ELYSBURG — Injuries are the bane of high school football coaches, but, if there were a worst time for the injury bug to strike the Selinsgrove Seals, it would have been in the middle of its two-week meat grinder of a schedule, with back-to-back road games at Berwick and Southern Columbia.
In last week’s loss to the Pennsylvania Football News’ No. 7-ranked Class AAA team Berwick (5-0), in which the Seals fell behind early, then played well most of the way, their leading rusher and receiver, junior running back Zach Adams, sustained a season-ending injury.
“Our depth is becoming an issue,” Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess said this week as his team got ready to face another unbeaten team in the Tigers (5-0), ranked No. 1 in the state in Class A, in the latter’s Homecoming.
Hess said the coaches and players took a lot of positive from the Berwick game despite the score.
“If we could have eliminated the first four minutes...and then losing Zach Adams, who knows what would have happened.”
Hess added, “We played a high level of competition and we were forced to get better as a football team and that’s exactly why we have the Berwicks and the Southerns on our schedule. If we play with them and get a win, that’s great, and if we don’t get a win, we know the level we have to get to,”
Just like the Seals handled the preseason loss of last year’s leading rusher, Juvon Batts, to a heart ailment, Hess said he believes the players will also remain do the same in the wake of losing Adams.
“The kids are terrific. Obviously they would rather have Zach but, on the other hand, they are upbeat. Some other guys are waiting for an opportunity to go onto the field,” he said.
He tells the players, ‘It’s time for you to step back and think about things and make a bigger commitment as a group and come back stronger,’ ” he said, “And that is where we are with this group right now.
Against the big, strong Tigers, who have rushed for 1,707 yards at the halfway point (8.7 yards a carry), Hess said the Seals must find a way to control the line of scrimmage and stop the run.”
That’s a huge task,” he said, but added, “We have everything to gain and nothing to lose at this point and we will play our tails off, have fun and let the chips fall where they may.”
Southern coach Jim Roth said he is glad for his team to have the chance to play a team like Southern Columbia, and have more of a challenge than in the recent games in HAC Division III.
“We are just excited about having a competitive team, a better football team to play,” he said, noting the Tigers need to get as many points as possible to avoid having to travel in the district playoffs.
He noted that a team like Wellsboro, top-ranked and unbeaten so far, could run the table and finish as the top seed, and play at home.
Roth said he was impressed with the performance by the Seals against Berwick.
“They helped Berwick out quite a bit with turnovers. Early in the game they drove the ball and I don’t know how they did not score in this game. They were ripping off nice runs, driving the ball. There were times where they matched up well with them and played competitively with them.
”It tells you you’ve got to be ready to play against them, it gets your attention,” he said of the Seals.
He also said the Seals’ defense presents a challenge for the Tigers “because of all the different things they do defensively and the movement they give you with the 3-5.”
He added, “Other teams run the 3-5, but without all the movement and looks they give you. If you block it right and you catch it right at times, you can be effective and have good success. If you don’t handle it you can get burned or have negative plays.
“It’s difficult to prepare for,” he added.