News, and first-year coach Jeremy Winn’s Lewisburg team, listed as an honorable mention team, at Bucknell University’s Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.

Wherever you go, or whether you listen from the comfort of your home, enjoy the games.

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Harold Raker
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