The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 6, 2012

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

By Harold Raker
The Daily Item

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.

Harold Raker’s football picks

Trinity at Selinsgrove — The win over Mifflinburg was just what the Seals needed after last year’s awful season. But the Shamrocks are much more offensive, in a good way. Trinity 28, Selinsgrove 10.  

Mifflinburg at Shikellamy — The injury-riddled Wildcats will have to win with defense, but the Braves showed, against a tough Mount Carmel defense, that they can move the ball and score. Shikellamy 17, Mifflinburg 7.

Montgomery at Southern Columbia — Stat people best have lots of pens, or pencils, to write down all of the Southern players who will handle the ball tonight. Southern 61, Montgomery 6.

Mount Carmel at Lewisburg — Expect the unexpected in this battle of District 4 powers, and don’t plan to leave early. Mount Carmel 21, Lewisburg 20.  

Shamokin at Jersey Shore — After playing a good Class AAA team tough, the Indians are ready to begin a trip they hope will take them back to the playoffs. Shamokin 21, Jersey Shore 13.

Warrior Run at Milton — They don’t always play in the Tomato Bowl, but when they do, it is a special game for the fans in the Turbotville, Watsontown, New Columbia and Milton area (among others). Milton 28, Warrior Run 14.

Danville at Loyalsock — It’s a new era in Loyalsock Township with former Lancer standout Justin Van Fleet at the helm. Danville 21, Loyalsock, 14.

East Juniata at Halifax — A win over a playoff team from the previous year should do wonders to the confidence of the Tigers and new coach Simon Cameron. East Juniata 20, Halifax 8.

Williams Valley at Upper Dauphin — It certainly looks like those predicting a championship for the Vikings, including first-year coach Tim Savage, might be onto something. Williams Valley 42, Upper Dauphin 14.

Millersburg at Line Mountain — Arriving early might be a good idea for this backyard brawl of two rivals who both opened with wins. Line Mountain 34, Millersburg 19.

Hughesville at Bloomsburg — It’s hard to imagine the Panthers opening at 0-2, but stranger things have happened. Bloomsburg 14, Hughesville 13.

Montoursville at Central Columbia — Jason Hippenstiel’s restoration project at Central is well under way, but these Warriors look like the real deal. Montoursville 21, Central 19.

Elsewhere: Athens over North Penn-Blossburg; Hughesville over Bloomsburg; South Williamsport over Canton; Montoursville over Central Columbia; Greater Nanticoke over Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech; Muncy over Cowanesque Valley; Sayre over Wyalusing; Towanda over Binghamton (N.Y.); Troy over Wellsboro; Mifflin County over Williamsport; Delaware County Christian over Carson Long; Pine Grove over Newport; North Schuylkill over Minersville; Berwick over Pottsville; and Tri-Valley over Juniatal.

Last week: 17-11, .606.