By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel escaped a scare against Central Columbia last week, which Mount Carmel coach Carmen DeFrancesco attributed to increased intensity in the second half.
The Red Tornadoes should have no such problems this week against North Schuylkill in a large rivalry game.
“We always have a tough, physical game with (North Schuylkill),” DeFrancesco said. “It doesn’t take a lot of work from our coaching staff to get our kids motivated.”
Although a rivalry game looms, DeFrancesco said that his team is focusing on the game in terms of its effect on Mount Carmel’s playoff picture rather than that of a typical rivalry game.
Adding to the normal excitement for a rivalry game is the playoff situation that both teams are facing in the second half of the season.
Mount Carmel currently sits in ninth in the District 4 Class AA point standings with 400, 30 points behind eighth-place North Penn. Ninth place means that the Red Tornadoes are on the outside looking in on the playoffs as the cutoff in Class AA for the playoffs is the top eight teams.
Like Mount Carmel, North Schuylkill will need to make a run in order to reach the postseason.
North Schuylkill is in sixth place in the District 11 Class AA standings based on a weighted percentage in which the top four teams reach the playoffs.
“We feel like we have to win out to get into the playoffs,” DeFrancesco said. “We’re taking it one game at a time. We know that one loss could be our devastating force.”
North Schuylkill coach Wally Hall said he believes North Schuylkill and Mount Carmel have experienced a similar season with ups and downs.
Last week, Mount Carmel nearly saw its season hopes turn bleak, erasing an eight-point halftime deficit and shutting out Central Columbia in the second half, scoring 22 straight points.
North Schuylkill nearly saw a 21-point advantage evaporate against Tamaqua a week ago before hanging onto a 21-14 win.
Last year, the Red Tornadoes pulled out a tight victory on the road, winning 44-41.
DeFrancesco said that the triple-option offense that North Schuylkill runs will be a challenge for Mount Carmel to defend and stopping the run will be the Red Tornadoes’ top concern.
“Our defense has to play assignment football,” DeFrancesco said. “If our kids get out of position, (North Schuylkill) can have a big play.”
The Spartans have used their option attack to score 34 and 48 points in games this season in two of their four wins. The Spartans’ defense has also been difficult to break with two shutouts on the season.
If someone were to erase a 41-point outburst by Jim Thorpe earlier this year, the Spartans would be allowing 9.6 points per game defensively.
A challenge for the Spartans’ defense will be Mount Carmel’s passing duo of quarterback Zach Wasilewski and wide receiver Treyvon White.
Wasilewski and White have connected on four touchdown passes this year with White amassing 332 yards receiving.
Hall added that in order to win, his team will need limit Mount Carmel’s ability to create big plays and prevent them for spreading the ball around to playmakers.
If the Spartans are able to limit Mount Carmel’s passing game, Wasilewski could decide to call his own number as the Red Tornadoes’ leading rusher this year in terms of carries, with 85, or hand the ball off to Blake Panko or Mike Gilger out of the backfield.